Iran can be a distraction or an opportunity for peace

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Iran can be a distraction or an opportunity for peace
By Ray Hanania Many people believe that Israel is using the Iranian crisis as an opportunity to avoid worrying about the steadily deteriorating relations with the Palestinians.

The “Iran crises” has taken the pressure off of Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians to restart the long stalled peace negotiations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been roundly criticized for refusing to freeze settlements, a minor gesture, to open the door to re-starting peace negotiations with the Palestinian.

Ever since the Iranian crisis took center-stage, all eyes are off Palestine and on the Persian nation and its belligerent religious extremist rhetoric.

Maybe the Iranian crisis has created an opportunity for positive steps forward towards peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis and no one is seeing it.

For example, this week, Hamas eased the pressure on Israel by declaring that they would remain on the sidelines and not participate in the event that Iran and Israel attack each other.

Of course, in traditional Middle Eastern bluster, Iran does a lot of talking, making all kinds of threats and calling Israel all kinds of names. But it is very unlikely that Iran would really attack Israel as Israelis claim. The truth is Iran would have too much to lose in attacking Israel. They don’t need to attack israel to boost up their popularity among the rightwing fanatics.

Worse, dropping a nuclear bomb on Israel would destroy the Dome of the Rock, one of the most important holy sites in Islam. Although Iranians and Arabs are at religious and political odds – Persians are predominantly Shia Muslim and Arabs and predominantly Sunni Muslim – Iran would never act to destroy the revered Islamic site.

Hamas is stepping back from Iran for many reasons. The Sunni-Shai religious divide has separated Iran and its two closest Shia allies, Hezbollah and Syria. Hamas has already quietly fled Syria where the Shia minority sect of Alawite dictators, led by Bashar al-Assad is engaged in the massacre of Sunni Muslims in the city of Homs. It is a repeat of the massacre of Sunni Muslims in the 1980s by Bashar’s tyrant father, Hafez al-Assad.

The Assads are not “lions” as their name translates from Arabic to English. Their murderous military spearheaded carnage against Syria’s Sunni Arab civilians has exposed the Assad family as vicious monsters. More than 8,000 Syrian civilians have been massacred by the al-Assad regime.

Israel could use the tensions with Iran to either strengthen its powerful but narrow alliance in the world and tighten its bonds with the United States.

Or, Israel could see the situation for what it really is, a circumstance where Iran is not only a threat to Israel but to the moderate Sunni Muslim world, too.

Israel could strengthen its hand by reaching out to the Arab World in a substantive way, rather than through the empty gestures it usually pursues. For example, last week, Israeli officials, seeking to make themselves look compassionate, offered to help Syrian victims of the Assad pogroms. No one took the Israeli gesture seriously as it was transparently a political opportunity to exploit the moment.

A substantive gesture would be to extend its hand in friendship to the Palestinians, freeze the growth of the illegal Jewish-only settlements, and kick start the peace negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

It would be an uncharacteristic move on Israel’s part to demonstrate a genuine gesture to make peace with the Arabs but it would be one that would go a long way to bring the two sides together in the face of an Iranian threat that they both share.

It is not a coincidence that the Sunni Arab Muslim World has allied itself against Iran. The Gulf Arab States have battled Iran when Syria forces occupied Lebanon. When Syria was expelled, the front moved west towards the real fanatic frontlines along the Iranian border.

It makes sense for Israel to make a serious gesture of peace towards the Sunni Arab World by offering to make real substantive concessions to the Palestinians.

Palestinians have recognized Israel’s “right to exist” but the problem is Israelis haven’t accepted the right of Palestinians to exist in a state of their own.

Israelis never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity for peace with the Palestinians. They can’t seem to make the final choice between controlling all of the land or haring the land and parts of Jerusalem in exchange for a long lasting secure peace.

Iran reminds all – Palestinians, Arabs, Sunni Muslims and Israelis and Jews – that there are bigger threats in the world besides the long simmering Palestinian-Israeli conflict which has morphed from a battle over land to a battle over egos.

All that needs to happen is to have Israel check its ego and arrogant power at the door of reason, and reach out to Palestinians. It is that simple. Palestinians would check their anger and hatred, in response.

And a nascent Palestinian-Israeli peace deal would further isolate Iran, undermine Syria’s tyrants and put Hezbollah in check bringing peace and security to the entire region.

(Ray Hanania is a Palestinian American radio talk show host. www.RadioChicagoland.com.)

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.

Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania

Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com

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