Yalla Peace: Out of place with irrationality

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Yalla Peace: Out of place with irrationality
By RAY HANANIA  04/03/2012 JERUSALEM POST — I have always felt more out of place in Arab-Israeli conflict than Edward Said felt out of place in life. By J Street I have always felt more out of place in the Arab-Israeli conflict than author Edward Said felt out of place in his life, the title of his brilliantly written memoirs.

The difference, though, is that I use my circumstances to push for compromise while Said, who was a close confidant of my mentor, Ibrahim Abu- Lughod, eventually used it to push hard against Israel. Clearly, as he moved away from the peace process that he and Abu-Lughod were in a large part responsible for launching in the 1980s, Said found himself more and more in conflict with peace based on compromise.

A brilliant theorist and writer, Said was the most misunderstood Palestinian since Jesus, in a large part because his writings became the foundation of Palestinian activist ideology but failed to reach the public masses in the West that needed to better understand them.

The failure of the peace process has driven many Palestinian activists to irrationality, fueling their anger. Many Israelis have found shelter from the failure of peace by burying their heads in the sands of moral challenges of their occupation policies.

After years of failed peace, Palestinians and Israelis are left in a purgatory of anger, failure and flashes of violent conflict. That doesn’t create an environment that encourages harmony or understanding. Last week I wrote about how I distinguished between boycotting the settlements and boycotting Israel, the core of the argument that writer Peter Beinart has made so clearly.

I did so because that argument about the issue of boycotts is essentially the essence of the obstacles standing in the way of Palestinian-Israeli peace. The moderate middle ground has become that place where the irrationality of Palestinian and Israeli reality is exposed for what it really is: a destructive desire for vengeance and revenge.

Finding that moderate middle ground is not easy because people on both sides spend so much time responding to each other in anger. A letter writer asked me in The Jerusalem Post to identify the products from the West Bank settlements that I would boycott so he could go out and buy them. I am sure he is already buying those products, but his ability to make that statement in response to a reasoned moderate middle ground perspective shows you how desperate the situation has become for a secure Palestinian and Israel future.

There were no letters supporting my view that boycotting Israel was wrong while boycotting the settlements was right.

The irrationality of how we engage the conflict has risen. The most recent example is the accusation that Israel is an “apartheid state.” Palestinian activists are hosting “Israel Apartheid Week” events, although it is lasting longer than one week.

Technically, Israel is not engaged in apartheid, the system of separating people based on race. In reality, Israel discriminates against its citizens based on their religion: non-Jewish Israelis who are Palestinian Arab are routinely victimized by discrimination and even racism.

It’s worse in the occupied West Bank, which haters and deniers of Palestinian rights disrespectfully refer to as “Judea and Samaria.” Calling the West Bank Judea and Samaria in the face of collapsing peace based on two states is the equivalent of describing the Jewish state as “the Zionist entity.”

Despite all the grievances that Palestinians have against Israel, calling Israel an apartheid state is wrong. It’s an example of throwing kerosene on an already raging fire. It references some similarities involving legitimate grievances by Palestinians against Israelis while ignoring legitimate grievances of Israelis against Palestinians.

And in a way, exaggerating a legitimate grievance delegitimizes that grievances.

The Palestinian activists who push Apartheid Week don’t really use the term because they care about addressing the grievances accurately. These exaggerations are quite common on both sides. The real challenge of Israelis and Palestinians who share a sense of moral justice and embrace principle along with peace based on compromise is to overcome these exaggerations.

Rather than exaggerating the conflict, we should be reinforcing the peace.

Each side deals with the conflict in different ways, neither of which help.

When I was a student at the University of Illinois, I noticed Israelis, who had a state, would organize celebrations of Israel. In contrast, the Palestinians, who did not have a state, spent most of their time protesting against the Israeli state.

Israelis “celebrated” while Palestinians “protested.” The celebrations and the protests were both provocative to the other. Israelis can’t celebrate while closing their eyes to the discrimination that exists. And Palestinians can’t protest against Israel’s bad policies without acknowledging their own bad policies.

This parallel polarity only inflames the conflict and reinforces irrational behavior on both sides. It encourages violence. It provokes normally rational human beings to do irrational things.

Of course, we wouldn’t be humans if we were always rational. I think, though, that we must continue to try.

The writer 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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