Hatikva protests may lead to civil rights movement

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Hatikva protests may lead to civil rights movement
By Ray Hanania — Saudi Gazette Newspaper

The decision by a group of Israeli Palestinian graduates at Hebrew University not to sing Hatikva, the Israeli national anthem, could be the beginning of an Israeli civil rights movement.

To Israel’s growing far right movement, not respecting Hatikva is an example of Arabs “denying Israel’s Jewish character.” For Israel’s Arabs, it’s a matter of principle and a rejection of Israeli policies where being non-Jewish makes them second class citizens.

The most recent protest took place at a graduation ceremony a few weeks ago at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, a city at the heart of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. At the end of the ceremonies, when Hatikva was being played, about a dozen Palestinian Israeli graduates and their families remained seated and refused to sing.

Israeli Jews expressed “shock,” but the incident reminds me of the movement that began in the United States by African Americans to protest the rampant discrimination that existed against black people.

The Hebrew University protesters could reignite a civil rights movement in Israel. More Palestinian Israelis should do the same and some have.

Recently, Israeli Supreme Court Justice Salim Jubran declined to sing Hatikva at the end of the inaugural ceremony of President of the Supreme Court Asher Grunis. He did, however, stand, facing the flag. He was roundly denounced though defended by some, including his legal colleague Supreme Court Justice Eliyakim Rubenstein. Rubenstein said it was wrong “to require Arab citizens to sing words that do not speak to their hearts and do not reflect their heritage. Common sense anywhere tells you this.”

Hatikva is the appropriate point at which Israeli Palestinians should be protesting.

It was written not as the national anthem of Israel but rather as the national anthem for Jews in Israel, and there is a distinction.

Why did the Israeli Palestinians remain seated and not sing, rather than doing something more dramatic like standing and clenching their fists high in the air during the playing of the Israeli anthem?

Part of the reason is the fear factor that exists against non-Jews in Israel. Israel is a Jewish state. Jews can do whatever they wish. Non-Jews though, even citizens, are not as free.

The Knesset has passed many punitive laws to punish anyone who protests against Israel’s Jewish “character,” although in doing so the laws are reinforcing Israel’s obvious and inherent discriminatory practices.

Many others have been proposed. The most obnoxious are those that threaten anyone who commemorates the Nakba, which is the Palestinian name for the 1947-1948 war. That war resulted in the creation of Israel in parts of former Mandated Palestine, but it also resulted in the expulsion of more than 700,000 citizens of that land who have demanded their return and rights that Israel has rejected.

Many Israelis denounce Nakba commemorations as “anti-Semitic.” But the Nakba isn’t about Israel so much as it is about the Palestinian experience. Palestinians (Christian and Muslim) are victims of discrimination in Israel, and more so in the Occupied Territories.

Imagine in the United States if citizens were given identity cards that distinguished between whites and blacks? Israel has a special code on Israeli citizenship documents that distinguishes between Jews and non-Jews. My relatives in Nazareth are offended by those ID card distinctions.

I applaud the “Hebrew University 12” — which is what I will call them. They may be the beginning of a new movement that can emulate the moral protests of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Critics might argue that the Israeli Palestinian protesters are different than African Americans. Some may be. Palestinians are demanding their rights but not necessarily embracing Israel as a nation, while King embraced America as a country. King fought for equal rights as an American. Not all of the Israeli Palestinians protesting against Israel’s discrimination are seeking equality as Israeli citizens, but rather are championing the rights of the Palestinians as a people to have freedom and statehood just like Jews.

This is exactly the kind of action that non-Jews in Israel must embrace if they are to make Israel a true democracy.

It is exactly what non-Jews should be doing in the face of the failed and stalled “peace process.” If Israelis do not support the dismantling of illegal settlements in the West Bank, like Gilo and Ariel, and withdraw their occupation army from the West Bank lands, then non-Jews need to pursue an alternative, demanding equality in “One State.”

Call that “One-State” what you will, Israel, or whatever. But all human beings living under Israeli rule deserve equal rights, including the right to vote, the right to own land, the right to organize, protest and demand that their voice be heard in that One-State without fear of repression, censorship or retribution.

Civil rights is the only power that can free Palestinians, as the Two-State solution fades from being a realistic option. And it can free Israelis too from their discriminatory policies.

Hold that clenched fist up in the air, Palestinians.

Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian-American columnist and radio talk show host. Reach him at 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