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The fast disappearing ‘Arab’
Saudi Gazette Sunday, October 21, 2012
By Ray Hanania
When I was younger, I always defined myself as an “Arab.” I was a Palestinian Arab, I would tell people. Being Arab was important. It gave me a strong identity.
Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser was one of my heroes, mainly because he was a champion of “Arab Nationalism.”
He wasn’t an effective leader, living more on delusional exaggerations of Egypt’s military power (which was non-existent) and reinforcing his popularity by fueling animosity against Israel, which has earned every bit of Arab world enmity.
As a young activist, my drive for justice was based on strengthening the “Arab cause,” which was justice for Palestine, democracy for the Arab people and a greater respect for Islam and Arab Christians.
But over the years, the identity of being “Arab” has been vanishing, steadily and surely. My lofty goals have remained unrealized. There is no justice for Palestinians. Democracy in the Arab world is still a mirage.
And instead of having greater respect, Islam is under siege in the West and Christian Arabs are considered to be “non-existent.”
That has caused Arabs to divide on the basis of religion. Muslim Arabs have turned toward their own religion for political empowerment, while Christian Arabs have sought refuge by hiding in the larger society of mainstream Christianity.
More and more Arabs today define themselves as being “Muslim.” That may sound promising because in the Middle East the majority of Muslims are Arabs. But in America and the West, the majority of Muslims are non-Arabs.
Arab Muslims have become a weaker subset of a growing political religious group called Islamists. While non-Arab Muslims have a strong devotion to their religion, Islam, their allegiance to the fundamental principles that I defined above as being “Arab” is fading.
Today’s “Arab” has no passion for Palestine, which is at the heart of Islam itself and a core value of being a true Arab. That’s why so many non-Arab Muslim nations find it easy to maintain ties with Israel, a state that is defined by religious racism, a phenomenon that is unique. Israel is not racist enough to be true apartheid, but its racism is a moral contradiction that challenges its self-proclaimed democracy.
Christian Arabs have assimilated deeply into Western society, where Christianity is a fake and Western Christians don’t even understand the truth of their own religious history.
Americans are the most educated people in the world but the least educated about the world. To most Americans, Christian Arabs are an anomaly brushed off as a Muslim variation. Many Americans think I am Muslim, brainwashed by Israeli propaganda into believing that Christians have no legitimate ties to the Holy Land.
Why else do American Christians pray to images of Bethlehem while closing their eyes and ears to the pleas of Christians in Bethlehem who are being oppressed by Israel?
Assimilation in America has washed out the soul of Western Arabs. In America, there are an estimated 4.5 million “Arabs.” The majority are Christian, mainly Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant. Of the remaining Arab Muslims, the majority come from Israeli occupied and oppressed Palestine, followed by Jordan, Lebanon and the Gulf regions.
Accelerating the erasure of the “Arab” identity is the fact that there are some seven million Muslims in the United States, and less than 25 percent are Arab. The largest majority of Muslims in America are Black Muslim members of the Nation of Islam, followed by Asian Muslims with a large majority from Pakistan.
The disintegration of the Arab identity is one reason why Israel has been able to resist justice or to be held accountable for its historic series of war crimes and violations of the international rule of law. Non-Arab Muslims care far less for issues like Palestine than Arab Muslims.
Christian Arabs have deflected anti-Arab bigotry by seeking sanctuary among non-Arab Christians who have a bizarre misunderstanding of their own history. American Christians pray to a fictionalized Biblical belief that lionizes the image of the baby Jesus swaddled in the Bethlehem manger, while the real Bethlehem is under oppressive siege by the Jewish state.
On top of all this Arab confusion is the fact that Arabs were a culture divided through centuries of foreign occupation: under the Ottomans for 500 years; under the West immediately after World War I and economically under the West since World War II.
The West drew the boundaries of the Arab world after World War I based not on the realities of Arabism but on their political needs. The Arab world map is really a map of Western Crusader hegemony. This social metamorphosis has fueled our infighting and strengthened our enemies.
The very fact that Israel will be celebrating its 65th year in existence as an occupying power first in 1948 Palestine and now including 1967 Palestine is a testament to the failure of Arab Nationalism and the identity of being Arab.
Arabs could rally around a revival of their cultural identity and unite into a powerful force. But tragically, that is not in their contemporary nature.
Ray Hanania is an award-winning columnist. He can be reached at www.TheMediaOasis.com.
This post has already been read 54 times!
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