Arabs, Muslims and minorities hear different message from Ahmadinejad
By Ray Hanania — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to the United Nations stirred a chorus of criticism from mainstream American leaders and activists. But Arabs and Muslims listened with receptive understanding, believing American society is biased and the problems in the Middle Easr are compounded by improper translation of concepts from Middle Eastern languages to English.
From the Arab and Muslim standpoint, Ahmadinejad squarely answered many of the charges he faced, though not all. Ahmadinejad represents an oppressive government and he is not articulate, especially in English, something his critics exploited to distort an open discussion of the underlying issues he chose to address.For Arabs and Muslims, Ahmadinejad put the spotlight on the hypocrisy of the American claim to be the “leader of the Free World.” In truth, Ahmadinejad was pilloried in much the same way that Arabs and Muslims in America are daily slandered, persecuted and even harassed out of jobs simply for expressing unpopular views.
This was demonstrated by Columbia University President Lee Bollinger who claimed Ahmadinejad was invited because of America’s “Free Speech” principles, but proved in his disgraceful colloquy that free speech is not free for those who address unpopular issues.
During his trip, did Ahmadinejad “deny” the Holocaust, as has been repeatedly asserted?
Ahmadinejad said what nearly every Arab and Muslim believes. The Holocaust did happen. Millions of Jews and non-Jews were murdered.
But Ahmadinejad rejected the practice of Israel’s supporters who “use” the Holocaust and the charge of “anti-Semitism” as a battering ram to silence and destroy the lives of people who criticize Israeli government policies.
Ahmadinejad made this point clearly, but it was not reported in one newspaper story on his visit. Recently, a Jewish professor in Chicago and son of Holocaust survivors who raised this issue, was forced from his job and denounced as denying the Holocaust, which he did not do.
The real issue is not Holocaust denial, but denial of the right to challenge Israel’s government practices without being slandered, vilified or demonized.
Ahmadinejad was pilloried for allegedly saying Israel must be “destroyed.” Admadinejad is both a “foe of Israel” and a “champion of Palestinian demands for justice.” His words reflect a growing feeling among Arabs and Muslims that an injustice occurred in 1948 when a “Jewish State” was established in a land where the majority population was Christian and Muslim.
Not all Arabs or Muslims agree with me that the passing of time requires us to set aside irresolvable issues of “justice” in favor of reasoned compromise to end violence by both Israelis and Arabs. Many believe Christian and Muslim of Palestinians who lost their homes in 1948 have, under international law, a legitimate claim.
Without even permitting debate, Israel’s extremist supporters have brushed those issues aside as “anti-Semitic.”
It is a preposterous charge, except in the mainstream American media and among American government leaders bullied by the pro-Israel lobby into acquiescence.
Ahmadinejad is not the best spokesman for Palestinians. He is a petty tyrant, but is he different from the petty tyrants allied to our government?
Arabs and Muslims saw through Ahmadinejad’s inflamed rhetoric seeing the truth of issues he addressed, and the hypocrisy of American policies.
What passes for “free speech” in America is just another form of oppression no better or worse than censorship in Iran or the Middle East.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning journalist and author. Copyright Arab Writers Group Syndicate, www.ArabWritersGroup.com.)
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"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
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, Hanania 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. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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