American hypocrisy in Ashqar political persecution
By Ray Hanania — Palestinian Muslim Abdelhaleem Ashqar was sentenced to 11 years in prison this week because he refused to testify against an organization he says is defending the rights his people. Ashqar was a part of the political persecution launched by disgraced former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft that also included Bridgeview car salesman Mohammed Salah. Like Salah, Ashqar was singled out for political convenience. Although neither man had anything to do with allegations of terrorism – a fact proven in their trials – they were instead vindictively punished because of America’s one-sided policies that prosecute Palestinian extremism but ignore extremism in Israel that also has undermined peace.Both men defeated the false cases brought against them by Ashcroft, filed in the period of excessive anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hysteria that followed the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which many Americans, ignorant of facts, continue to blame against all Arabs and Muslims.Ashqar and Salah are victims of the American political Gulag, which targets anyone who criticizes Israel, moderates and extremists alike, even though their criticism of Israel has absolutely nothing to do with the terrorist threats against the United States.
The prosecutions were popular among uneducated an naïve American citizens who have been the victims of a six decade-long barrage of one-sided propaganda that has exaggerated Israel’s claims to justice while denying Palestinian claims. It allowed Ashcroft and President Bush to pretend as if they were doing something to counter the terrorism threats from al-Qaeda, even though the terrorism had nothing to do with al-Qaeda.
I am not saying that what Hamas, an organization that has used terrorism to block and destroy every effort to achieve peace in the Middle East. It is a terrorist organization in the context of the Palestine-Israel conflict, but it is not a terrorist organization that has targeted Americans.
The truth is that the convictions of Ashqar and Salah on flimsy charges of lying to a Federal Government that has consistently lied to the American people is the height of hypocrisy.
The truth is also that while Americans have died in the Palestine Israel conflict, not all of them have been victims of Palestinian terrorism, the only terrorism that the U.S. Justice Department will pursue.
Despite the laudatory conduct of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who has conducted himself with a sensitivity to most concerns of Arab and Muslim Americans, the case he led is the epitome of American hypocrisy.
Fitzgerald has said that no one is above the law, but the truth is that yes, there are many who are above the law, especially when the cases involve injustices by Israeli extremists against Palestinians.
Just recently, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the U.S. Justice Department to drop its 20 year long persecution of eight Palestinians accused in 1987 of supporting the Palestinian terrorist organization, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
For 20 years, those eight individuals were persecuted, harassed, defamed and prevented from living normal lives because of hypocritical and one-sided pro-Israel policies.
In the Ashqar case, Fitzgerald’s underling, Reid Schar, asserted Hamas’ bombings and shootings in the Middle East have killed Americans, “innocent victims caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
But what Reid did not state, because he would be fired for telling the truth, is that the U.S. Government has been oblivious to the killings of Americans by Israelis, including the most celebrated case of the killing of Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie, an American citizen who was killed while trying to protest the demolition of Palestinian homes on lands that Israel has confiscated illegally to build illegal settlements.
Corrie’s case has been ignored not just by the U.S. Justice Department but also by the American news media. Why? Because Corrie believed Israeli policies were extreme and had to be stopped for the sake of achieving peace.
Corrie was killed when an Israeli soldier ran her over, intentionally, with a D-9 bulldozer, made by the Peoria-based company Caterpillar. The D-9 bulldozers are made specifically to allow Israel to destroy civilian homes, and in some cases, to kill protestors who try to stop the home demolitions.
In the case of several Americans who were killed by Hamas, most were dual nationals who held citizens both in Israel and in the United States. They were not all tourists, but activists who sought to advocate Israel’s cause, which was their right.
Their deaths were wrong and the perpetrators should be prosecuted. But the real issue symbolized in the Ashqar case is not whether or not the killers of Americans should be prosecuted. Those killers must be prosecuted.
The real issue is that the hypocrisy that says the murder of an Israeli, American or not, is wrong, but that the murder of an American who is Palestinian or supports Palestinian rights, is not wrong.
And that is a black mark that challenges American claims of justice.
American justice is only just for those that it recognizes and respects, and unjust for those whom have been politically targeted by a corrupt American political system
The Federal Judge in this case, Amy St. Eve is wrong in sentencing Ashqar to such a harsh sentence.
But Ashqar and Salah, who has also been sentenced not for terrorism activities but for issues involving their conduct in the court cases. Perjury is a crime, but it is NOT terrorism.
Every American should be clear that the Ashqar and Salah cases have nothing to do with terrorism, and everything to do with American hypocrisy, double-standards, a system of injustice and a biased American news media that only sees one side of the conflict and one side of justice.
The issue has never been about stopping terrorism. It has always been about hypocrisy in the fight against terrorism, a hypocrisy that blames all Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims, but turns its back on injustices committed by extremist Israelis.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian columnist 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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