The extremist Arabs always attack first and ask questions later, June 9, 2011

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The extremist Arabs always attack first and ask questions later
By Ray Hanania — Extremist Arabs, whether in the Middle East or the West, have a tendency of attacking first and then asking questions later. Maybe. We’re a community driven by anger and emotion as evidenced by the haphazard manner of Arab community activism.

This weekend, the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) will host its annual convention. There is a long list of speakers and performers including Malek Jandali, a Syrian American who was born Germany. Jandali has been pushing a recent song he wrote that is critical of the Syrian Government.

ADC dropped Jandali, and right away the Arab Peanut Gallery (APG) of shoot-from-the-hip critics started to accuse ADC of supporting the repression of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. ADC explained that it is not their purpose to promote inter-Arab attacks — I mean, ADC is first and foremost not a political organization, but rather the single group that defends the rights of American Arabs who are targets of bigotry and discrimination. No other group defends Arabs across the board — Christian, Muslim or otherwise. (Here is ADC’s statement.)

I’m a national board member of ADC and I know what it’s like to be attacked by the APG. My wife and son are Jewish and because of that fact groups like KabobFest and Ikhras have been viciously attacking me with all kinds of lies and insults.

But knowing that they are worthless panderers who appeal to small circles of Arab activists who talk the life of protest but rarely stand at the front of the revolution themselves, their views are inconsequential to the challenges we face. These extremists are the darlings of the pro-Israel crowd. Sounds unusual? Not really. The pro-Israel groups don’t want to deal with the moderate or reasoned voices in the Arab community who can challenge Israel’s policies with some impact. They prefer the Arab extremists because they know the extremists are cliches, ineffective and totally marginalized by the powers that impact Palestine’s future.

Israel loves the Arab fanatics. No one makes Israel’s case more effectively.

Frankly, if it were up to me, I’d probably drop about 10 of the other speakers for fomenting divisions in the American Arab community and replace them with a few more voices who represent the mainstream moderate American Arab community, who are the majority, rather than the loud-mouthed voices of extremism, who are the minority.

But it’s not up to me. I didn’t participate in the programs as I have with other national organizations. That’s okay. Maybe next year.

Still, it’s fascinating how Jandali has become the focus of the extremist American Arabs. If they didn’t have anything to complain about, these small groups of extremists wouldn’t have anything to do. They do nothing positive, but are great are burning down. A better adjective than extremists might be arsonists. They are skilled at tearing things down and have no talent to build anything up.

I’m conflicted over the controversy involving Syria. On the one hand, the government of Bashar al-Assad has been brutal towards the protestors. On the other hand, I don’t know who these protestors really are. Most American Arabs feel the way I do about Syria. They are conflicted. Why fan the flames of one side over the other, just to make Israel and the rightwing U.S. Congress happy?

Syria has been one of the most faithful to the concept of freedom when it comes to Christian Arabs — I’m Christian, another reason why the APG critics attack me. The fanatics love Christian Arabs as long as they pay homage to their vicious activism and their hatred against Jews; but God forbid that one of those Christians might express an opinion they dislike.

There are ways to push the Syrian regime to embrace Democratic reforms, although that should be a goal not only for all the Arab countries but many of America’s allies, too. Why is the government of Syria held to a different standard than the other 15 Arab countries that are not being targeted by the United States? Sure, there was Egypt, but the U.S. never got involved until it was too late to save dictator Husni Mubarak. Israel was afraid of change in Egypt, as they are of change in Jordan. Mubarak has been replaced, but not by a Democratic movement but by a military junta backed by the United States.

Then there is Libya and Iraq, where the United States basically violated international laws and invaded and attacked both countries, unprovoked and without any basis in the rule of law.

But there are 15 other Arab countries that the United States is protecting, because 1) they are far and away from the confrontation status with Israel and 2) they do lots of business with the United States and some, indirectly with Israel.

Taking out Syria bothers me for a lot of reasons. It doesn’t help guarantee Democracy to the Syrian people. All it does is make the country unstable so that Israel can get what it wants.

Just look at the hypocrisy in the mainstream American media where the child was brutally killed by Syrian mukhabarat (secret police) and is being exploited by protestors as their icon of revolution.

No one in the mainstream media complained when Mohammed alDura was murdered by the Israelis in cold blood. In fact, Israel and the mainstream American and Western media blamed alDurra’s murder on the Arabs. Yes, when a killing hurts Israel, it is blamed on the Arabs. When a killing helps Israel, as in the case of the protests in Syria, the media comes out strong to blame the Arabs.

Whether Jandali does or doesn’t perform at the ADC conference means nothing to me and probably the majority of American Arabs who are silenced in fear by the activism of a small group of fanatics who brow beat and threaten anyone who challenges their extremist agenda.

But it does raise an issue about the disturbing trend in the American Arab community where it is easier to bash other Arabs than it is to standup to Israel. Maybe that’s what happens to victims, because Arabs and especially Palestinians are victims of more than a century of oppression. Victims find it is easier to beat up on themselves rather than to stand up to the real oppressors.

So if I had to chose between destroying Syria to make the Israelis happy, or bringing Democracy to Syria, I have to ask, having lived in the corrupted form of Democracy practiced in the United States, why would we want American-controlled Democracy to takeover Syria?

In a fair world, Malik Jandali should have been allowed to perform his song at ADC. Why not? But, how about doing a song that speaks to the failures of the Arab extremists?

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and media consultant. He can be reached at

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(Radio Baladi podcast with listeners on ADC, Jandali and Syria.)

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.

"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, and at, and at He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper,, 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, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

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Ray Hanania