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Saving Palestine: Part I
Saudi Gazette Sunday June 23, 2013
By Ray Hanania
Like the rest of the Internet social media, Facebook is a fascinating double-edged scimitar of good and bad.
On the one hand, Facebook, Google, Twitter and other social media Goliaths are actually governments run by dictators that, instead of promoting individual freedoms, are in the business of controlling those freedoms for profit.
At this very moment, many of them are engaged in a war against users who are too critical of Israel. Blogger.com, a subsidiary of Internet giant Google, is waging a war against anyone who is too critical of Israel, closing blogs without due process.
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Since there is no governance on the Internet, Google’s dictators don’t have to answer to anyone as they violate the civil rights of people who believe the Internet is about the most important aspect of democracy – free speech.
Free speech is under siege, not in the Arab world but in the West. And America is one of the most oppressive nations in the world when it comes to free speech and criticizing Israel. America through a biased government and mainstream news media is abusing those who champion civil rights for Palestinians. Ironically, in the cacophony of the Internet free speech war, there are some voices, like that of my friend Sam Bahour, a Palestinian born in the US whose family is from the city of El Bireh. Bahour built a successful business in Ohio. But his conscience was unsettled as he watched his people suffer. Bahour returned to Palestine deciding that he could not live his life pretending to be free in a country that pretended to be democratic. He wanted to fight for Palestinian freedom against the Israeli oppressors using free speech and the power of the mind.
It was on Facebook this week that Sam Bahour made a simple request on his page. That’s not unusual. The greatest voices of freedom come from the darkness of the worst abyss. Sam Bahour observed that Palestinians need a strong and powerful communications campaign to convince Americans that Israel is the abuser and Palestinians are the victims, not the other way around as most brainwashed and unknowing Americans believe. He recognized that America is the real battleground for Palestinian independence and the real Arab Spring.
Although the pro-Israel lobby only represents a small percentage of America’s population, they have powerful sway over the vast majority of Americans, who I will remind you are the most educated people in the world but the least educated about the world. They have sold their twisted lies to Americans about Palestine, Arabs, Muslims and “poor little Israel which is surrounded by a sea of Muslim heathens.”
They have sold these lies using powerful communications strategies and are engaged in a campaign to suppress America’s recognition of the righteous cause of the Palestinian people.
It’s no simple achievement for the pro-Israel lobby. Misguided Arab activists driven by anger, hate and emotion are helping to achieve Israel’s mission. These activists lack any experience in strategic communications. They are incapable of understanding how to address the majority of Americans who, if given a fair chance, would easily stand on the side of justice, civil rights and the Palestinian cause.
Sam Bahour is an exception, but it is quite a hurdle that he must overcome. It’s difficult to give Sam Bahour the right answer. But, in real life, that’s what I do. As a former professional journalist in America – one of only a small handful who is Arab and even fewer who is Palestinian – and now as a communications professional, I know how to communicate effectively to Americans.
Deep down, most Americans can identify with Palestinians, people who are merely seeking to recover their freedom. Colonialists, who have suffered greatly but have a callous and vicious disregard for the rights of other human beings, have taken their land and their rights.
I also know that it takes more than a “just cause” to win over the hearts and minds of Americans. Sam Bahour does know something that most Arabs and Palestinians do not. The battle for Palestinian freedom is in America. Lobbying groups, using powerful communications tools, have twisted principles and morals in the “land of the free and the home of the brave” to turn the US into a nation of bullies who are perpetrating one of the greatest civil rights injustices in the world.
Their own people, Palestinian Christians, are among the victims who have had their land, rights and freedoms taken away from them and have been forced to live in modern-day concentration camps. Most Americans claim to be “Christian.”
The problem is what to do? You can’t answer a powerful question like the one Sam Bahour posed in a column like this of under 1,000 words. It takes a lot more. But I am going to try and I’ll offer in next week’s column a communications strategy that Sam Bahour, Palestinians and Arabs can use to open the mind of an American public that has been victimized by more than 65 years of vicious propaganda and lies by Israel’s advocates.
I know that even before we get to the effective communications strategy to re-educate Americans, we have to re-educate ourselves. Most Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians have stopped caring about justice, morality and principle. They are angry, upset and frustrated, and they are only concerned about themselves.
You can help by “friending” me and people like Sam Bahour on Facebook. Share your ideas on what needs to be done. That is, if you really even care. It’s so much easier to be angry, to yell and scream about Israel, than to do something about Israel’s injustices. Start caring about Palestine, again, and become involved in one of the world’s greatest civil rights movements.
— Ray Hanania is an award winning former journalist and media consultant. He can be reached at www.TheMediaOasis.com or follow him on Twitter @RayHanania
(NOTE: IN an earlier version I noted Sam Bahour was born in El-Bireh Palestine, but he was actually born in the United States.)
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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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