Friday, December 31, 2004

Palestinians must stand up to terrorism from within Dec. 31, 2004

Palestinians must stand up to terrorism from within
Exclusive to Haaretz, Dec. 31, 2004
By Ray Hanania

On January 8th, in anticipation of Palestinian elections, Israel will pull back its military in order to accommodate the voting and to conduct a test to see if the "downsizing" can be maintained.

Although it is not a Middle East peace plan, it may help to contribute to an atmosphere where Palestinians can push the Israelis back to the negotiating table and resume the 2000 peace talks that faltered when Israeli negotiators balked at making the tough concessions on Jerusalem and the Palestinian Right of Return.

More importantly, it is an opportunity for the Palestinian National Authority to re-assert its authority in the occupied territories not so much from Israel, but in the face of the real threat to its leadership, from Hamas. The new PNA government must control Hamas vigilantism, and bring to an end the Hamas-inspired suicide bombings that undermine Palestinian support internationally.

Israel reportedly is considering maintaining the reduction in the days and weeks after the election in the hopes that policing and controls can be taken over by Palestinian police.

It’s a window of opportunity Palestinians should not miss. While Hamas will argue that it’s just another form of Zionist maneuvering that changes little, pragmatics among the Palestinians must see it as a part of the process of disengagement by both sides.

As the suffering for Palestinians continue, Hamas is growing in strength; despite occasional swings in public opinion surveys, the trends show a move towards continued conflict and a despair over a negotiated settlement.

From the Palestinian standpoint, the PNA must assert its authority whenever it can. They live under occupation and the Hamas response that there is no such thing as liberation until Israel is destroyed is inaccurate and merely a re-statement of their rejection of compromise.

Yet most Palestinians support land-for-peace compromise and a mini but viable Palestinian State in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and in Arab East Jerusalem.

But Palestinians are used to being hijacked by the lowest common-denominator. One Palestinian extremists can undo in violence what thousands of Palestinians can achieve in negotiations based on a rational realization that Israel cannot be defeated militarily and there is no going back to 1948.

The only road to 1948 is through hatred, lies, exaggerations and the immoral exploitation of Palestinian suffering by the extremists. The road to 1967 is damaged, potholed and difficult to maneuver, but a clear path that can still be repaired. Hamas and its rejections have done much to destroy that road and will continue, even after the elections.

The new Palestinian president, presumably Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) must act quickly after the elections to consolidate his authority first over the Palestinians. That means an immediate crackdown on Hamas and anyone who takes the law into their owns hands.

Hamas is an outlaw organization to Palestinians that operates outside of the weak but existing Palestinian legal system. Every nation has the right to crack down on its own militants while it is seeking to negotiate. Militants have no moral authority to engage in violence, especially when those acts are intended to undermine negotiations. The next Palestinian president must interpret his election as reinforcement of that principle.

This is not about doing Israel’s bidding. It is about doing Palestine’s bidding. Palestinians cannot use the principle of the Rule of Law to defend itself against the aggression of Israel’s military occupation. And certainly, Israel’s military has committed atrocities that are equal if not worse than atrocities committed by the Palestinians against Israelis.

But you cannot demand the cover of the Rule of Law to pursue your rights if you do not apply that law fairly, completely and across the board.

Palestinians cannot find their independence through the continued violence against Israel. It can only come through the non-violent pursuit of compromise, a strengthening of International community support and shifting the conflict from one of Palestinians versus Israelis to those opposed to compromise and those who support compromise.

Israelis who support compromise must support this Palestinian opportunity and not allow the tragedies that have injured both in the past stand in the way of true justice.

If Palestinians fail, so too will the Israelis.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and author. His columns are internationally syndicated and are archived on his web at


Now that Israel has a partner Dec. 31, 2004

Now that Israel has a "partner"
Creators Syndicate Dec. 31, 2004
By Ray Hanania

Mahmoud Abbas is expected to win elections Jan. 9 to succeed Yasser Arafat as president.
It may finally end the Israeli government shell game of always coming up with excuses on why it doesn’t have to make real land for peace concessions.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who provoked the current Intifada and exploited it to reverse most of the compromises made by his moderate predecessors, refused to negotiate with Arafat.

It will be interesting to see what he does now that he can’t use Arafat as an excuse. Sharon says he wants peace, but what kind of peace?

Abbas has publicly denounced suicide bombings, saying violence has been counter-productive to Palestinian interests. He is willing to bring Palestinians back to a peaceful negotiated settlement.
But the real issue is whether Israelis are ready.

Abbas has hurdles: crackdown on the violence by groups like Hamas, a terrorist organization no better or worse than Israel’s settler movement.

Palestinians have already recognized Israel’s right to exist in the pre-1967 borders, accepted Israel’s control over West Jerusalem, and agreed to Israel’s security demands. They have even recognized that some Israeli settlements must remain in the West Bank, demanding only an equivalent land swap.

Convincing Palestinians to trust Israel will be a tall order.

During the failed peace negotiations, Israel promised to freeze and eliminate settlements. But while Arafat negotiated with the late Yitzhak Rabin (who was murdered by an Israeli settler fanatic) and Ehud Barak, whom Sharon defeated, the number of settlers expanded and some settlements grew in size.

Barak insisted on keeping all of the settlements around Jerusalem, and most in the West Bank, like Ariel. He offered to give Palestinians 1 inch of land in the Negev Desert for every 9 inches Israel kept. Wow, desert sand for rich agricultural farm land. What a deal!
Israelis assert they offered Arafat Jerusalem. What a joke.

Barak offered Arafat an "office" in East Jerusalem, administrative control over the Christian and Muslim holy sites, and administrative controls over "some" of the villages outside of Jerusalem.
The "capitol" Israel offered Palestinians is Abu Dis, a village located a mile west of Jerusalem. Barak’s proposal was to pretend it is in Jerusalem.

But if Abbas can meet his responsibilities, Israelis will be forced to meet their responsibilities. Israel must return the occupied lands, swapping inch-for-inch for land they keep, a counter-proposal Arafat made that Barak rejected.

Israel must share Jerusalem. Without Jerusalem, there is no such thing as a peace deal. Instead, there will always been violence.

Israelis must acknowledge their responsibility in causing the Palestinian refugee problem in 1948. Most refugees, according to polls, accept they will not be able to return to their original homes and lands.

A Palestinian state must be viable and cohesive meaning that the West Bank cannot be divided into separate segments controlled by the Israeli military, as Barak proposed.

Already, Sharon has said he will not attend a peace conference in London, hosted by America’s allies. He says he wants to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, where most of Israel’s military casualties have occurred.

He continues to build a wall, not separating Palestinians from Israelis, but in the midst of Palestinian land, separating Palestinians from Palestinian lands Israel wants to annex.

If this effort fails, Israelis will only have themselves to blame.


Friday, December 24, 2004

Don't undermine Iraqi Democracy by curtailing rights12-24-04

Don’t undermine Democracy by curtailing its basic rights
Creators Syndicate Dec. 24, 2004
By Ray Hanania

Why is there no Democracy in the Middle East? One of the main reasons is that constituencies there tend to bond not on specific political or social issues, but on religious issues of faith.
And for most "faithful," religion is non-negotiable. Right or wrong, if God "said it," it must be true, even if it makes no human sense.

So how do you nurture Democracy in the very region where the world’s religions were birthed? How do you instill Democracy without compromising fundamental views of faith?

The answer is to redefine religion in a political message where Democracy is permitted to fearless spread its benefits. That takes more courage than most leaders in the Middle East are willing to offer.

The true balance between religion and politics is what makes American Democracy so successful, although in recent years the tilt to the conservative religious right, and the erosion of pure principles of professional journalism have caused great consternation for the future.

Leaders in the Middle East must be willing to demonstrate that they can balance not only politics and religion, but also give their people the very benefit that makes Democracy successful: Freedom of speech including the freedom to speak against the very people who advocate Democracy.

Simply put. As an American, I should be allowed to burn an American flag without being punished either by the judicial system or by the public.

That power is so great that once people experience it, they will never turn away.Iraq faces the classic challenges prohibiting Democracy.

Shiites will vote Shiite. Sunni will vote Sunni. Christian Assyrians will vote Christian Assyrian. Kurds will vote Kurds. Arabs will vote Arabs and so on. The end result is predictable. Whichever group has the most followers will win in a vote.

Instead of unraveling these religious and ethnic bonds, the current Iraqi government is reinforcing them by oppressing the right of free speech and denying the public the very benefits it claims it seeks to bring.

Iraqis must have the freedom to praise the American-led occupation, and the freedom to challenge it. Even harshly, emotionally, passionately and aggressively. In fact, the right to challenge Democracy is what makes Democracy so powerful. Take that away and the people you are trying to encourage to embrace Democracy never will.

Free speech is not free if you restrict the voices of the people.

Iraqis must be permitted to denounce the American-led occupation. They should be allowed to challenge the actions of the American-appointed government. They should be allowed to develop political positions free from oppression as the only alternative to rising religious extremism.

Most importantly, the public should be allowed to publish whatever media they wish without fear of retribution.

The reality in Iraqis far different. And the toughest actions taken by the government there so far has been against the media it dislikes. It has censored and restricted the activities of al-Jazeera, the only truly Democratic voice in the entire Middle East, replacing it with pro-American propaganda that very few Iraqis even bother to read.

They have banned al-Manara, the television station of the religiously extreme Islamic Jihad organization.

What Iraq is doing is undermining Democracy, and basically stating that while they wish to have Democracy in their country, they have no faith in the power that Democracy is supposed to achieve.

They fear that extremists will use Democracy to undermine Democracy. It’s the single greatest fatal flaw of those who advocate Democracy.

Democracy can win only if you do not impose it on a people. They must embrace it. The public needs to experience the power of free speech, and the ability to burn their own flag.

Extremism feeds on the very oppressions used to protect Democracy. Closing al-Manara and restricting al-Jazeera do not contribute toward the strengthening of Democracy. They only insure that Democracy will not succeed in Iraq.

# # #

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Palestinian candidates must oppose violence 12-22-04

Palestinians must oppose violence in election voice
Exclusive to Haaretz Newspaper
Dec. 22, 2004
By Ray Hanania

Not only is the future of a viable Palestinian State at stake in the Palestinian elections on Jan. 9, but so too is how Palestinians will be defined in the coming century.

The next President of Palestine has the opportunity to change the future of the Palestinians and achieve Palestinian Statehood by offering a vision of realistic hope that undermines growing extremism.

And specific issues must be addressed.

The two leading candidates, Mahmoud Abbas and Mustapha Barghouti, are both poised to overcome the challenges ahead, although Abbas may be better able to manage the realities of Palestinian political elitism.

In order to re-position the Palestinian people to achieve viable statehood, certain issues must be addressed.

The first issue is the unequivocal rejection of all forms of violence by Palestinians. Palestinians cannot denounce Israeli violence without first standing against Palestinian violence.

Rejection of violence must be unequivocal. The ugly truth of the Palestinian revolution that continued and uncontrolled violence has resulted in the loss of Palestinian land and rights, and erosion of international support.

The next Palestinian President must bring the Palestinian people back to the center in order to accept a secular based solution to the conflict. Religious extremism cannot be curtailed through force of arms but through force of reason and logic.

The best way to counter the steady rise of religious extremism is to show that secular Democracy is the better alternative. That means that the next Palestinian President must end all censorship of Palestinian media.

The people must be able to express themselves. This certainly poses an unusual challenge, too, in how Palestinians must address instances of hate speech.

Setting aside for the moment the obvious anti-Palestinian animosity among many Jews and Israelis in their own speeches and their texts, the next Palestinian President must speak out forcefully against racist attacks against Jews and Israelis.

The real issue in a Democracy is not whether or not an individual can express racist thoughts. Democracy protects everyone’s rights.

But the difference is in how a society responds to racism. Do they embrace it or do they speak out against it. Clearly, the next Palestinian President has a responsibility to speak out forcefully against those Palestinians who, for example, refer to Jews and Israelis as "animals."

In those instances where the hate speech originates from official government sources, it must be remedied and removed. Hate speech should remain with the haters where it cannot grow.

Another challenge is to properly frame and define the issue of "The Palestinian Right of Return."
Palestinians have a right of return, but not a realistic right of return. While we demand that Israel acknowledge this right, we must also acknowledge that returning to their homes and lands is not realistic in the context of peace and compromise.

The alternative is to demand that Israel acknowledge its role in causing the refugee problem, something it has consistently refused to do. And, the next Palestinian President must clearly define what the alternative solution will be: compensation and support.

The fact is most Palestinians do not expect to return to their lands. But they do expect that the weight of the loss is equally compensated in both pride, material and future living.

The majority of Palestinians are good people. They are religious but not fanatic. They are respectful and they do not hate.

The next Palestinian President must be prepared to lead with clearly defined agendas and goals.
Surely, these campaign positions will generate criticism. But in Western Democracy, the greatest measure of leadership is often based on the intensity of your critics.Just look at Israel.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning internationally syndicated Palestinian columnist, author and satirist. He is the former national president of the Palestinian American Congress. He can be reached at
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Friday, December 17, 2004

Abbas words of strength against violence 12-17-04

Abbas candidacy may be last chance for peace
Creators Syndicate Dec. 17, 2004
By Ray Hanania

Former Prime Minister and candidate for Palestine’s presidency has been saying all the right things. But will his words resonate among the growing extremism resulting from the continued Israeli occupation?

Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, was Palestine’s first prime minister until he bumped heads with the late President Yasir Arafat. Today, after Arafat’s death, Abbas is viewed as the leading candidate to take his place.

Abbas, who assumed Arafat's post as the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, could go the popular route to insure an easy victory. Instead, he is taking the principled route of realism, a tougher road based on saying things that must be said but that often many do not want to hear.

This week, Abbas said that he was sorry for the support that many Palestinians gave to Saddam Hussein when Iraq invaded Kuwait. At that time, recognizing the deep dislike many Palestinians have for the Kuwaitis, Arafat had expressed solidarity with Saddam Hussein.

Arafat was taking the easy route, playing to the crowd rather than to the tougher road of principled reason. The Kuwaitis are the most anti-Palestinian of the Arab Gulf States. In contrast, Saddam Hussein was providing support funding to families of Palestinians killed by Israeli military occupation forces.

Not every Palestinian who is killed is a suicide bomber or a terrorist. Most are innocent civilians killed by Israeli attacks. Saddam Hussein’s money went to families that legitimately deserved the support when innocent members of their families were killed.

But money is not the answer to Palestine’s challenges. Nor is the Palestinian tendency to turn towards emotion rather than realism.

The next day, Abbas went further and said what most reasoned Palestinians have been afraid to say fearing retribution from Hamas and other violent extremists. Abbas declared the violence of this Intifada is wrong. In fact, Abbas said, the violence has undermined the Palestinian cause.

In an interview with a major Palestinian daily newspaper, Abbas said that Palestinians should resist the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza without resorting to violence.

Those are tough words from a man who is seeking to build a popular base to succeed Arafat as president in what is only the second major election in the nation’s history, scheduled for January 9.

While his views may cost him some voter support, they clearly distinguish him as the best hope for Palestinians to achieve peace based on a two-state solution.

His views show he has the courage to do what needs to be done and say what needs to be said, something rare not just in Palestinian politics but in the Arab World, too.

His comments were immediately brushed aside by a spokesman for Hamas, who claimed that the "consensus of the Palestinian people" supports violence as a response to Israeli policies.

And, his comments came in the wake of the first major violent attack against Israeli targets since Arafat’s death last month when Hamas militants killed five Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint at the Gaza-Egyptian border. It was a daring assault. The attackers dug the tunnel using their hands over a four month period.

The attack demonstrates that no matter Israel does, the extremists will find away around Israel’s policies as long as Israel continues to oppress Palestinians, kill civilians and confiscate Palestinian lands.

That is a powerful concept that makes many Palestinians believe that violence is the only way to respond to Israel own violent policies. And that becomes a tough challenge for Abbas.Can his words of non-violence win back the faith of the majority of Palestinians? Or, has the conflict become so brutal that all hope has been extinguished?

A key Hamas spokesman, Khaled Mashal, may have hinted at the answer when he said Hamas would end its attacks on Israeli targets "only with Palestinian consensus."

How else to judge consensus than through an election? And an Abbas victory would demonstrate Palestinian consensus in favor of non-violence and an end to the violent responses to Israeli aggression.

Hamas, however, cannot be trusted, especially since it is not official participating in the election. In the wake of Arafat’s death, popularity for Hamas and the use of violence in response to Israel’s brutal policies has increased among Palestinians.

Despite the murder by Israel of its most visible leaders, Hamas remains a strong organization founded on religious faith and an unwavering principle to reject compromise. Suicide bombings, which have turned world opinion against the Palestinian cause, remains a fundamental part of its military strategy, although it may become more creative.

Abbas offers the best hope for peace, and may be the alternative to Hamas. Abbas has a clear vision of a Palestinian State based on justice and non-violence. These next few weeks will be critical.

But everyone must recognize his courage in the face of an untenable situation aggravated not only by Palestinian extremism, but also by an Israeli government that has done little to encourage peace or Palestinian hope.

# # #

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Muslim attitudes towards Christians must change Dec. 15, 2004

Muslim attitudes towards Christians must change
Arab American Media Services Dec. 15, 2004
By Ray Hanania

The Arab World is slowly being transformed into the Muslim World as the numbers of Christians continues to dwindle.

And although I am Christian by religion, I consider myself Muslim by culture. Certainly, most Americans who meet me believe because I am Arab, I am Muslim, too.

Following a speech on the justice of the Palestinian cause, an elderly American woman with gray hair and a mild personality, walked up to me and whispered in my ear, "How could you abandon your Christian faith to become an Arab?"

I am amazed by the depths of the ignorance of the West towards the peoples of the Middle East and to Arab culture. No wonder so many Americans hate us, as hate originates in ignorance.

But every Christmas, the greatest consternation I experience comes not from the "stupid American" with the stupid stereotypes, but the educated Muslim who experiences bigotry so often, you wonder how they can become bigots themselves.

I have been reading the writings of many Muslims who must believe they are being "tolerant" and "well intentioned" when they write that Muslims should approach the Christian season in America as "an opportunity to convert Christians to Islam."

These Muslim writers do not see the challenge as one of insulting the Christians who live in the Muslim World. Rather, they view the challenge in the subtleties of the new age of reason and understanding.

Imagine if I, as a Christian, proposed that Christians in the Middle East should do all they can to exploit Islamic holidays, like Ramadan, and use them to convince Muslims to convert to Christianity.

The truth is, in many "Arab" countries, that would be a capital offense. Minimally, the offender would be jailed or expelled from the country. Christians are not permitted to "proselytize."

When I was in Bethlehem last October at the beginning of Ramadan, I was pointedly told that I should not eat my food on the outdoor patio in deference to Muslims who were fasting until sunset.

And I constantly am reminded that Christians should not consume any alcohol in public, whether it is during or after Ramadan. That’s Haram, the Arabic word for "sinful" or "shameful."

I am also often invited to perform my stand-up comedy satire and give public speeches defending the rights of Palestinians at dinner banquets. But oftentimes, when the organizers of Muslim events discover that I am Christian, they always note that maybe I can’t reflect the same message to the audience as a Muslim comedian.

Even though Muslims and Christians are fighting and dying together in Palestine? And both suffer the oppression of brutal dictatorships and monarchies in the Middle East?

But Muslims in American feel it is their duty to convert Christians to Islam.

One writer wrote, that at Christmas, Muslims can show Christians "the beauty of Islam," and explain that the embrace of Jesus, who is recognized by Islam as a prophet, is a natural progression that leads them to the Islamic awakening.

If Muslims want to show Christians, especially those in America, about the beauty of Islam, how about denouncing the vicious carnage by such groups as al-Qaeda a little more often and a little more persuasively than they have in the past?

How about if Muslims, instead of seeing Christmas as an opportunity to advance themselves, look at it with a sense of respect for a fellow human being whose faith shares one common belief in one God?

What if Muslims, rather than separating themselves on the belief that Islam is a better religion, embraced not only Christians but Jews and treated them as equals, rather than as "tolerated" peoples in a system of ancient "millets," religious distinctions for Armenians, Jews, Catholics and Orthodox Christians under the Ottoman sultunates.

For many years, Christians and Jews living in the "Arab" World were required to pay a Jizya, or tax, for the privilege of being recognized as "special." Christians and Jews were required to dress "modestly" in conformance with Islamic tradition, rather than with their own custom.
Most of the Jizyas have long gone. But the attitudes have remained.

And this Christmas, while I pray for the suffering of all Muslims and Christians who are dying in Bethlehem and throughout the oppressive Israeli occupation, I also hope that many of the ugly attitudes that dominated the Muslim World might change so that the world can see the true beauty of Islam, rather than its vanity.

# # #

Saturday, December 11, 2004

The injustice of the David Boim verdict, Dec. 11, 2004

Arabs face injustice in American judicial system
Dec. 11, 2004
By Ray Hanania

This week, a jury convicted four organizations and its leaders of the murder of a 17 year old boy, awarding his parents $52 million in damages automatically tripled to $156 million as a result of a U.S. Law.

Under normal circumstances, one might call that justice.

But this case is not about justice at all.

It is instead about hypocrisy and the growth of racism, hatred and bigotry against Arab Americans.

The victim was David Boim, killed eight years ago in a terrorist attack by Hamas, a foreign based organization engaged in a war with Israel, a foreign country, that has been going on since 1947.

There wasn't one single shred of evidence to prove that the organizations or their leaders were involved in anyway in David Boim's murder.

If this had happened in any other country, no jury in its right mind would have convicted the defendants. But this is about Israel, and the double standards that allow Israeli citizens to also hold American citizenship. This is strictly prohibited by American laws for nearly every other American. You can't be the citizen of another foreign country and be an American, too.

But that's not the heart of the double standards or the bigotry that drove this jury to make this ridiculous award.

I might have cheered on the ruling. Several of the organization are extremist. The Islamic Association for Palestine is an extremist organization that has intimidated and harassed many Americans, including other Palestinians.

They have been found guilty on the principle that they support Hamas and therefore their support makes them liable for what Hamas has done. And, thanks to the pro-Israel congress, a special law targeting Israelis who were victims of the Arab-Israeli conflict can now file suit in civil court if they can establish that the cause of their suffering was "terrorism."

In theory, Palestinian Americans who have been murdered by Israel's extremist governments over the years, could also file suit against Israel and argue that Israel's actions caused their son's or daughter's death.

Several cases exist. American student Rachel Corrie was killed not eight years ago but less than two years ago by Israeli soldiers using a U.S.-made Caterpillar Tractor to destroy the home of a civilian Palestinian family.

The Palestinians whose home was destroyed could file suit against Caterpillar under the law, and Corrie's parents could also sue Israel.

But under American hypocrisy, those lawsuits would be thrown out with disdain and prejudice. The law that rewarded the family of David Boim only protects Israeli victims of terrorism. It does not protect Palestinian victims of Israeli terrorism nor Americans killed by Israeli soldiers.
Hell, you can't even get Congress to investigate Corrie's murder.

The fact is the court ruling against the extremist Islamic Association for Palestine, and three other organizations, is a conviction driven by hypocrisy that can only happen in an America consumed by racism and hatred against Arabs.

Evidence exists to show that the American criminal justice system is now as biased as is the American entertainment industry. You can make a film filled with hatred of Arabs and Muslims in this country, but you can't organize a heritage display that has any tinges of politics critical of Israeli terrorism.

This double standard didn't begin on Sept. 11. It just got worse.

More than 14 people who "looked Middle Eastern" were murdered in the six weeks after Sept. 11, but no one in American thinks that's worth investigating.

Never mind the thousands of Arabs who have detained illegally for no other reasons than their religion and race, or usually that an American neighbor said they looked like a terrorist.

Arab Americans are being arrested and charged in cases across this country holding them to a standard not held to other Americans.

Juries around the country are convicting Arabs simply on the basis of their race and religion, and no one is going to spend any money to investigate that either.

If you are an Arab woman traveling to attend her father's funeral in the West Bank, and someone claims to have heard you say the word "bomb" in a conversation with an airport security official, you will go to jail for three days, lose your job and be humiliated.

If you happen to be a store owner and a convicted gang member points a finger at you and alleges you supplied him with drugs, you will lose your pharmacy license and all your possession.

The murder of David Boim is a tragedy. But so was Corrie's murder and the killing of the 14 "Middle Eastern-looking people that no one seems interested in defending. Boim is one of thousands of innocent people - Palestinians and Israelis - who have been killed by both sides.

But the laws that protect David Boim do not protect victims of Israeli terrorism, and many supporters of Israel are responsible.

The same week of the jury's injustice in the Boim case, Congress approved $591,000 to fund a campaign to convince the Arab world that America is a land of freedom and justice.You wouldn't have to convince them of anything, if it were true.

Most in the Arab world know America is the land of hypocrisy and double standards when it comes to Israel and American foreign policy.

Arab Americans are learning that the double standard extends far beyond foreign policy and threatens their lives directly.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning nationally syndicated columnist and author. He can be reached at

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Friday, December 10, 2004

Arab American patriotism often ignored, Dec. 10, 2004

Arab American patriotism often ignored
Creators Syndicate, Friday Dec. 10, 2004
By Ray Hanania

Arab bashing is big business in America, and it’s very popular in the media.

On November 19th, when it was reported that an American soldier in Iraq had murdered at point-blank range and in cold blood an Iraqi prisoner, American superstar and radio talk show host Don Imus went on the air and denounced Arabs as "ragheads."

Notorious for his anti-Arab racism, in the past, Imus has called Palestinians "stinking animals," and the widow of the late President Yasser Arafat as "that fat pig of a wife."

Officials at MSNBC who carry Imus’ show said they were "sorry" if anyone was "offended" by his comments. I called Imus to ask how he felt about Jews, Blacks and other minorities, but the cowboy–hat wearing tough-guy didn’t have the courage to take my call.

Unfortunately, Imus is just a cheerleader in the tolerated rise of racism in this country. Unable to capture the people responsible for Sept. 11th, Americans have to blame someone. So we invade Iraq and take our anger out on innocent people.

Since Sept. 11th 14 people who "looked" Middle Eastern were murdered. Thousands of Arab Americans were physically assaulted or verbally abused. Scores of mosques and Arab churches have been burned or vandalized.

It doesn’t matter to Imus or his racist cohorts that most Arab Americans are patriotic.
Thousands, including my father and uncle, served during World War II. Currently, 3,500 Arab Americans serve in the U.S. Military, including in Iraq. One of those Arab Americans is David Roustum.

Roustum was an all-American. He was the captain of his football and hockey teams at Orchard Park High school in West Seneca, a suburb of Buffalo, New York. And he was patriotic in the truest sense of the word, enlisting in the Army National Guard 108th Infantry Division.

Initially, Roustum served as a member of the Military Forces Honor Guard, serving in 250 military funerals, before he was deployed to Iraq in March. The 108th Infantry Regiment, a part of the Arkansas National Guard's 39th Infantry Brigade, deployed to Iraq in support of the Fort Hood-based 1st Cavalry Division.

Roustum was in his final semester at the University of Buffalo when he was called to active duty in March of this year, following in the footsteps of an older brother, Daniel, who also served in Iraq.

Conflicted about the war and acting more as a concerned father than an unpatriotic American, Roustom’s Syrian-born father, Russ suggested he go to Syria to stay with relatives.

After all, not everyone’s sons or daughters volunteered to sacrifice their lives for this country’s foreign policy. Certainly not Mr. Imus or other members of the media or even the majority of the members of the U.S. Congress, for that matter.

David Roustum declined telling his father that he is proud to fight for America.

A few days before Thanksgiving, military officials called Russ and his wife Jennifer to say that Spc. David Roustum had been killed on Saturday, Nov. 20 in Baghdad during an ambush. Three of his colleagues were seriously wounded and their parents said that Roustum’s actions had saved their lives.

Imus wasn’t just slandering an Arab American. He was slandering all Americans. Imus owes the public more than just an apology. That he is still at his job is the real tragedy in this country.

# # #

Friday, November 26, 2004

Why? 11-26-04

Nov. 26, 2004
By Ray Hanania

My local newspaper ran almost four pages of small photos of soldiers, captioned with the names, ranks, ages, hometowns, and dates that each were killed in Iraq.

It's a common thing to publish the faces of fallen soldiers, especially around holidays. Not so common is to publish the list of seriously wounded.

The dead are so much easier to handle. They die and are forgotten to the public. The wounded remain in our faces -- demanding things like hospitalization, disability benefits and costs that go on long after wars end.

More than 1,200 Americans have been killed in Iraq, the Vietnam-like war that no one wants to compare to Vietnam.

But I have one simple question.


Why did they die? Patriotism? Terrorism? Politics? Profits? Racism? The answer depends on your politics, I guess.

Maybe it was to defend America from another terrorist attack.

Or maybe it was to distract the public from the fact that many of the people who did business with certain politically connected firms were friends and relatives of Osama bin Laden.

I recall that during the Vietnam War, the patriotism was heavy and questions like "Why?" were frowned upon. We were told we were winning the war, but we weren't and didn't find out until it was too late, and our soldiers had to flee as the insurgents of ragtag guerrillas converged on our embassy.

Like the Viet Cong, the Iraqi insurgents who are defending their country do not have the technologically superior weapons systems that our American forces brought with them when we launched the unprovoked attack on March 19, 2003.

And like the Viet Cong, the Iraqi insurgents are proving to be formidable opponents. The drive to defeat the occupiers and achieve independence is a powerful force, even more so than concepts like "democracy."

Oh yes. They have their terrorists, although we didn't use the phrase terrorism during the Vietnam War as easily as we use it today.

But the fact is that not all of the Iraqi insurgents are terrorists, even if the biased American news establishment calls them such in their one-sided, self-censored coverage.

For every atrocity broadcast on American TV where an Iraqi has butchered an American, there are probably just as many atrocities being committed by American forces against innocent Iraqis.

We know that many of the insurgents we capture have been murdered in cold blood by people hailed in this country as "heroes." Imagine that a person who viciously murders a prisoner, a civilian or an unknown potential suspect is held up as a symbol of what we stand for as a nation. To much of the American media, those who report these crimes are worse than the criminals, just as Americans who ask "Why?" are denounced as anti-American and unpatriotic.

Personally, I think how you win a war is more important than simply winning a war.

It was a lesson we learned -- and forgot -- during the Vietnam War.

More importantly, I guess, is that it is easy to throw the faces of the dead at the public. It feeds public emotion and prevents war criticism from gaining in popularity.

As long as it's not your kid, I guess we can fight to the last son or daughter. Not your son or daughter. Someone else's son or daughter.

As long as the faces of the dead in the newspaper are strangers, we can afford to feel patriotic sympathy.

I know that regardless of whether they support or oppose the war, the sons and daughters forced to fight have no choice, unlike the children of privilege who have not been nor ever will be called to active duty service in Iraq. The issue really isn't even the public's attitude. America continued to fight the Vietnam War long after it was clear most Americans no longer supported it, or at least had begun to seriously question it.

But when the names under the photos of the dead in American newspapers include the names of clout like Bush, Hastert, Rove, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Frist, Santorum and Ridge, you can bet the war in Iraq would stop on a proverbial dime.

Throw in a few more surnames like Hannity, Limbaugh, Krauthammer, Hume and Coulter, and ending the war would suddenly become patriotism. But that won't happen.

So right around the holidays like Memorial Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day and the Fourth of July, newspapers around the country will continue to fill their pages with the names and faces of the most recent to die. And if you ask "Why?" you'll be denounced, vilified and attacked as anti-American and unpatriotic. As long as it isn't your son or daughter, why should you care?


To find out more about Ray Hanania, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at

Originally Published on Friday November 26, 2004

Thursday, November 25, 2004

American merry-go-round hypocrisy regarding Ukraine, 11-25-04

American merry-go-round over Ukrainian elections
Arab American Media Services 11-25-04
By Ray Hanania

Was anyone else surprised when Secretary of State Colin Powell announced that the United States does not accept the results of the elections in the Ukraine this past week?

Election officials in Kiev announced that the Russian-backed prime minister, Victor Yanukovych, had defeated a former prime minister, Viktor Yushchenko, in Sunday's election in the Ukraine.

Powell said there would be consequences for U.S.-Ukraine relations if the government there did not act "immediately and responsibly" to find a solution that respected the will of its people.

"We cannot accept this result as legitimate because it does not meet international standards and because there has not been an investigation of the numerous and credible reports of fraud and abuse," Powell said in a statement released by the State Department.

Powell called for a full review of the election and basically demanded a recount, which is how I define the phrase "the tabulation of election results."

Haven't the Ukrainians heard of the Supreme Court? Just shut Powell and BUsh up by having one of the Ukranian Supreme Court justices declare Yanukovych the winner. It worked for President Bush in January 2001.

Maybe the Ukrainians offended Bush by expressing dismay over how poorly the American elections were conducted back in November 2000? ANd that has provoked Powell to enforce a standard on others that we, Americans, don't impose on ourselves.

Suddenly, the Bush administration is talking about "popular will" as they not only block a recount in Ohio where voter fraud appears rampant, but they also have used their clout in the Congress to undermine the reforms proposed by the 9/11 Commission.

(Notice how Bush waited until after his re-election to trash the 9/11 Commission report?)

I guess the issue is not the rule of law, justice or a single standard of democracy, otherwise where would Powell and Bush get off lecturing another nation about their election process when the one we have right here stinks and is clearly corrupted by special interest power politics.

But most of the world already recognizes that the United States isn't really a land of "opportunity." It's more or less like the land of hypocrisy.

How else do you describe this double standard? I understand the simplistic equation "You are either with us or against us," as Bush has carefully enunciated.

But now I realize that also means that if you are "us," you have one standard of justice and if you are not "us" you have another standard of justice. Be it in elections. Be it in investigations of criminal terrorist acts that may find themselves nipping at your own heals (Bush's cozy friendship and business ties to Osama Bin Laden's relatives, for example).

Or be it the capricious manner in which the United States claims it is not subject to the 4th Geneva Conventions which guide the civilized conduct of warfare, although I am sure we will demand 4th Geneva Convention protections for our soldiers and our friends when it suits our purposes.

Does the rest of the world see this hypocrisy as clearly as I do? Or is it simply that they have known something for a long time that I have only recently come to realize.

America speaks from both sides of its mouth. Justice for "us" is different from justice for "you."

I am all for justice and fair elections, democracy and freedoms. But I am also a big believer in "practice what you preach."

Clearly that's a phrase that most Americans don't want to hear.


Saturday, November 20, 2004

The bonfire of the American morality Nov. 20, 2004

The bonfire of the American morality
11-20-04 Arab American Media Services
Permission granted to republish

By Ray Hanania

America is a nation that is in transformation. Once the pillar of America’s greatness, the righteous values of justice are slowly being consumed by a national rage based on lies, racism and hate.

Many Americans would rather embrace the lie so they don’t have to come to terms with their own ugliness or hate. Ugliness becomes relative. It is acceptable when you can make the person you hate seem even uglier.

Today’s Americans are cultivating principles based on "New Speak." Atrocity becomes justified with the clever use of labels. The killer is acceptable as long as the victim is someone designated as a the unacceptable, or today’s "terrorist."

"Horrors of war are unavoidable," Americans scream as they dance around the flames of hate. As long as victims are "the other people."

Even the meaning of the word "terrorist" is redefined in the "New Speak." It is no longer about humanity, morality or righteous principles of justice. It is a mob-like hate-vision.

We see evidence of this in America everyday as we divide the world not in terms of right and wrong, but "us" versus "them."

An American soldier kills a wounded Iraqi in cold-blood, clearly the tip of an iceberg of atrocities unreported by the media. Rather than disgust, many Americans want to punish the people who made this atrocity public.

In stark contrast, there is no limit to their moral outrage against Islamic terrorists who have committed similar acts of butchery by beheading hostages. There are no limits to the atrocities and injustice that can be wiped clean in the new American equation of "us" versus "them."
We are at the bonfire of American morality. Nothing burns brighter in this hate than justice, righteousness, morality and principles that define human dignity.

Atrocity is judged by the races and politics of the victims and the victimizer. When the victim is one of "us," Americans are outraged. When the victim is one of "them," the atrocity is justified.
The sickness becomes the norm especially when the media surrenders to the mob and embraces rather than challenges the lies.

The American news media is in a voluntary bondage and worse, in widespread denial. The absence of ethics becomes promiscuous. Professional journalism is replaced by entertainment news that is based on viciousness and cruelty. Emotional fantasies replace hard facts.

From there, it is a mere half-step to a future when the mob will demand even more in Roman-like glee.

At some point, they won’t even pretend. The "guilty" will be fed to the lions of our hatred.

Justice will be replaced by public entertainment. The new judges will stand behind the microphones fanning the bonfires of American morality, cheering on the viciousness. Gleefully dancing around the bonfires of a corrupt morality. Spewing hate-talk and fomenting greater racism as New Speak. Listeners will scream mental chants of "Death! Death! Death!"

The evidence is there everyday. The icons of the new media allow people to foment hate. On one recent show, Palestinians are described as "filthy animals" encouraged by the talk show host who declares to the coliseum that it is acceptable to dehumanize those with whom we hate.

But you can never satiate the hunger of the mob bonfire. Just calling someone a "filthy animal" will not be enough. If you can dehumanize a human being, you can then obliterate that human life. And then sit with your family and bounce a child on your knee and even speak of greatness and a great world free of fear and violence. Once you have destroyed all of "them."

The first casualty becomes the obliteration of the line between right and wrong. Morality is redefined based on but on the racial and religious origins of the dehumanized victim.

It’s in the nature of racism and hatred.

America is a nation fast becoming a coliseum of uniformed minds. The New Speak is spreading. We wave our American Flag with an emotion that is weighed both by love and hate until hate becomes equal and even surpasses what is right.

The glow of the bonfire of American morality is a crematoria of hatred where the slaughtered vanish in smoke.

And when the smoke is gone from the skies, we can pretend it never happened.

Unless a new Moses comes down from the mountaintop and destroys the idol of the calf fashioned from the charred remains of a once golden morality.


Friday, November 19, 2004

President Bush at the MidEast Crossroads, Nov. 19, 2004

President Bush at the MidEast Crossroads
Creators Syndicate Friday Nov. 19, 2004
By Ray Hanania

It took President Bush a terrorist attack awakening and four years to recognize the importance of resolving the Palestine-Israel conflict.

Better late than never.

Although the conflict has been supercharged with violence for more than a century, his decision to turn his back on the conflict following his election in 2000, rather than carry-on the failed legacy of his predecessor President Clinton, contributed to worsen the conflict.

Without an American president providing reason and guidance, newly elected Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did what he vowed to do all his life, undermining the peace process, provoking violence and engaging in a clear strategy to annex all of the occupied lands rather than exchange them for peace.

Although everyone blames Palestinian President Yasser Arafat for the escalation in violence that took place after the collapse of the Clinton-initiated peace process, the real responsibility rests solidly on Sharon’s shoulders.

Rather than pursue new peace initiatives, Sharon rolled-back all of the peace advances, declared his intent to not only keep Jerusalem as an exclusively Jewish rather than open city, but he also reflected his settler ways in declaring that he would expand rather than remove longstanding illegal Israeli settlements.

The reality is that Sharon was merely expanding on an Israeli policy of the so-called moderates and the extremists. The moderates, led by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Yitzhak Rabin did not eliminate any illegal settlements during the entire peace process. Instead, they expanded existing settlements and reinforced their illegal claim to land circling the East side of Jerusalem on confiscated Arab-owned land.

Rather than push for the dismantling of settlements to promote peace, Rabin, who was assassinated by a Sharon political loyalist in 1995, and Barak sought to solidify their hold on settlements, always believing that despite promises they could retain the land they grabbed after 1967.

Sharon was probably the most honest of the land thieves. He never pretended to support dismantling settlements and believes in not only annexing more land, but insuring that whatever land is returned to Palestinian control in any peace agreement will be insufficient to serve as a basis for a viable independent Palestinian State.

During his first term, driven by anti-Arab advisers like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (who at one time helped support Iraq’s Saddam Hussein) and Vice President Dick Cheney (who has a blind trust benefit in the multi-billion no-bid contracts awarded to his interests in Halliburton), Bush turned his back on peace and allowed Sharon to advance his veiled aggression.

While claiming to be a man of peace, Sharon is clearly the most vicious warmongering leader Israel has ever elected.

President Bush, who claims to want to resolve the conflict, must come to grips with the real Sharon. He no longer must pander to influential pro-Israel American lobbying interests, especially since most pro-Israel votes went to his challenger, John Kerry, in this past election.

If Bush wishes to be remembered for anything besides launching the New Vietnam war in Iraq, he has a real opportunity to make headway in the Palestine-Israel conflict, which is the heart of most violence in the Middle East.

Resolving the Palestine-Israel conflict in a way that guarantees Israel’s right to exist and that combats violence and terrorism from the small but influential rejectionists who oppose peace, and that also grants justice and fairness to the Palestinians is a monumental task that affords an historic achievement of unprecedented proportions.

All it requires is being fair and just. It requires reinvigorating the vision of the failed Rabin-Arafat peace process which called for respect, justice and fairness for both sides.

It means that a secure Jewish Israel must be partnered with a viable Palestinian State that has enough land and honor through the sharing of the Holy City of Jerusalem, which has been closed to most Christian and Muslim Arabs since its occupation in 1967.

It means looking past the clever pro-Israel propaganda that drives America’s ignorance of the Palestine-Israel conflict and see it for what it really is, a conflict between two people who both have legitimate claims to the same land and enforcing a compromise that can work.

Bush cannot wait for the Israelis to replace Sharon with a leader with a genuine passion for Israel’s security that is based on a just peace that embraces his post-election vow to resolve the conflict fairly.

Let’s see if Bush, who is now an experienced foreign affairs leader, can lead. I hope he does.

# # #

Monday, November 15, 2004

Rumors of AIDS and poisoning eroding chances for peace, 11-15-04

Rumors of Arafat AIDS and poisoning erode hopes for peace
Arab American Media Syndicate, Monday Nov. 15, 2004
(Permission granted to reprint)

By Ray Hanania

Normally when there is a discussion about Gays and the issue of AIDS, Jewish American leaders are among the first to stand up and decry the disease and defend the rights of Gays.

In fact, I have always admired the Jewish American community for their righteous stand on civil rights, and their sensitivity on the issue sof AIDS.

Of course, when the attention is on an enemy who stood in the way of the proclaimed Zionist dream to build a Jewish homeland in all of Palestine, many Jewish Americans and pro-Israel advocates are quick to set aside their humility and transform into racists with no end to their hate.

How else do you explain the sudden pre-occupation in the causes of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's death?

When he was alive, many Jewish leaders bit their tongues when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon threatened to murder him.

Murder is so unbecoming of any race, you would think that Jewish American leaders who drawn a line in the sand when it comes to hatred of Palestinians. Surely, it is a violation of the high moral principles that are reflected in Judaism. Although while Jewish Americans are quick to point out Arafat's crimes, they seem blind to the crimes of their own people, likeSharon, Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin.

So you can imagine my shock when I read the comments of many Jewish American leaders and pro-Israel columnists who claimed President Arafat died of AIDS.

Suddenly they are concerned with his health?

More likely, it's a reflection of their own moralbankruptcy. They seem to be enjoying the death of another human being just a little too much. In fact, the enjoyment reflected among Jewish American leaders is so disgusting, it makes me sick to think that some of those expressing this kind of hatred were once considered friends.

Former White House speechwriter David Frum, one of the new anti-Semites leading the American racism against Arabs and Muslims,

Frum wrote, "Speaking of media bias, here's a question you won't hear in our big papers or on network TV: Does Yasser Arafat have AIDS?"

He continued, "We know he has a blood disease that is depressing his immune system. We know that he has suddenly dropped considerable weight -- possibly as much as one-third of all his body weight. We know that he is suffering intermittent mental dysfunction. What does this sound like?"

Keep in mind, Frum is the man responsible for coining the ridiculous phrase, "Axis of Evil," when we know that evil permeates every nation, religion and race.

But he's not alone. The king of Arab hate-mongering is Daniel Pipes, the person President Bush appointed to the "Institute for Peace," writes that rumors that Arafat had AIDS are "plausible."
And his hate-web site has an open forum where his readers are encouraged to celebrate in the viciousness.

President Arafat was 75 years old when he died. Do you have to have a cause? Could it be that Arafat died an early death in part because of the inhumane conditions he was forced to live in at the Muqata, the Palestinian headquarters which was rubbled in an Israeli attack led by Ariel Sharon that was intended to destroy the peace process?

And imagine how Jewish Americans act when the shoe is on the other foot.

I have read in many Arab media that Arafat was -- gasp! - poisoned by the Israelis.

And how are the pro-Israeli crowd handling that?

Frum has reportedly called the poison rumor, "anti-Semitism."

Pipes writes, "Of course, some Palestinians have hatched a conspiracy theory about Israel poisoning Arafat."

Oh. But the AIDS rumor is not a "conspiracy theory." It's "plausible?"

Much like the Israeli hypocrisy on the issue of terrorism - only Palestinians are terrorists, they assert - their silence on the ridiculous rumor that Arafat had AIDS screams the word "shame!"

I think it is all shameful on both sides. Do you think there are some responsible Jewish and Palestinian leaders who might stand up and put an end to this disgraceful pandering to ugliness on both sides?


Rabin-Arafat doctrine must be embraced, 11-15-04

Rabin-Arafat doctrine must be embraced
Arlington Heights Daily Herald
Posted Monday, November 15, 2004
By Ray Hanania

When Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin shook hands at the White House to launch the unprecedented peace process in 1993, the message they conveyed was one of attitude change.

Palestinians and Israelis had to change how they looked at each other to embrace real peace. Instead of looking back at the horrors of the past, Palestinians and Israelis had to look forward, toward the promise of a future of peace.

It was revolutionary.

For many Palestinians, Rabin, then Israeli prime minister, was a terrorist. A murderer. A vicious killer. Rabin inflicted untold horrors on the Palestinian people. Yet in 1995 when he was murdered by an Israeli settler extremist, Palestinians stood up and expressed their condolences, sorrow and grief.

Now that Rabin's partner has died, within one week of the ninth anniversary of Rabin's own assassination, I am appalled at the horrific lack of compassion being shown toward Arafat by many Israelis and Jewish-American leaders.

They seem to celebrate in his death. That is exactly the kind of attitude that encourages violence and discourages peace.

If Israel's government really wanted to support the peace process, they would have allowed Arafat to be buried in Jerusalem, which is as much a Palestinian city as it is a Jewish city.

Instead, Israel's hard-line government rejected Jerusalem as a site for Arafat's burial. But Palestinians have said that Arafat's Ramallah tomb will be only a temporary plot, holding out hope that one day his final resting place will be in Jerusalem, where it belongs.

Israelis brush off Arafat as a "terrorist" and blame him for the collapse of the peace process, as if Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has not played a hand in destroying and undermining peace.

The fact is both Palestinians and Israelis have engaged in violence, terrorism and horrendous atrocities against each other. Sharon's predecessors Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin were both branded as terrorists during the Palestine Mandate years in the 1940s. They committed unspeakable acts of brutality and murder and terrorism, and they were declared terrorists.

But attitude is what drove Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to reach across that divide of hatred and seek to achieve peace, even with a man like Begin who was one of the worst terrorists in Palestinian and Arab eyes.

Arafat was a great revolutionary and a great freedom fighter. He single-handedly led the Palestinians out of the oblivion imposed by Israelis who declared that the Palestinians never existed and had no rights to nationhood.

Arafat was the first Palestinian leader of substance to officially recognize Israel, and to embrace and promote the two-state solution. Though that peace process has collapsed, peace talks can and should be resumed. Arafat remained steadfast in his insistence that Palestinians everywhere, including in America, support the peace process despite its many difficulties.

It is time for Palestinians and Israelis in the Middle East and in the United States to re-embrace the Rabin-Arafat doctrine, change their attitudes and reopen the contacts that have been abandoned for the past four years.

What Palestinians and Israelis need today is that attitude change to make peace possible.

Burying Arafat in Jerusalem, a city that must be shared by both peoples, is a strong first step toward peace.


Saturday, November 13, 2004

Rising anti-Arab rhetoric parallels anti-Semitism; NY assemblyman's attacks violate Hate Crimes Laws, 11-13-04

Rising anti-Arab rhetoric parallels anti-Semitism
Saturday Nov. 13, 2004
By Ray Hanania

Ryan Karben isn’t burning a cross or championing the Ku Klux Klan, but he might as well be. Today’s racists and bigots, like Karben, don’t have to cover their faces with a pointed white hood when they assault the freedoms and rights of Americans with whom they disagree.

Karben is a New York Assemblyman. He has launched a vicious, racist, and anti-Semitic-like assault on a group of Christian and Muslim Palestinians who have organized a cultural display in his district.

The "Made in Palestine Art Exhibit" is being organized by Palestinian and Arab Americans in his district to showcase arts, music and poetry that includes some exhibit pieces critical of a foreign country, Israel.

That is what Karben seems most concerned about. In many places, Americans are allowed to criticize foreign countries, except when that foreign country is Israel.

Karben’s attack is racist and veiled in disgusting but common form of demagoguery based on a vicious hatred of Christians and Muslims who have political differences with Israel.

His attack against the art exhibit is a clear violation of the existing Hate Crimes laws and he should be prosecuted. But this is the "new America" where racists and bigots can express themselves freely if they hide behind popular political views and distort issues using the deplorable tactic of "the big lie."

Karben is much like Daniel Pipes, the David Duke of the anti-Arab community who uses his position as a member of the U.S. Peace Institute to bully Christian and Muslims because they support justice and fairness in Palestine.

Karben also exploits his publicly held government position paid for by taxpayers and as a representative of the people of his district to bully those with whom he disagrees.

Karben claims are ridiculous. He asserts the Palestinian American exhibit is "anti-Semitic," promotes terrorism and glorifies "Nazism." Yet these are exactly the fundamentals of Karben’s own vicious defamation.

In preparing for the show, the organizers published a statement describing what they hoped to achieve:

"The exhibit will run for four weeks and feature approximately 30 artists of Palestinian origin from well-known artists to emerging new talents. Our aim is to illuminate the face of Palestinian culture from the 1960s to the present day, and to establish a bridge between the Williamsburg and Palestinian communities through the universal language of art. In conjunction with the exhibit, we plan to host a series of lectures and cultural activities, including live music, poetry, calligraphy, Palestinian cuisine, a slide show on Palestinian history and much more."

The exhibit begins Saturday, November 20 from 5-10pm at the Westchester County Center at 198 Central Avenue, White Plains, NY. The $16 tickets are available through Ticketmaster at

Karben’s America is an America that glorifies the principles advocated by the Klan, skinheads, neo-Nazis and White Supremicists. In Karben’s facist world, there is no room for cultural expression, let alone freedom.

Karben’s strongest argument is that among their supporters are organizations that have criticized Israel. And he has a right to criticize the critics, but not to impose his racist standards on the public, or to defame Americans who are entitled to American constitutional protections.

Karben’s viciousness is not only insulting to Christian and Muslim Palestinians, but is also insulting to American Jews who advocate for a non-violent end to the Middle East conflict.

If Americans really believe in principles of equal protection under the law and are truly dedicated to the eradication of hate, then people like Karben who promote hate and who disguise their embrace of violence with repugnant rhetoric should be prosecuted rather than elected to office.

American Jews who support peace and an end to the Middle East conflict, who oppose violence and who are shocked at anti-Semitism should join in denouncing Karben’s detestable actions.

In the true America, we can disagree without being disagreeable. But there can be no room for anti-Semites, facists and haters like Ryan Karben. They need to be identified and evicted from their places of leadership.

As long as Karben is allowed a platform to spew his hateful rhetoric, the forces of anti-Semitism, racism, prejudice, bigotry and discrimination will find comfort and strength to hate even more.
In that world, the freedoms of Christians, Muslims and Jews, Palestinians, Israelis and other Americans will constantly be threatened.

It’s a world of freedom, liberty, respect and non-violence is the world that Ryan Karben most threatens.

Americans who fail to speak out against Karben’s racist excesses undermine the very noble principles that make this nation so great.


Friday, November 12, 2004

AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE News interview 11-12-04

U.S. National - AFP
Palestinians in US recall Arafat as a unifier, symbol of nationhood
Thu Nov 11, 7:40 PM ET

CHICAGO (AFP) - For many Palestinians living in the United States the late Yasser Arafat (news - web sites) was an indefatigable crusader who kept the cause of Palestinian nationhood alive for decades.
AFP Photo

Palestinians in communities across the United States -- from New Jersey to Texas, Florida, Illinois and California -- prepared to mark Arafat's death with services and memorials.
In Washington, the Palestinian Mission set out a condolence book.

Palestinian-American Ray Hanania recalled how he and his family gathered in front of their television set to watch Arafat address the United Nations (news - web sites) general assembly in 1974.

"We were second-class citizens. He forced everybody to respect us," said Hanania, whose parents were Palestinian refugees.

"He took the Palestinians out of oblivion and shoved them in everybody's face," he said.
Rima Nashashibi saw the process first hand.

"Palestinians were invisible in 1968," recalled Nashashibi, who was born in Jerusalem and bounced between Israel and the United States before settling in Orange County, California.
Arafat "put them back on the map. He kept the struggle alive, and generated world-wide support for the Palestinian cause."

The guerrilla leader-turned-statesman was a powerful symbol to generations of Palestinians overseas, even if some were critical of some of the policies and the leadership style he favoured in his later years.

Arafat "was the dominant image, the dominant name for young Palestinians," said Nihad Awad, the executive-director of a prominent US Islamic advocacy organisation, the Washington, D.C.-based Council on Islamic-American Relations.

"He was the Nelson Mandela of the Palestinians," he said.

As a young man Awad was struck by Arafat's dedication to the project of Palestinian self-determination.

"You never saw him out of uniform. He gave his personal life for the cause," Awad said.
For Taleb Salhab, director of an Arab American center in Orlando, Florida-based Arab American Community Center, Arafat's passing is the "end of an era. He's the only leader we have ever known."

The row over Arafat's final resting place left some in the US community with a bad taste, another unwelcome reminder of their statelessness.

Arafat "cannot even have a funeral in his own country," said Ali Abunimah, a Chicago-based activist with the Arab American Action Network, an immigrant advocacy group, referring to Israel's refusal to let Palestinians bury Arafat in Jerusalem.

"It's emblematic of the conflict. They're denying this great Palestinian symbol the right to be buried in his own country," he said.


NEWSDAY: Arafat's legacy 11-12-04

Revolutionary leader's legacy will endure

Ray Hanania is former national president of the Palestinian American Congress and a syndicated columnist based in Chicago.
November 12, 2004

As he survived ruthless assaults against his life over the years, Yasser Arafat's legacy will survive the blistering attacks from his harsh critics.

Arafat was a great revolutionary, a freedom fighter and, to the Palestinians, a hero. If Arafat can be faulted for anything, it was that he was never a good negotiator, nor was he a great government leader either.

But what revolutionaries ever are? Arafat faced an even greater, more insurmountable challenge of trying to transform from a revolutionary to the leader of a government constantly undermined by Israel's refusal to go far enough in making land concessions for peace.

Arafat's genius is undeniable. He took the Palestinian people out of an oblivious desert. And, in the face of the greatest hate-inspired propaganda campaign directed against any people on this Earth, he prevailed - exposing a canard instilled by Israeli extremism that "the Palestinians, they don't exist."

Arafat was the first real Palestinian leader who could and did recognize Israel's right to exist, even without demanding a quid pro quo from the Israelis. He accepted the concept of a two-state solution in spite of a rule of law that prevailed on the side of Palestinian claims.Arafat embraced the concept of a two-state solution that he mistakenly believed was on the up-and-up with Israel.

He did so knowing full well that during that process Israel never once acted on its promise to dismantle its settlements, which are illegal, every single one, in the face of even the most conservative interpretations of international law.

The peace process blamed on Arafat for failing was never on the up-and-up. It was always skewed toward Israel's best interests and advantage. It was managed by a negotiator with a religious conviction towards Israel, and a nation that was more advocate for Israel than a fair arbiter for compromise.

The assertion that Israel's offer to the Palestinians at Camp David was "fair" or "just" is so patently outrageous that it's hard to resume peace negotiations from that point with any seriousness.

There is only one fair solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict, and Arafat supported it. It's the Israelis who do not.

It is a compromise that demands the return of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem, lands occupied in the 1967 War.

It is a compromise that demands Israel dismantle all of its illegal settlements, including those built around East Jerusalem on lands confiscated illegally from their Palestinian owners.Justice and fairness demand that Israel trade, inch-for-inch, land for any that it keeps. I

nstead, Israel's "greatest offer" proposed one inch for every nine inches of occupied land, and not even in writing.Arafat's compromise is a compromise that insists that Israel accept responsibility for creating the Palestinian refugee problem. Dozens of former Israeli leaders have confessed as much in their final writings. It's ridiculous and insulting to even entertain as serious Israel's rejection of responsibility.

Arafat's legacy defines the only compromise that is acceptable and workable. Either the Israelis accept it or they bequeath to the future endless violence and conflict.

Israel will forever be challenged by a people who refuse to surrender, who cannot be defeated and insist on a compromise based on fairness and justice.

As he did in life as a noble leader who deserves everlasting Palestinian gratitude, Arafat continues to elude his adversaries. Arafat survived a week of claims that he had died that began on the ninth anniversary of the assassination of his only real peace partner, Yitzhak Rabin.Many extremists, including Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, believe that now that men like Arafat and Rabin are gone, they can impose a solution that is neither just nor fair.

But Israelis must accept that there can be no peace without justice or fairness. Israelis can no longer continue to hide behind Arafat as the excuse for why peace is unachievable.

It's not Arafat who has been standing in the way of a genuine peace, but the refusal of most Israelis to be fair, just or even honest about history.

It's time for Palestinians and Israelis in the Middle East and in the United States to re-embrace the Rabin-Arafat doctrine and change their attitudes and reopen the contacts that have been abandoned for the past four years. What Palestinians and Israelis need today is that attitude change to make peace possible.

It would have been a tremendous gesture of peace by the Israelis to allow Arafat to be buried in Jerusalem. But they refused that request. Instead, Arafat will be entombed in his old rubbled headquarters, the Muqata in Ramallah. Although Arafat, the man, will be gone, his inspiration to fight for justice and fairness is a legacy that will forever flourish among Palestinians.

Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Chicago Tribune Interview/Reaction to Arafat death 11-11-04

Chicago Tribune
Yasser Arafat 1929 -- 2004
News echoes through areaPalestinians, Jews in Chicago wonder what future holds
By Deborah Horan and Ron Grossman, Tribune staff reporters. Tribune staff reporters Stephen Franklin and Gina Kim contributed to this report

Published November 11, 2004

Although news of Yasser Arafat's death was expected eventually, it still seemed unbelievable to some in the Chicago area when it came Wednesday.

"I think since Nov. 4, I've heard it six times. But apparently, this time it's true," said Ray Hanania, who learned of the death while listening to the radio on his drive home to Orland Park."People had him dead a week and a half ago. To me it symbolized his life. He was able to elude death and his enemies."

To some local Palestinians, Arafat was more than a besieged leader trapped by Israeli tanks inside his West Bank offices. For them, he was a revolutionary who represented a continuing struggle.

"He was, in my mind, George Washington," said Hanania, former national president of the Palestinian American Congress. "He symbolized the Palestinian movement in my eyes forever. Now that he is gone, I am apprehensive about what is going to happen. Is there anyone strong enough to take his place?"

While Arafat's health deteriorated this week, talk up and down Harlem Avenue, where Arabic script competes with English, was all about a world without him.

Palestinians here asked the same questions as those around the world: Would violence break out among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza? What would Israel do? Who among the Palestinians' leaders would step forward?

Many Palestinians interviewed earlier this week doubted that Arafat's departure from the political scene would change the dynamic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Under siege, Arafat had not ruled effectively for years, they said."

The reality is that for years he has been a sick old man imprisoned in the rubble of his headquarters in Ramallah," said Ali Abu Nimah, an activist with the Arab American Action Network, a Chicago-based community group.

But not all Palestinians were sad to see Arafat go."I didn't like him. He is no good for his people," said Jimmy Ayyash, 54, a Bridgeview restaurant owner who has been in the U.S. for 34 years. "They need a new leader to make peace because the Palestinians are suffering too much."During Arafat's illness, many Chicago-area Jews wondered what would come of the badly tattered hopes for peace between Israel and the Palestinians."

In the Jewish tradition, we are never joyous at the loss of human life," said David Abell, a spokesman for the Chicago Area Friends of Yesha, a group that supports Israel's settlers. "But when that human life represents true evil, as in the case of Mr. Arafat, the father of modern day terrorism ... humanity can breathe a sigh of relief that his evil has been removed from this world."

Steven B. Nasatir, president of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, spoke of Arafat as a "major impediment to peace," and the hope that "a new leadership emerges that can become the partner that Israel needs to make peace."

But Hatem Abudayyeh, executive director of the Arab American Action Network, sees Arafat's death as just one of thousands."

Arafat was a great man. Yes, Arafat was an icon," he said. "We're saddened by his death, but we don't ignore the fact that this is not an issue of individuals, it's an issue of a people who have been oppressed and occupied for 55 years."
Copyright © 2004, Chicago Tribune

Monday, November 08, 2004

In defense of Yasser Arafat's legacy, 11-08-04

Yasser Arafat’s legacy remains heroic
Arab American Media Services/permission granted to reprint
Monday Nov. 8, 2004
By Ray Hanania

The New York Times’ self-hating "moderate" columnist, Thomas L. Friedman, always does his best to disguise his religious-based pro-Israel bias. But in the saga of the deteriorating health of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, he can’t seem to restrain a bitter hatred that merely demonstrates his anti-Palestinian bias.

Writes Friedman, Arafat "was a bad man, not simply for the way he introduced a whole new level of terrorism to the world politics, but because of the crimes he committed against his own people. There, history will judge him harshly."

No Mr. Friedman, pro-Israeli religious hypocrites like you will continue to savage the Palestinians while soft-balling criticism of Israel, mainly because you, too, oppose a just and fair peace accord based on a truly balanced scale of land for peace.

As he survived ruthless assaults against his life over the years, Arafat’s legacy will survive the blistering prejudice of Israel’s cunning advocates like Friedman who dominate the Western media and English-speaking history with pro-Israel blather.

Friedman doesn’t have the Chutzpah to advocate for a genuine peace, nor hold his people, the Israelis to the same harsh standards that he constantly inflicts upon Palestinians who, like Arafat, had insisted on a peace that was just and fair.

Arafat was a hero. Plain and simple. He was a revolutionary in the same sense of George Washington. If Arafat can be faulted for anything, it was that he was never a good negotiator, nor was he a great government leader either. But what revolutionaries ever are?

Arafat faced an even greater, more insurmountable challenge of trying to transform from a revolutionary to the leader of a government constantly undermined and influenced by Israel.
But his genius is undeniable.

Arafat took the Palestinian people out of an oblivious desert. And in the face of the greatest ever hate-inspired propaganda campaign directed against any people on this Earth, he prevailed exposing a canard instilled by Israeli extremism (which is more common than Friedman or others would admit) that "the Palestinians, they don’t exist."

Arafat was the only Palestinian leader who could and did recognize Israel’s right to exist, even without demanding a quid pro quo from the Israelis. He accepted the concept of a two-state solution in spite of a rule of law that prevailed on the side of Palestinian claims.

Arafat embraced a negotiated compromise that he mistakenly believed was on the up-and-up with Israel. He did so knowing full well that during that process Israel never once acted on its promise to dismantle its settlements, which are illegal, every single one, in the face of even the most conservative interpretations of international law.

The peace process blamed on Arafat for failing was never on the up-and-up. It was always skewered toward Israel’s best interests and advantage. It was managed by a negotiator with a religious conviction towards Israel, and a nation that was more advocate for Israel than a fair arbiter for compromise.

The assertion that Israel’s offer to the Palestinians at Camp David was "fair" or "just" is so patently outrageous that it’s hard to resume peace negotiations from that point with any seriousness.

It may have been the "best offer," but it was flawed. Never written down. Never affirmed. Always waved like a mirage to draw the Palestinians into conceding more in exchange for what they always get from Israel, nothing.

There is only one fair solution to the Palestine Israel conflict and Arafat supported it. It’s the Israelis who do not. It is a compromise that demands the return of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem, lands occupied in the 1967 War.

It is a compromise that demands that Israel dismantle ALL of its illegal settlements, including those built around East Jerusalem on lands confiscated illegally from their rightful Palestinian owners. Justice and fairness demands that Israel trade, inch-for-inch, land for any that it keeps. Instead, Israel’s "greatest offer" proposed 1 inch for every 9 inches of occupied land, and not even in writing.

Arafat’s compromise is a compromise that insists that Israel accept responsibility for creating the Palestinian refugee problem. Dozens of former Israeli leaders have confessed as much in their final writings. It’s ridiculous and insulting to even entertain as serious Israel’s rejection of responsibility.

Arafat’s legacy defines the only compromise that is acceptable and workable. Either the Israelis accept it or they bequeath to a future endless violence and conflict.

Israel will forever be challenged by a people who refused to surrender, who cannot be defeated and how insist on a compromise based on fairness and justice.

As he did in life as a noble leader who deserves everlasting Palestinian gratitude, Arafat continues to elude his adversaries, including his most recent, the call of God himself.

Arafat will die when he chooses, and not a minute sooner.

I thought it was the ultimate irony that news of Arafat’s "death" began on the very day that many remembered his only real partner in peace, Yitzhak Rabin. Rabin was murdered by an Israeli fanatic on Nov. 4, 1995, demonstrating that Israelis are just as prone to violence in the face of a reasoned outcome that requires true compromise.

Many extremists, including Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, believe that now that men like Arafat and Rabin are gone, they can impose a solution that is neither just nor fair.

But Israelis must accept that there can be no peace without justice or fairness. Israelis can no longer continue to hide behind Arafat as the excuse for why peace is unachievable.

It’s not Arafat who has been standing in the way of a genuine peace, but the refusal of most Israelis to be fair, just or even honest about history.

Although Arafat, the man, will be gone, his inspiration to fight for justice and fairness is a legacy that will forever flourish among Palestinians.

# # #

Friday, November 05, 2004

American Muslim strength weakened by incomplete coalition 11-5-04

American Muslim strength weakened by incomplete coalition
Creators Syndicate Friday Nov. 5, 2004
By Ray Hanania

This is the second presidential election where Muslim voters are left to question their impact and the performance of their leaders.

Although John Kerry's loss to President Bush is now confirmed, there is no doubt that the loss of Muslim Americans is decisive.

The blame rests squarely on the failed strategy of the Muslim American leadership. Their performance has not been good.

In the 2000 elections, Muslims claimed that their swing votes in key states gave Bush the edge over Al Gore and "decided the election." In the wake of that assertion and Sept. 11th, the stature of the Muslim voting bloc has risen dubiously.

When it came to resolving conflicts in the Middle East and Muslim World, Bush turned out to be a disaster.

Reacting out of anger and betrayal, Muslims claimed rather incredulously that their 9 million voters would be the key factor in four swing states of Florida, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

So confident were they that they formally declared endorsement for Kerry.

Yet in analyzing the election, many probabilities appear to be certainties:

The so-called Muslim endorsement of Bush in 2000 was driven by all the wrong reasons.

First, the Bush support came mainly from non-Arab Muslims with traditionally close business ties to the Republicans. They knew going in Bush would not resolve the Middle East conflict. It was not their priority.

Second, Arab Muslims voted against Al Gore rather than for Bush. This was driven by Gore's decision to slate Senator Joseph Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, for vice president.

It also explains why Ralph Nader, an Arab American, did better in 2000 than in 2004.
Though Nader's vote dropped, his support remained high among Arab and Muslim voters -- that despite the effort of some community "leaders" to alter the perception.

Polls by John Zogby, brother of Democratic beneficiary and Arab American activist Jim Zogby, claimed 76 percent of Muslim/Arab voters supported Kerry. In contrast, polls by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) more accurately predicted Nader would draw significant votes and cut Kerry's down to 54 percent in the same group.

In those areas where Muslims and Arabs are most concentrated - a speculative factor never scientifically confirmed - Nader drew strongest support.

There is no question Nader drew his support mainly from "Arabs," who are both Christian and Muslim, while Kerry held on to non-Arab Muslims.

Both Bush and Kerry bought into the fallacy of the so-called Muslim/Arab voting bloc. Kerry worked through Zogby to appoint cronies to key campaign positions while Bush reached out mainly to non-Arab Muslim groups.

The result is that is election has done great harm to the Arab and Muslim American community. In reality, the so-called Muslim vote was not an influential voting bloc at all.
Rather it is a community in total disarray with selfish, politically naïve leaders.

A key reason for this is the decision by many to organize mainly on the basis of religion, as "Muslims" rather than as a more powerful secular voting bloc that embraced Arab Christians.

The Muslim World has more than 40 million Christians: 15 million in Indonesia, 9 million in Egypt, 3 million in Pakistan, and 13 million in 6 non-Arab and 21 remaining Arab countries.
In addition to the 9 million American Muslims (7 million non-Arab and 2 million Arab) there
are about 2 million Christian Arab Americans left out of the wave of "Muslim activism."
Rather than exploiting this natural coalition, Muslim Organizations enjoyed their "special status," nurtured mainly out of post-Sept. 11th misconceptions and the failure of Americans to correctly understand the subtleties of two terms, "Arab" and "Muslim."

The fact is Arab American Christians have higher voter registration. They have a more successful track record in American politics, holding 90 percent of the so-called Arab elective offices.

The Muslim coalitions marginalized Arab American Christians. The Christian factor could have served to off-set the anti-Muslim backlash that continues to fester among many Americans.

When Muslims formally endorsed Kerry, did they really help Kerry or undermine his support among American voters who wrongly view Islam in a negative light.

Success could only be achieved through a Muslim and Arab Christian coalition.

Yet this Christian Arab muscle remains an overlooked resource. Until this resource is recognized, Muslim Americans can never truly attain their peak performance in American elections.

# # #

Friday, October 29, 2004

Bin Laden tape important for what is not said Oct. 29, 2004

Bin Laden tape important for what the killer doesn’t say
Arab American Media Services Oct. 29, 2004
By Ray Hanania

Osama Bin Laden must be feeling a bit ignored these days. The world’s number one criminal released a videotape in which he continues to make empty threats and falsely claims to be the champion of the downtrodden.

Isn’t that typical of all serial killers, mass murderers and tyrants?

Observers are weighing how the videotape might impact the presidential election battle between President Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry

But certainly, from reading the transcript of his comments, Bin Laden’s ridiculous ranting has no relation to the election.

All it does demonstrate is how weakened he has become when he no longer has the advantage of surprise, and how empty his threats become in the face of a more vigilant America and world.

Bin Laden’s remarks are simply not worth the time to analyze. He is little more than a liar, a murderer and a criminal. Chances are Bin Laden produced the videotape because he feels left out of the game.

The people who watch this tape are probably doing so because there is an inherent human tendency to be intrigued and drawn to the horrors or violence and images of murderers.
No one cares about the content of his message.

Even the Arab Street which was allowed to view the videotape on the al-Jazeera satellite network while Americans and the West viewed only censored bits and pieces, can see through his lies.

Bin Laden never championed Palestinian rights or anyone’s rights. Rather than be the champion of Islam, he is a blasphemer who has bastardized the true spirit of Islam, desecrating every word.

The Palestinians may have a just cause and the Arab World may be filled with brutal tyrants, but those are not the causes that motivated Bin Laden to attack the United States on Sept. 11th in the most cowardly manner possible hijacking commercial planes and murdering innocent civilians.

Sept. 11th did injure Americans, but not their spirit. It did little to weaken its World power. If anything, America is even strong and more powerful.

But more importantly, Sept. 11th was less the result of mastermind strategy and planning and more the result of pure luck that America was unprepared.

Today, America is prepared.

If the tape has any impact on the presidential election, it will be purely accidental.

It serves as a reminder that this international thug remains at large far longer than is tolerable, a message that Bin Laden was not intending.

The fact that Bin Laden is still at-large rather than shackled and awaiting execution in a prison cell is a crime that can be blamed on Bush.

Instead of attacking Iraq, Bush should have remained focused on the real War on Terrorism, focused on Bin Laden and al-Qaeda.

Had Bush fought the War on Terrorism properly, Saddam Hussein might well still be in power in Iraq playing his cat and mouse games with the United Nations and the International community.

But Osama Bin Laden would not be free.

And as long as Bin Laden is not in custody, the Bush "War on Terrorism" will remain a complete and utter failure.

That is definitely something American voters should keep in mind when they cast their ballots Tuesday.

# # #

Arafat's demise would plunge region into worsened conflict

Arafat’s demise would plunge region into worsened conflict
Creators Syndicate Friday Oct. 29, 2004
Daily Herald Monday, Nov. 1, 2004
By Ray Hanania

Israelis blame Palestinian President Yasser Arafat for the collapse of the peace process.

It’s not surprising Israel has intentionally stalled the peace process in the hopes he will die or be replaced.

This past week, the Israelis almost got their wish when the 75-year-old Palestinian leader became seriously ill.

Unfortunately, Arafat holds the only key to genuine peace with Israel. Rather than give Palestinians and Israelis a new opportunity for peace, his demise would plunge the two into worsened conflict.

It’s hard to believe the conflict can get worse, but in Arafat’s absence, it will.

There is no other Palestinian who supports peace based on two-states who also has the power to make that happen.

Several Palestinians are viewed as successors and include Hanan Ashrawi, one of the most qualified, and Marwan Barghouti, a political dissident imprisoned by Israel.

While both might satisfy Israel's preconditions for peace, and enjoy strong popular support, neither can overcome the growing threat of Islamic extremism to achieve compromise. Only Arafat has that power.

Rather than open a new door to peace, Arafat’s demise will instead pave the way for another Palestinian leadership, one driven by political extremism and the rejection of compromise with Israeli based on religious faith.

It is a force Israel inadvertently helped create. In the late 1970s, Israeli hardliners including Ariel Sharon helped Sheik Ahmed Yassin launch an Islamic alternative to Arafat in the Gaza Strip. They believed then that they needed to jump-start a religious alternative in order to undermine Arafat’s growing influence. They never expected Yassin’s religious alternative would become Israel’s true nightmare, Hamas.

That policy continues in a new form today.

By destroying Arafat’s secular government, Israeli hardliners have strengthened Hamas and the Islamicist alternative. The viciousness of the current conflict coupled with Israel’s continued expropriation of Palestinian lands and expansion of illegal settlements not only in the West Bank but also around East Jerusalem, fuel the current conflict.

Growing anger among the Palestinian population is directed not only against Israel, but also against the concept of peace based on two-states.

Faced with an Israel that refuses to compromise on Jerusalem or accept responsibility for creating the Palestinian refugee problem, more and more Palestinians believe continued conflict will transform Israel into an acceptable inevitability.

In absorbing the occupied territories and with a faster Arab population growth, the majority population in Israel will be non-Jewish. Why compromise as Arafat has argued?

Arafat represents a secular solution to the conflict based on compromise and two-states. Hamas represents a religious alternative based on faith and belief that feeds on conflict. Continued conflict, they believe, will inevitably transform Israel into an Islamic state.

Unlike the secular option, religious faith does not stumble on the lack of reason or logic.
Arafat symbolizes the recognition that there is no real choice but to compromise with Israel. More importantly, Arafat has the power to make a compromise work.

Israel’s shortsighted policies that have imprisoned Arafat in his headquarters in Ramallah and marginalized his role in possible peace talks insure no secular successor will be groomed to take his place.

A future without Arafat is a future of more suicide bombings, more violence and an unreasoned resistance waiting for the one opportunity to deliver a fatal blow.

The only things preventing Israelis from seeing this bleak certainty is arrogance and a refusal to do the right thing.

# # #

(CORRECTION: In some editions of the column, a typo reference "Mustafa" Barghouti rather than "Marwan" Barghouti.)