Thursday, July 29, 2004

Media always misses human tragedy July 27, 2004


By Ray Hanania

Special units of Israel's shock troops are constantly entering Palestinian areas and attacking civilian homes, killing their inhabitants, destroying the homes and leaving. It happens every day.

Israel's military occupation prevents the media from covering these invasions. Few are reported. I think you can understand why. In the middle of the night on July 6, one of these Israeli units entered the city of Nablus.

They surrounded the home of Khaled Salah, a husband and father of three children, Diana, Muhammad and Ali. He was a professor of engineering at An-Najah National University. Salah was not involved in terrorism or even resistance. The Salah family was shocked from its sleep. They huddled together in fright. The children were crying.

His daughter, Diana, described the events at a press conference held the next morning at the University (transcript according to the Public Relations Department at An-Najah National University):

"Last night, about one o'clock, I heard a bomb explosion. I saw Israeli soldiers come into the house. My father rushed into my room. I told him, 'Dad, it is full of soldiers downstairs.'

"'Are you kidding?' he said.

"'No,' I answered. He went to look in the kitchen. He rushed back and took me from my bedroom into another room.

"Our house is open. All rooms have windows, and the windows were all open. The only room with three walls is the living room. We all huddled there, Dad, Mum, Muhammad, Ali and I. We were all in one corner of the room for three hours. We could hear the shooting and bombing, they were using all kinds of weapons: tanks, rockets, helicopters and M-16s. Fire was crossing our house.

"We were so afraid, but Dad said an Arabic expression: 'Let it be the money and not children.' It means better to lose money than souls. I was crying, but he tried to cheer me up, saying: 'I didn't know that you are such a coward.' Up until that moment we were all OK.

"Minutes later, shooting stopped. It was so quiet. 'It is over!' we thought. But then the IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces) started shouting over loudspeakers: 'Open the doors! All people out of the building!'

"Dad went to open the door, but he couldn't move it. The lock of the door was damaged from the bombing so the door could not be moved. He went to his bedroom window, held his hands and called in English to the soldiers: 'We can't open the door. The door is damaged. I am a peaceful man. We all are peaceful people. I have children. My daughter has an American citizenship. I have an American green card, I have no weapons. Only my children are here. Come and open the door. I can't open it.'

"Then in Arabic he shouted: 'Help . . . help . . . somebody come and open the door.' Suddenly we heard shooting, and my Dad's voice stopped. Mum ran in to find my Dad lying on the floor. She called to him, 'Khaled. Khaled. What happened?' She came back crying and told us, 'They killed your dad.' . . .

"My other brother, Muhammad, was on the floor. My Mum asked me, 'What's wrong with Muhammad?'

"I said, 'I don't know.' I can see him there. I thought maybe he was kidding. We called to him. He didn't answer. Then we saw blood coming out of his mouth. But we could feel him breathing. Mum cried for help and tried to open the door, but they started to shoot.

"I shouted, 'Mum, don't open! Please. Please. I have no dad now. I don't want to lose you, too. I don't want to be alone.'

"When Mum called to the soldiers for help, they mocked her and told her to shut up. . . . We begged the Israeli soldiers to let us pull out my dad's and my brother's bodies, but they refused and threatened to kill us, too."

The Israelis demolished the home and the evidence. Salah's widow and two surviving children are homeless. Will Israel's "wall" stop that terrorism?

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

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Arab & Muslims sweat out elections July 23, 2004


By Ray Hanania

The way President George W. Bush has been steamrolling over Arab rights issues, you'd think the presidential election would be an easy choice for Arab- and Muslim-American voters.

It's not.

Some may waste a vote on Ralph Nader, the self-promoting spoiler who helped weaken Al Gore's candidacy four years ago against Bush and who is spoiling to do the same this November. But at what point do Arab and Muslim Americans decide they have had enough of throwing away their votes?

The fact is, Bush may be very anti-Arab, but so is his Democratic challenger, Sen. John Kerry. And while Vice President Dick Cheney is the right-wing conservative driving the Bush Middle East agenda, it turns out John Edwards isn't too far behind policy-wise.

Once again, America's presidential election will not be about which candidates support Israel, but rather, which candidate supports Israel more. Yet, when I look at the two slates, I do see differences.

Politicians say and do anything to win elections. Kerry began on what looked like a slightly different position from Bush when he addressed Arab Americans last year. Kerry expressed concerns about the wall, which Israel calls a "fence" and the timid American media refers to as "the barrier."

Kerry quickly did an about-face and declared unequivocal support for the "fence" a few weeks later. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful lobbying organization in the country, must have beat the bejesus out of Kerry. Politically speaking, of course.

Kerry has declared that Palestinian President Yasser Arafat should be isolated even more. And, he has declared that Palestinians have no right of return to lands taken from them by Israel in 1948. Kerry also believes the larger settlements are "new realities" that Israel should be allowed to keep in any final peace agreement.

What's the point of negotiating?

Edwards has also taken a hard-right turn on the Middle East. He doesn't believe Israel should be pressured on issues like the illegal settlements -- a long-standing American policy until Bush came to power.

But Edwards also believes "Israel's very existence is threatened." Certainly, the conservative demands Israel is making to absorb the lands occupied in 1967 might be threatened, but Israel, which is the only Middle East nation with nuclear weapons -- more than 300 at last count -- is far from being threatened by anyone.

But this could all just be campaign rhetoric. What do you expect Kerry and Edwards to say when the Arab and Muslim community has marginalized itself by failing to forcefully denounce Islamic extremism?

While there are many Arab organizations, few have effective public relations strategies and therefore have no public influence beyond their own constituencies. Fanatics have taken over much of the mainstream Islamic movement in America.

Arab and Muslim organizations fight as hard against their own people as they do trying to convince Americans about the wrongs of Israel. Actually, they fight harder against their own people. And, they are notoriously prone to back-stabbing and self-destruction. Given a choice, Kerry and Edwards probably figure no matter how large a consituency Arabs and Muslims claim to be in America -- the numbers are usually exaggerated to excess -- they are better off pandering to Jewish voters.

At least Jewish voters are able to overcome natural political differences and come together to support Israel. The word "consensus" doesn't exist in the Arab or Muslim vocabulary. It's either all or nothing, and it usually ends up being nothing.

A key race is Florida, of course, where Gore lost the election. It has a large Jewish-American voter population. Jewish Americans, unlike Arab and Muslim Americans, vote.

The only hope for Arabs and Muslims is that after the election, Kerry and Edwards might support moderation rather than extreme pro-Israel views. For me, the hope that Kerry and Edwards will change is far better than the certainty that Bush and Cheney can't.

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 July 23, 2004

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Israelis use unfounded arguments to justify Wall


By Ray Hanania

What are the main arguments in defense of Israel's wall, which was recently ruled "illegal" by the International Court of Justice?

Well, according to Israel's former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel has a right to build a wall in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem because those territories are not "occupied," as Palestinians and the world claim, but "disputed."

Therefore, Netanyahu recently wrote in The New York Times (July 13, 2004), international laws do not apply.

Israel is building the wall, which it calls a "fence," not on the border that separates the "disputed" lands from Israel, but on the "disputed" lands. This divides the "disputed" lands and allows part of the "disputed" lands to be merged with Israel.

In other words, Israel is expanding its borders, which is exactly the strategic goal Netanyahu has advocated all of his political life. Netanyahu and others assert Israel needs the wall to separate "Israelis" from Palestinians.

You see, Israel allowed Israeli Jews to enter the "disputed" lands to create settlements. They did so by confiscating lands belonging to Palestinians. So, they say, they can't build the wall on the 1948 border that separated Israel from the Palestinian areas after the U.N. Partition Plan failed. They have to build it on the "disputed" lands because they built settlements there and need to encircle them to protect them from Palestinians, too.

One solution would be to remove the settlements, but Israel doesn't really want to do that. It undermines their real goal: land confiscation and annexation. Israel is not so much about justice as it is about land expansion.

Even though Israel claims the occupied lands are "disputed," they make no reference to the fact that the dispute involves national sovereignty, not property rights. All of the lands in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and even East Jerusalem are owned, legally, by real people, who all happen to be Palestinian.

Trivial details to most Israelis, but the core of the conflict for Palestinians, who happen to be Christian and Muslim, and not Jewish.

There are other moral issues that expose Israel's illogical arguments on the wall. For example, one Israeli, Jacob Amir of Jerusalem, wrote in The New York Times (July 14, 2004), "That fence has no political meaning. It can be demolished or moved at any time. But as long as the murderous terror continues, the fence will stay in place."

We know that logic is not logic at all when it comes to Israel. What Amir contends regarding the wall was long ago also argued about the Israeli settlements. "They are temporary." "They can be dismantled" -- once the Palestinians accept Israel's right to exist.

Palestinians accepted Israel's right to exist in 1993, in a signed document. And although final details of peace faced some serious hurdles, the fact is none of any of the settlements built since 1967 has been dismantled, demolished or removed.

In fact, the settlements continue to grow.

This is a part of what Israelis wink and nod about to each other. It's called the fait accompli. They simply create facts, like settlements or the wall, and assert they are only temporary. But temporary turns into months, then years, then decades, and soon, the legality of the illegal structures and land confiscation becomes moot.

Finally, when the emptiness of their logic becomes evident, Israelis often create a straw dog argument that might be reasonable if it were true.

Rabbi Joel Berman, writing to The New York Times from Boardman, Ohio, makes the most incredulous claim: "Has anyone noticed that while many Israeli voices, including the Israeli Supreme Court, have decided that some of the separation barrier needs changing (mark of debate, signal of democracy), not a single Palestinian voice is heard saying 'It is wrong to send suicide-homicide bombers to Israel'?" Rabbi Berman shares the problem of most Israelis. Or maybe, it's less of a problem and more of a strategy on their part.

Palestinians denounce suicide bombings all the time. As one of the few Palestinian nationally syndicated columnists, I do all the time. But I am far from alone.

So why doesn't Rabbi Berman hear our voices? Because he doesn't want to. It's easier for him to defend Israel's illegal actions and violations of the international rule of law if he can say that Palestinians are immoral, unethical and violent.

If he had to admit that Palestinians in fact do denounce suicide bombings, it would pretty much destroy his argument. And that has always been a problem driving the Palestine-Israel conflict.

Very few Israelis really care about what the Palestinians are saying. They never wanted to accept the fact that we existed in the first place, and only accepted our existence when the Palestinian revolution used violence.

You can't blame violence on someone who doesn't exist. But you can distort reality and all the facts. It makes it easier for them to point a finger of blame.

It's always someone else's fault. Never Israel's.

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

Monday, July 19, 2004

Justice Banging on Israel's Door 7-16-04

By Ray Hanania
If you are among the legions of Israel's supporters, you believe the propaganda that the wall Israel is building is intended to protect Israelis from Palestinians.
Of course, we know that's only slightly true. The violence continues in all areas of the West Bank, not because Palestinians "hate Jews," as extremist Israelis assert, but because Israel continues to militarily occupy the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
Worse, Israel continues to confiscate (steal) Palestinian land and expel Christian and Muslim Palestinians. Israel's policies and its continued occupation and theft of Palestinian land are among the causes of the violence.
They have never changed from day one, when Israel was declared a state on lands granted to it under the U.N. partition and lands it expanded upon during the war.
But Israel has a clever propaganda machine that relies on an uninformed American public that often views conflicts not on the basis of right and wrong, but on racism, emotion and fear.
More importantly, Israel gets its way because the American news media is often biased, unprofessional and one-sided in favor of Israel. Palestinians have a right to defend themselves in the face of this Israeli aggression, even if that aggression is manipulated into obscurity by a pro-Israel Western media.
And Palestinians have justice on their side. Last month, Amnesty International declared that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's policies of brutality in the occupied territories are "war crimes."
Recently, the International Atomic Energy Commission began a campaign to force Israel to come clean on its nuclear arsenal, estimated to be more than 300 nuclear weapons. Why does Israel need "300 nuclear weapons"?
As a deterrent? Or to launch a war to grab more lands from other Arab countries? Does Israel need to defend itself from an Arab world whose combined armies can't match the power of Israel's military?
This week, justice banged on Israel's door one more time. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) declared it has jurisdiction to rule on the legality of the wall.
Palestinians contend the wall is a land-grab by Sharon, the spiritual leader of the Israeli settler movement. Many settlers provoke Palestinians by attacking them, expelling them from their lands and confiscating those lands to build religiously and racially exclusive settlements of their own.
The process smacks of South Africa's old apartheid system of racial segregation. Israel's government supports this. Despite their claims, the number of settlers continues to increase.
If the ICJ in The Hague declares the wall illegal, it could order Israel to dismantle it. The wall is built not on the "Green Line," which marks the border between Israel and the lands it occupied in 1967, but on Palestinian lands conquered in 1967.
Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu claims the occupied lands are "disputed," and, therefore, are subject to negotiation. But that's the same argument some Arabs make about Israel and that Israelis always complain about. Israel is in fact "disputed" territory, too, since the state was created on lands that went far beyond the borders defined by the U.N. partition plan.
The Israeli wall likely has dual purposes: to expand Israel's land control and grab all the natural water wells in the West Bank. Without access to water wells, Palestinian farmers can't farm. That means more pressure forcing them to flee, so, you guessed it, Israel can grab their land, too, and build more settlements.
Although many Israelis have become rigid against peace based on compromise over the years, Palestinians have changed their attitudes about the 1948 war, accepting Israel's right to exist on the lands it captured in 1948, but not on the land it captured in 1967.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin recognized that balance of justice in 1993. But Israeli extremists made it clear they reject peace, and they murdered him. Israel often manages to avoid justice, relying on the United States.
Every time the United Nations censures Israel for wrongdoing, America casts a veto. As the United Nations contemplates this latest ruling by the International Court of Justice, it is clear the United States will again protect Israel from answering to the rule of law and justice.
But justice continues to knock on Israel's door.
The question is, are there any Israeli leaders with the courage of the late Rabin to answer it?
To find out more about Ray Hanania, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at