Sunday, August 29, 2004

Disenfranchised Arabs driven by sermons and also American bias, August 31, 2004

Disenfranchised Arabs driven by sermons and also bias
Creators Syndicate Tuesday August 31, 2004
By Ray Hanania

It started out as screaming headlines that swept the country last week, but ended up on the back pages of most newspapers by the time the true facts were revealed. Two terrorists plotted to blow up a New York subway to cause economic chaos during the Republican National Convention.

It's far from what we have all feared, nothing close to the terrorism of Sept. 11th. But it sure helps when in an age of anti-Arab hysteria and paranoia and anti-Arab violence, that there is at least some evidence to justify the fears that "those people" are actually doing something.

Actually, "those people" in this case are Shahawar Siraj, 22, and his "terrorist" co-conspirator, James Elshafay, 19. They were caught taking pictures and planning. They had no explosives. When caught, they declared their anger against "Zionism" and "Israel."

For President Bush, the "terrorist" arrests couldn't have come at a better time. The headlines make Bush look even more the great protector of post Sept. 11 America. Up until now, he has had to rely on media and political strategists to make him look good more than on effective policy and leadership.

All of the stories about these two Muslim men seem to end on another important note. They were driven to this "almost," "pretty close to" and "maybe" acts of terrorism by rantings and anti-American hysterics of Islamic fanaticism. Some attributed their conduct (terrorism) to "listening to sermons preaching jihad."

It is true that more and more Arabs, Muslims and people often mistaken for them because they look Arab or Muslim, are feeling anger at America.

But, if America really wants to know the truth about this growing anti-American anger, animosity and even hatred, or the real reasons behind why people who fled the repression of the Middle East would suddenly turn on the very country that invited them in, one might consider another reason: growing anti-Arab hatred and bigotry in American society, and one-sided American news media coverage.

The fact is if you are an Arab or Muslim or any one of dozens of ethnicities who "look Middle Eastern," you have more than enough reason to hate this country rather than wasting your time listening to the incomprehensible rhetoric and rantings on some cassette tape. Just read your local newspaper or watch your local TV. Or listen to your local radio station.

America's media is beyond biased. It is pure hate when it comes to Arabs and Muslims. This American media wages valiant wars against hateful practices such as anti-Semitism, but seems to become anti-Semitic itself when the subjects -- or targets -- are Arabs and Muslims.

Arabs and Muslims are routinely excluded from the media. You rarely read their opinions. News stories about them almost seem intentionally restricted to negative stories involving Arabs and Muslims accused of violence.

Pro-Israel fanatics, anti-Muslim activists and rightwing Christian and Jewish promoters of hate are given yards of space to express their viciousness, explaining from their skewered perspective why Arabs and Muslims should be rounded up, branded, jailed and tortured into confessions.

So what if the Arabs die?

The media merely reflects American society attitudes toward Arabs and Muslims who are routinely denied jobs, excluded from government and business positions, battered by racist talk, both open and behind closed-doors, and vilified daily non-stop.

For many Arabs and Muslims, American society is nothing that it claims to be. It is neither free nor open, neither fair nor just. Equality is a relative term that applies only to certain minorities and ethnic and religious groups.

Fourteen people who were or looked Middle Eastern were murdered in the six months after Sept. 11th. Every excuse was used to explain why they were not hate crimes. Post-Sept. 11th utterances of anti-Arab hatred didn't seem to matter more than other evidence suggesting they just didn't like the victims.

Arabs and Muslims live in an American society built on hatred, hysteria and cruelty. American leaders who urge restraint do so mainly to convey fairness, not achieve it.

In the ugly real world of American hatred and bigotry, it shouldn't be surprising that some people who are or look Middle Eastern lose control and do something extreme.

I fear that the way this country is acting, far more violence and threats will come from Arab and Muslim victims.

# # #

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Israel Spying? How absurd! 8-28-04 Arab Media Syndicate

An Israeli spy in the Pentagon? Ridiculous!
Arab American Media Syndicate/Permission granted to reprint
August 28, 2004
By Ray Hanania

When I heard that Israel had a man working in the Pentagon as a spy, providing secret information to its powerful lobbying arm in Washington, I was surprised.

Why does Israel need a spy to steal secret information when it has several key people there already who hold top positions and can share instead of steal sensitive data?

Paul Wolfowitz? Richard Pearle? Paul Bremer?

Didn't we invade Iraq in part to satisfy the Israeli lobby that pressured the weakling administration of President Bush?

Isn't American foreign policy in the Middle East already pretty much directed by Israel's needs and agenda?

If you say that, you are automatically labeled anti-Semitic. That only puts you in the company of such people at Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, most civil rights leaders in the United States who advocate for Palestinian rights and even the Pope who has been forced to say he's not sure if he did or did not watch Mel Gibson's movie, "The Passion of the Christ."

I haven't had time to watch Gibson's film. I've been too busy wondering why the United States is pursuing it's self-destructive and very pro-Israel foreign policies in the Middle East?

This latest spying incident -- given only superficial coverage in many pro-Israel American newspapers -- supposedly involves an aide to a top deputy working for Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense.

Normally, spies are immediately identified and "outted," but not this aide. But who needs to name him anyway? There have been so many Israeli spies.

This one, though, supposedly was providing Israel with sensitive information about Iran's nuclear plant, which Israeli officials have threatened to destroy in a bombing raid. The raids would no doubt rely on American-made fighter jets, American-made missiles and American-trained fighter pilots, strategies, maps and intelligence. Why would they need a spy?

Israel has often attacked its Arab neighbors, destroying things it doesn't like but that it has, like nuclear plants. Iran has responded if Israel attacks its nuclear plant, Iran will attack Israel's nuclear plant at Dimona.

Israel's Dimona nuclear facility "secretly" manufactures some 300 nuclear weapons that don't have to be inspected by the International community because the United States says they don't have to be not be inspected! Another reason to wonder why Israel needs to spy on this country.

The whole thing is absurd.

The fact is Israel's current government has so much influence over America's current government that it doesn't need to spy and steal information. It can just ask for it, or just take it.

In fact, it could just change American foreign policy and direct the Bush administration to do Israel's dirty work, like we already did in Iraq.

Let's face it. As soon as Bush was elected, his aides told him to ignore the Palestine-Israel conflict, which was teetering on violent conflict but still could have resumed peace talks, and instead concentrate elsewhere.

Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton both say Bush made a crucial mistake by walking away from the Middle East peace process. But why rely on them when you can get secret information from the Pentagon that would bolster Israel's new government's right-wing policies?

You have to give the Israelis credit. The way they brilliantly made it seem that America had to attack and invade Iraq because that's where Osama Bin Laden was hiding.

Too bad things like the real terrorist threat continue to exist and Bin Laden, as everyone else except in Washington and the Bush administration know, is still hiding somewhere in Afghanistan where he continues to plot major terrorist threats against the United States.

But why invade Afghanistan and capture Bin Laden? He's too smart to plan attacks against Israel.


Friday, August 27, 2004

Palestinian Olympians win fight against Israeli oppression Aug. 27, 2004

By Ray Hanania

The greatest pride I have as a Palestinian is not when a suicide bomber attacks and kills Israeli civilians, but when I see Palestinians and Arabs, despite the oppression of the West, participating and succeeding in major international events.

Just seeing the two Palestinian Olympians walk among the thousands of other athletes on the opening day of the Olympics brought me great pride, and also confidence that we, Palestinians, will win.

In fact, that is how Palestinians will beat Israel. Not on the military battlefield, but on the public battlefield.

There was a time when Israelis convinced the entire world that there is no such thing as a Palestinian and that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people. I found that odd, being a Palestinian, of course, and also because my family, which is Christian, originates in Jerusalem.

Even though it was only two athletes with their coaches, seeing the Palestinians march in that opening ceremony brought me great satisfaction and confirmed my belief that we will win.

Here is Israel, the modern-day Goliath, declaring we don't exist, and yet we do! Their participation in the Olympics was more important than just winning a gold medal.

After all, we know the Olympic judging is unreliable. So the Palestinians don't have to win. They don't even have to beat out Israel's athletes, who manage to win a few medals. All that the Palestinians must do to defeat Israeli oppression is to be there, to exist and to remind the world that Palestine is a land, a country and a people. Palestinians have legitimate national aspirations and demand justice and civil rights.

That is the power of victory, not the actions of some distraught Palestinians who believe they have suffered so much they can sacrifice their own lives in a futile and worthless effort to take the lives of innocent Israeli civilians.

Suicide bombings achieve nothing except helping the enemy. In fact, suicide bombers should not be viewed as martyrs but as traitors to the true nature of the Palestinian cause. They are not heroes in my eyes. They are the victims of a rising ugliness of hate that is slowly strengthening itself not just among Palestinians, but in the Middle East and even among many in Israel.

Extremism and fanaticism are not politics; they are diseases of humanity. So when I see Palestinian athletes walk the long path of the Olympic opening ceremony, and be cheered by the international audience, I know that is how Palestine will become an independent state.

Palestinian Olympians represent the future success. And they confirm that Palestinian society, despite living under a brutal and oppressive occupation, will survive and evolve into an even stronger society.

That is a faith in the future that can only come from the joy of watching your own people slowly struggle out of oppression and still manage to find the strength to participate in an athletic competition, including against Israelis.

I disagree with the Iranian athlete who withdrew from a competition during the Olympics rather than compete with the Israeli. He should have remained, competed and beat the Israeli. Even trying and losing would have been a more powerful message that Israel cannot win through its abusive policies of occupation and tyranny.

I hope that the Palestinian athletes would have an opportunity to compete against Israel, too.

And even if they do not win the gold medal, they will win an even more important medal of moral strength.

That's how you win. Never give up. Never surrender. Live a principled existence based on morality and give others the same fairness you demand for yourself.

To find out more about Ray Hanania, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Israel faces legal challenge in ICJ ruling 8-24-04

By Ray Hanania

When the International Court of Justice ruled that Israel's wall was a violation of the civil rights of the Palestinians, Israel did what it always does when an international body says something it doesn't like: denounced the criticism and ignored it.

But recently, Israel's attorney general admonished his government, saying the nation cannot ignore the ICJ ruling. Why now? The reason is simple. Israel's Attorney General Meni Mazuz recognizes the ICJ ruling is a matter of law, not opinion.

Although you can maneuver around decisions from nonjudicial based organizations like the United Nations, you can't ignore the world court. The United Nations is a good example. Most people miss the irony that Israel was founded by a U.N. General Assembly decree.

Yet today, Israel routinely ignores all of the U.N.'s decrees. Unless they come from the U.N. Security Council, U.N. resolutions lack the power of the rule of law. They are political resolutions based on legal precedents, but are nonbinding.

And Israel doesn't worry about the U.N. Security Council because there, Israel's ally, the United States, always vetoes any resolution of censure. It is the same with other organizations, like Amnesty International, which earlier this year denounced Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's military policies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as constituting "war crimes."

The United States, which has one member on the ICJ, tried to block the court's ruling, but failed. The implications of the ICJ ruling, as Mazuz fully recognizes, cannot be brushed off with clever public relations, media manipulation or the power of the Israeli lobby.

What could happen? With the ICJ ruling, a resident of the occupied territories could file a lawsuit claiming injury against Israel.

Claims of that nature are well founded in fact. Israel violates the civil rights of Palestinian civilians with impunity. When it fires an American-made missile from a helicopter into an apartment building to kill a man "accused" (never convicted in a court of law) of terrorism, and then ends up killing 10 civilians who happened to be sleeping in their beds in nearby apartments, those civilians have a case. Relatives of murdered civilians have legal claims against Israel, which the ICJ ruling make easier to prosecute. So too do Palestinian prisoners abused and mistreated by Israel.

While it has not received much play in the pro-Israel media, it has been alleged that much of the abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq involved individuals who received some training from Israeli security personnel who have honed the fine art of torture and civilian humiliation.

Until now, all that the Palestinian victims of Israeli oppression have had on their side to enforce their claims is the backing of the United Nations, Amnesty International, and nearly every major world organization dedicated to preserving civil rights.

They also have the support of most individual champions of civil rights like Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, but why get picky? Palestinian rights can be ignored by Israel and the United States because world moral outrage has no legal standing. But the International Court of Justice is a different story.

With the recent ICJ ruling, Palestinian civilians can file lawsuits against Israel that would make the claims of the victims of the Holocaust itself seem weak. Palestinian prisoners, who are on a hunger strike in Israeli jails complaining of abuse, torture and mistreatment, can now prosecute their claims, too.

And so can the millions of Palestinian refugees who were forcibly expelled from their homes by Israel in 1947 but whom Israel refuses to recognize. The ICJ ruling is a rock solid legal precedent.

It places a powerful lien on Israel that cannot easily be removed. As Mazuz, a lawyer, correctly notes, the ICJ ruling might one day come back to haunt Israel. And that day might come very soon.

Even Americans who allow Israel to commit crimes they would never personally tolerate themselves would find it hard to ignore the very principle that makes America stand out from all other nations.

Most Americans have faith in the judicial system and the rulings of the court. Just ask Oprah Winfrey, who recently sat as a member of a murder case jury in Chicago.

To find out more about Ray Hanania, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Arafat demise would hasten worsened conflict 8-20-04

ByRay Hanania

Many supporters of Israel are hardening their attitudes against the Palestinians, arguing that Israel's goal should not be compromise but the Palestinians' defeat.

This shift is evident among leaders of the extremist Likud Party, which governs Israel today, and the Labor Party, which initiated the peace process in 1988 with the Palestinians and has lost significant support in recent years following the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Clearly, the violence of the past four years since the collapse of the peace process is the cause of much of this attitude shift. But it is unfair to blame it all on the Palestinians. Israelis must also accept their measure of blame, even though few accept any blame at all.

But it is also no longer a luxury that Israelis can brush aside. The reality of Israeli life demands that Israelis take a serious look at the past four years and their current attitudes and consider that they are part of the problem, too.

Israel's secret service recently reported that the number of Israeli civilian fatalities during the past four years of the Intifada has reached 674, closing in on the 755 Israeli civilians killed during the 53 preceding years since Israel's creation.

In contrast, there have been about 3,128 Palestinian deaths during the same period that began when Ariel Sharon unilaterally declared an end to the peace process from the plaza in front of the al-Aqsa Mosque. Is that Israel's dream? To have a nation that is constantly faced with death and violence? Because that is what they have.

The Israelis have a choice: to fight for a genuine and fair peace with the Palestinians, who have every reason to question Israel's sincerity, or continue on this endless path of violence and conflict.

Israel established its first settlement after occupying East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 war. Israelis always maintained the settlements are temporary and can be removed. In reality, the largest settlements are now permanent cities, and most of the land around East Jerusalem is essentially annexed by Israel.

The wall Israel is building deep inside the occupied West Bank is also supposed to be "temporary."

When it comes to Israeli policies, nothing is temporary. Everything is well thought out, and the purpose is always the same: enlarge Israel at the expense of Christian and Muslim Palestinians.

Now, I am not saying Palestinians don't have problems. Arafat's administration faces charges of corruption. He has been isolated by Israel and a partisan United States, and he even acknowledged "mistakes" were made.

The real issue is that civil laws in Palestine have disintegrated into greater lawlessness.

Worse, extremist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which have always sought Arafat's removal, thanks to Israel, may have their wish. Their influence over the Palestinian population continues to grow while support for peace has all but vanished, just as it seems to have vanished from Israel. Clearly, Arafat's reign is coming to an end.

What concerns me, and what should concern most Israelis, is that Arafat is not the real issue, just a distraction. Arafat would not be replaced by someone who embraces compromise or continued negotiations.

The forced demise of Arafat -- often threatened by Israeli extremists -- would be final confirmation that peace between Palestinians and Israelis is impossible and that both sides must fight to the bitter end. His natural demise would, at best, plunge the region into worse conflict.

Arafat's successor will likely be someone who is more militant and more driven by faith than reason. That person will argue that the Palestinians should not compromise with Israel, but instead seek Israel's defeat.

Sound familiar?

To find out more about Ray Hanania, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Presbyterian Church (USA) takes stand on Israeli violence 8-17-04

By Ray Hanania

When it comes to numbers, American Presbyterians rank among the smallest of the Christian denominations with about 3 million members. But from the standpoint of economic power, they are considered the most influential religious group in America.

That's why their July vote ordering divestiture from companies doing business with Israel is so important. The group is also looking into Peoria, Ill.-based Caterpillar, whose D9 tractors are used by Israel to destroy Palestinian homes, resulting in the deaths of Palestinians and Americans, too.

Divestment is one of the strategies that U.S. churches used in the 1970s and '80s in a successful campaign to end apartheid in South Africa. Although many Christian groups support Israel over the Palestinians because of an underlying opposition to Islam, the Presbyterians recognized a significant point. Many of the Palestinian victims of Israeli oppression and violence are Christian.

The Presbyterians have maintained a reasoned voice of moderation, criticizing violence on both sides, including by Israel. Israel's policies are described by Amnesty International as "war crimes."

A small group of dissenters challenged the action. But the decision drew overwhelming support after hearing from the Rev. Mitri Raheb, a Lutheran pastor from Bethlehem who heads the International Center of Bethlehem.

Rev. Raheb implored the Christian churches to take action instead of simply issuing statements that are often ignored. Rev. Raheb is an eloquent advocate of peaceful compromise and an outspoken critic of the growing extremism among Israelis and their American supporters.

He is the author of a powerful new book, "Bethlehem Besieged," hailed as the Palestinian version of "The Diary of Anne Frank."

In the book, Rev. Raheb narrates stories of Palestinian suffering under Israel's brutal occupation, stories rarely reported in the mainstream American media or addressed by other Christian organizations in America.

It was Rev. Raheb's personal testimony that moved the Presbyterians to take real action, in the face of the expected onslaught of criticism from pro-Israel extremists that their courageous action is "anti-Semitic." Immediately afterward, spokesmen for the Anti-Defamation League and other pro-Israel lobbying groups denounced the decision, suggested it was anti-Semitic and decried comparisons to South Africa.

But among the many critics of Israeli violence and policies have been South African Christian leaders like the Rev. Desmond Tutu and former South African President Nelson Mandela.

For far too long, Christians, especially those in America, have turned a deaf ear to their Christian brethren in the Holy Land. Much of the new lands being confiscated by Israel belong to Christian families who have lived in Palestine for centuries, many of whom converted to Christianity from Judaism as a witness to Jesus.

And Bethlehem, the heart and soul of the Christian faith, is being destroyed by Israeli policies that go unchallenged. Divestment is a non-violent way to protest Israeli extremism and violence.

Until now, it has received support mostly from academic institutions. Several reports said the Presbyterian decision could impact as much as $7 billion in investments.

Under the decision, any company earning more than $1 million annually as a result of investments in Israel, or which invests more than $1 million a year in Israel, will be entered on a blacklist prepared for the church's leaders.

It's about time Christian voices found the courage to stand up to Israel and recognize that Israeli violence contributes to the ongoing conflict.

To find out more about Ray Hanania, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

Monday, August 16, 2004

UNITY in minority journalism creates new media bias Aug. 13, 2004

By Ray Hanania

When four of the largest organizations representing racial and ethnic minority journalists come together, they inadvertantly create a new form of discrimination.

The recent "UNITY: Journalists of Color" convention ended August 8 in Washington, D.C., with participants embracing a long-term vision to promote diversity in American journalism, the profession with the Lucite ceiling that doesn't break as easily as glass.

The organization represents a convergence of African, Hispanic, Asian and Native American heritage journalists. In coming together, they created a new majority that, like all majorities, by default excludes others not just on the basis of race or religion, but also on the basis of need.

One of the main topics of discussion at UNITY was the nation's most talked-about media subject. The War on Terror has many aspects that relate to Arabs and Muslims, one of the most excluded ethnic and racial minorities in the nation's history.

Yet, the conference had few professional Arab journalist participants. And if there were any Muslims involved, their religious identity took a back seat to their UNITY racial identification color codes. How can you discuss the conflict in the Middle East, the impact of the Patriot Act on Arabs and Muslims, the War on Terror and the Arab-Israeli conflict without including a significant representation of the people involved? Arab journalists? Muslim journalists?

In reality, UNITY reflects the growing strength of journalists of the four specific colors (black, brown, red and yellow), but also absence of oftentimes difficult-to-see colors, like olive, for one. The truth is, you can't bring minorities together and expect to preserve their minority status or avoid the pitfalls of becoming a majority.

Nor can you expect minorities overwhelmed with their own challenges to completely understand or make room to address the problems of other minorities, like Arabs or Muslims.

It is worse in the reality of American journalism, which is dominated by white men. Now with fewer voices in the face of more and more mergers, American media are driven as much by profits as they are by truth.

In that world, the spots open to minorities of any color are limited. When you make room for "more minorities" to join the "coalition," you are sacrificing your own gains, not expanding into the larger white-controlled profession.

American journalism doesn't view minority journalists as equals. They see them as a story and essential to achieve "diversity." The term "diversity" has a very misleading meaning. The white robber barons of the media conglomerates see diversity not as a process of melting everyone into one, but as a better alternative to quotas.

With quotas, you set aside a specific number of positions to minorities. With diversity, you merely shoot for an acceptable number that is never defined, and fight hard to prevent that number from becoming larger.

"Diversity" becomes the process of preserving majority domination of the media, not assimilating into a colorless, faceless and pure form of media altruism.

To Arabs and Muslims, the word "diversity" means exclusion. It doesn't mean opening the door to "everyone."

I am not criticizing the four organizations seeking to broaden the voices of our nation's media. I monitored the conference via C-SPAN, in speaking with a UNITY reporter and reading their Web site news report postings. I applaud them for taking on a difficult and complex challenge. Many Arab and Muslim journalists are partnering as members with the Asian American Journalist Association to help address these isses, issues Blacks, Hispanic and Native American journalists don't seem to be fully addressing.

But they need to recognize that diversity must lead to a complete change and not just an accommodation. When I was the first Arab reporter ever assigned on a full-time basis to cover a string of white mayors at Chicago's City Hall, no one ever discussed the issue of diversity until the city's first woman was elected mayor and then the first African American was elected mayor.

Suddenly, the two major newspapers assigned black reporters to "support" the veteran white City Hall reporters. Once the face of the media took on color, diversity was laid to rest.

In that context, the only way an Arab or Muslim can expect to be invited to the inner circle under the current structure of the UNITY fraternity is if an Arab or Muslim were to become mayor of Chicago.

But waiting for society to open the door to necessary changes in America's not-so-perfect news media undermines the very role journalism must play in truthfully and fully exposing society's flaws so they can be corrected. The pie is only so large.

While there might be many seats at the table, in order to make "diversity" really work, those seated at the table must be truly diverse.

To find out more about Ray Hanania, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC

Friday, August 13, 2004

Closing al-Jazeera evidence of alleged American War Crimes 8-10-04

By Ray Hanania

The biggest threat to an illegal war and a new dictatorship is a news organization that insists on reporting the truth.

It is difficult to get the truth from most mainstream American media coverage of Iraq because of the new tradition of embedded journalism: the media only report what the American-controlled Iraqi dictatorship allows.

One of the few remaining sources of accurate information there is al-Jazeera. But that ended this week when the American-controlled Iraqi dictatorship ordered al-Jazeera's offices closed. It's fascinating to me how Americans are so hypocritical about freedom.

Apparently freedoms are based on who you are and your political views.

If you agree with the prevailing demagoguery in America, you are free to espouse that extremism. But if you question that demagoguery through solid news reports and free speech, they have to shut you down.

Al-Jazeera was one of the only media organizations reporting allegations that the American-controlled dictatorship in Iraq is engaged in the murder of Iraqi civilians. It was one of the only media organizations whose reporting challenges American claims that the resistance to the Iraqi "government" is no more than a so-called terrorist movement.

Iraq's dictatorship is no different than the many dictatorships that the United States has helped establish over the years and that claim to be "democracies." In reality, they all thrived on torture, oppression and the squelching of free speech.

The Shah of Iran was installed and maintained by the United States. The shah was a war criminal whom we protected. He was responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands of Iranians. Yet Americans have amnesia when it comes to the suffering of others, and it explains vividly why many Iranians today dislike the United States and view the United States as another terrorist regime in the world.

After the United States assassinated -- actually murdered in cold blood -- his predecessor, the shah promptly closed down all of the news media in that country.

It is a classic pattern of American-controlled dictatorships: Silence the voices of truth to protect the lies.

And the American military's activities, its control of the government and the true nature of Iraq's government are hidden by lies.

The American media and the American-controlled Iraqi media will never permit us to see the true extent of the torture, the assaults and the cold-blooded murders that took place at the hands of American soldiers in prisons like Abu Ghraib. When you are engaged in murdering civilians, you can't tolerate a free media that struggles to bring the truth to the public.

Al-Jazeera is one of the most accurate and objective media covering Iraq, far outshining any mainstream American media. It is one of the only stations raising serious questions of brutality, contradicting the propaganda manufactured by the American-controlled Arabic language publications, radio and television stations.

When truth is a victim, as it is today in Iraq, you know that the tragedy of real human victims is being concealed. Closing al-Jazeera is also another reason why the Arab world should reject any recognition of the American-controlled dictatorship in Iraq.

That may not happen, because the Arab countries who are moving toward recognition of the American-controlled dictatorship in Iraq are controlled by the United States through massive foreign funding.

But the people of the Arab world see through the lies. They know the American media is engaged in helping to silence Arab voices that are trying to expose the depth of American military brutality in Iraq.

Closing al-Jazeera doesn't silence the truth. It only makes it more self-evident.

To find out more about Ray Hanania, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Americans need accurate information on US Arabs 8-06-04

By Ray Hanania
August 6, 2004

The government says it needs the U.S. Census data on where Arabs and Muslims live in order to fight terrorism. Some see this as a civil rights abuse issue. But I disagree and I am Arab American.

Surprised? You shouldn't be. I am against it because I know the Census data is flawed. It's the worst way to find out where Arabs and Muslims live in America.

Arabs and Muslims have been demanding to be counted in the Census for more than a decade, but it's the government and our elected leaders who have said no. In the last Census, Arabs and Muslims had to write in their category or identify as "White/non-Hispanic," "Asian" or "Other."

Our government could get a better idea of where Arabs and Muslims live by finding out where I gave speeches or performed my Arab American stand-up comedy act over the past year.

Or, maybe I could just give them the answer myself and save them a big expense. I know where Arabs and Muslims live. Key locations include Detroit's suburbs, Chicago's suburbs, Houston, Texas, Patterson, N.J., the New York area, Central Ohio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

And that was free!

There are smaller communities in Knoxville, Tenn., South Florida, Kansas, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, D.C., southern Illinois, and some areas of northern Indiana.

How did I do it? A well-kept Arab and Muslim secret. I used the list of 60 major Arab and Muslim American newspapers and magazines. What is truly amazing to me (as an American, and not just as an Arab or someone often mistaken for a Muslim because I have olive skin and support Palestine) is that the government doesn't waste time reaching out to Arabs and Muslims through the existing Arab and Muslim media.

That would be too much common sense for any government, I guess, or for the Department of Homeland Security. It's not color coded.

Instead, this country spends more money trying to reach out to Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East than they do trying to reach out to Arabs and Muslims in this country. They spend millions on propaganda efforts like publishing an Arabic language magazine and running their own Arabic language TV and radio stations.

Hey, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge! I may be Arab and mistaken for Muslim, but I am also American. I am patriotic, too, even though I don't like our foreign policies toward the Palestinians and I oppose the war in Iraq.

More than 3,500 Arab and Muslim Americans are serving in our military today. Doesn't that put us in the category of being "patriotic," or at least American?

Get your act together. You're starting to scare me. Don't waste your time with the U.S. Census. Do your homework. There are many Arab and Muslim organizations that are not based in Washington, D.C., or funded by foreign governments that you could be talking to, like the National Arab American Journalist Association with its 147 members nationwide.

Or maybe, you might try getting your message out to Arabs and Muslims by reaching out to the 60 major Arab and Muslim media organizations that already operate in this country.

And certainly, before you request data from the U.S. Census, you might insist they do a better job by conducting a complete census of Arabs and Muslims. I'd like to know if the frequently quoted statistics like "7 million Muslims in America" and "2.5 million Arabs in America" are in fact true.

Or, are they like everything else in this country, exaggerated, faulty and a lie?

I don't want to become a victim of terrorism. I don't want to see planes hijacked and flown into our buildings. I want us to be more vigilant for real security threats, not politically motivated threats used to move election polling.

I think it is about time that Americans stopped relying on the negative and exaggerated stereotypes portrayed in dozens of movies produced each year by Hollywood, or anti-Arab and anti-Muslim portrayals by America's publishing houses.

Shouldn't we insist on the truth for once?

To find out more about Ray Hanania, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Honor Killing "hoax" undermines real tragedies 8-3-04

By Ray Hanania

In a review posted on recently about Norma Khouri's gripping book "Honor Lost," a reader observed, "It's hard to believe that the events the author describes in this book have happened in the past few years."

Maybe that's why it has been so hard to get the world to come together in protest against the practice of "honor killings," which is common in the Arab and Muslim world. The idea that a man can murder a woman because someone claimed she dishonored the family and then avoid being punished is astonishing and shameful.

Yet it happens all the time.

One of those times, Khouri told us, involved her childhood friend, "Dalia," who was murdered by her father in 1995 when he suspected his unmarried daughter was having an intimate relationship with another man.

But now we are told that "Dalia" never existed and the story that sold more than 200,000 copies in Australia alone is a hoax. The publisher, Simon & Schuster, has reportedly ordered the books removed from stores.

It's not like Khouri had to make up "Dalia's" story. Thousands of women accused of infidelity or promiscuity are murdered in this manner all the time, and the killers (fathers, brothers, cousins) go free.

They are celebrated as heroes. That it may be a hoax has set the movement to stop "honor killings" back centuries. Worse, it gives American publishers another excuse not to publish books by Arab Americans. It's nearly impossible for Arab Americans to get a book published outside of the limited circle of academia, and only a very few are published by Arab American authors each year.

I had a brief contact with "Khouri" (her real name is Norma Majid Khouri Michael Al-Bagain Toliopoulos).

In February 2000, Cinemax broadcast a documentary called "Crimes of Honor," narrated by Olympia Dukakis, which walked viewers through the murder of three Jordanian women killed by their own family members.

It also profiled three courageous Arab women fighting to make "honor killings" illegal. Rana Husseini, a celebrated and popular female reporter for The Jordan Times newspaper; Asma Khader, a lawyer devoted to protecting the real victims; and Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, a mother of three daughters who struggles to find safe havens for the victims, have all faced real threats because of their work.

Apparently, Khouri saw that documentary, too. In March 2003, she e-mailed me asking me to publicize her book, pleading with readers on my Web site to speak out against the practice of "honor killings."

I know that in the America where Norma "Khouri" or "Bagain" grew up, Arabs are constantly under pressure of bigotry, discrimination and outright hatred. The region has one of the largest concentrations of Arabs and Muslims in Chicago.

Over the years, it has had more cases of bigotry and discrimination that go unreported and unprosecuted than in any other area. Maybe growing up in that hateful environment that I also shared, Norma saw in the story of "honor killings" an opportunity to break through the ugliness. Her book was amazingly inspiring.

When I look back, I feel betrayed. And I can only wonder about the damage she may have caused to the hard work of Husseini, Khader and Shalhoub-Kevorkian.

Sadly, the hoax may undermine the campaign to force governments like Jordan to change existing laws. Maybe the controversy will elevate the subject, which has been pushed to the back burner by escalating Middle East violence and the post-Sept. 11 "War on Terrorism."

Whether or not Khouri's book is a hoax, real women are being murdered. Whether or not Khouri fabricated the story, she still deserves the opportunity and the right to defend her work. Maybe Simon & Schuster will re-categorize it from non-fiction to fiction.

After all, to them it must still be about the money. And what about the rest of us? Well, we should all remain focused on the issue that really matters most. Khouri's "Dalia" may not be a real person.

But there are thousands of women in the Middle East and elsewhere who are victims of "honor killings." It's in them that the real "Dalia" exists.

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


Sunday, August 01, 2004

War on terrorism lies undermine American Safety, July 30, 2004

By Ray Hanania

The most frightening aspect of the so-called "war on terrorism" is not that it is so far an utter failure -- Americans are anything but safer today. What's truly frightening is how much this failure relies on lies, half-truths and exaggerations.

Why do advocates of the "war on terrorism" lie? I suspect it is because they are using the "war on terrorism" as a cover for other priorities that are more important to them than the safety of Americans.

The illegal invasion of Iraq is one of those agendas.

Support of Israel's brutality against the Palestinians is another.

America invaded Iraq, in part, to ease the pressures on Israel, not to make America a safer place to live.

And, Americans arrested and jailed many Muslim and Arab Americans and closed down their organizations because this country wanted to help undermine Israel's critics.

Lies are not evident immediately. You can't hide them forever. Eventually they surface. Many Americans are wondering if we are losing hundreds of American lives to make Israel a safer place and to allow Israel to steal more Palestinian lands and properties and rights.

There are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Saddam Hussein never collaborated with al-Qaeda. Iraq was never a threat to the United States. It makes one wonder if Saddam Hussein really is guilty of all those other claims that he murdered his own people with poison gas, and that he tortured political prisoners to death.

The amazing thing about a lie is the willingness of a mob to believe it when it fits nicely into what they want to believe. And America today has a mob mentality when it comes to the Middle East, Arabs, Muslims and terrorism.

This week, attorneys for the Holy Land Foundation, an organization accused of having terrorist ties immediately after Sept. 11, filed a suit against the U.S. Justice Department and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

The suit claims that the evidence the government used to close the charitable organization and jail its leaders was fabricated. Wow. I'm shocked. The government accused the Texas-based organization of funneling money to Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist organization that is battling Israel and moderate Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip and Arab East Jerusalem.

But while Hamas is a terrorist organization fighting Israel, it is not a terrorist organization that has threatened the United States or American interests, nor has it embraced anti-American rhetoric and threats.

It's hard to believe, but it seems clear that the government widened the "war on terrorism" to help Israel politically. The Holy Land Foundation is critical of Israel and raises lots of money, so why not say they are supporting Hamas so Israel can destroy the Holy Land Foundation, too? Well, there is a new wrinkle.

It turns out the Justice Department relied on evidence that was translated from Arabic into English by Israeli agents. And what do you think was discovered finally two years after that evidence was used in court against the Holy Land Foundation and its leaders?

Well, it turns out the Israeli translations are not translations at all. The Israelis added things into the translations they provided, including the lie that the Holy Land Foundation was sending money to Hamas.

In fact, when you remove these lies and fabrications, you discover that there is no evidence that the Holy Land Foundation did anything except maybe criticize Israel. Why lie? It is the only way Ashcroft, President Bush and Israel can achieve their real goals, which have nothing to do with the "war on terrorism," except maybe to weaken that fight to prevent future terrorist attacks against the United States.

Bush and Israel both wanted to exploit Sept. 11 suffering to achieve their personal objectives. But eventually, lies surface. And eventually, more and more people realize that the failures of our war on terrorism have little to do with battling terrorism and everything to do with individuals who have priorities other than defending this country. What we really need is a war on the "lies of the war on terrorism."

But that assumes the priority is to protect American lives.

To find out more about Ray Hanania, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC