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

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