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.

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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.

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

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Israeli occupation smothers the little Town of Bethlehem Oct. 28, 2004

Israeli occupation smothers the Little Town of Bethlehem
Bonus Column Thursday Oct. 28, 2004
By Ray Hanania

BETHLEHEM, Occupied West Bank – To help the family survive, Anthony opened a small grocery store on Madbussa Street which is today the main street in this town best known as the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

"The fact that Christ is from this town," Anthony shrugs as he gives me a tour of the city, "has long been forgotten by the Christian World. These days, it is best known for suffering. The Israelis come and go as they please. They take our lands. And they do worse to our people."

A Christian only 24, Anthony said he had to close the store. His family survives on its dwindling savings and on charity from relatives abroad, he sighs. He guides me through the "Christian Triangle" of Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala.

The first stop is the old Main Street. Israeli settlers and soldiers barricade Rachel’s Tomb and the street in an ugly mass of concrete, barbed wire and machine gun turrets. It’s about 5 acres of land "cleansed" of Palestinians and their property.

"They want our land and want us out," he sighs. "This road used to go to Jerusalem. We’re not allowed to enter Jerusalem. They say its an ‘open’ city, but not for us."

The Israelis are building a 26 foot tall wall of concrete around Bethlehem, becoming a giant prison. It’s not a "fence."

The shops along Nativity Square are desolate. Homes crushed into rubble by repeated Israelis assaults remain as reminders.

To the north is "Har Homa," an Israeli settlement built in 1991 atop a Palestinian mountain. "That was Palestinian land they took. They built a beautiful city for the Jewish people."

To the Northwest is Gilo, another Israeli settlement built in 1971 on land Israel confiscated from Christians. My guide predicts Israel will confiscate Shepherd’s Field, nestled to the west near Beit Sahour.

"Israelis want to destroy our city. Do you read about that in American media?" he asks indignant about American Christians who he and other Christians say "are not Christian at all."
Archimandrite Attallah Hanna, the Jerusalem spokesman for the Orthodox Church, scolds the media and "Christians" of the West.

"A real Christian stands with the oppressed people," he says. "There is a huge contradiction between Christianity of America and what is taking place in the origins of Christianity."

Everyone here praises the Presbyterian and Anglican Churches for defending Palestinian rights. The two Christian groups adopted tough policies divesting from Israel to protest Israel’s brutal occupation.

Anthony wonders why other American Christians have "turned their backs" and why the media fails "to show the truth" about Israel’s destruction of Christian communities.

As I drive through the three cities, I can’t help to wonder that myself. Israelis argue the plight of Christians is the result of Muslim persecution. But when you speak with the Christians in Palestine, they point an accusing finger at Israel and its bank roller, the United States.

The Apache helicopters that fly overhead and terrorize the people of Bethlehem, like everything used by the Israeli military, is American made. Hundreds of innocent Palestinians have been killed. All those killed by Israel, including the children, have been brushed off as "terrorists" and "suicide bombers" when they are not.

I try to explain many American are blinded to the truth by pro-Israeli propaganda and lies. Americans are the ones who are really occupied.

I’d hate to think Americans don’t want to see the truth.

# # #

Friday, October 22, 2004

Israelis and Palestinians locked in conflict, Oct. 22, 2004

Israelis and Palestinians locked in conflict
Creators Syndicate, Oct. 22, 2004
By Ray Hanania

Jaffa Road, Occupied West Bank -- As my British Airways flight entered airspace over Israel, I was surprised by the captain's announcement, "Photography is prohibited while flying over Israel."

I know that Israel has many things prohibited while in Israel, but I didn't realize they have also expanded their controls to the air or that photography from an airplane window was a villainous practice that might somehow contribute to terrorism, as a stewardess tried to explain when I asked.

As I sat in the plane, I wondered what would happen to me if I took a picture of the landscape as a souvenir. I take pictures out of plane windows all the time.

What were they going to do, tackle me to the aisle as I pulled out my threatening Sony Digital Video Camera, or my digital camera to take pictures out the side window of the Israeli and Palestinian landscape far below?

It's all a part of the upside-down, absurdity of Israeli life.

The conflict raged for the past four years making life difficult for both sides. Israel is just not a safe place. I was constantly reminded of that as soldiers held automatic weapons at ready and sometimes pointed at my face as I walked through Israeli and Palestinian cities.

One of the most talked about topics is the "Wall," or, as the Israelis cleverly prefer to call it, "the fence." The fact is that the "barrier," as the timid news media prefers, is both. It is a concrete wall towering 26 feet tall in areas where Palestinians live. And it is an electrified 18 to 26 foot tall fence in the countryside between Palestinian populations.

The wall has turned entire cities into prisons. Most Palestinians cannot travel from one place to another and are stuck in their homes. If you wanted to push someone to violence, Israel has found the perfect way.

Many Palestinians say they want a wall to separate them from the Israelis, but argue it should be built on the Armistice line commonly called the Green Line, or border that separated Israel from the West Bank.

They say they want the wall to stop Israelis from coming into Palestine and taking West Bank land for illegal settlements.

Settlements begin as little shacks and then morph into Jewish cities, like Ariel and dozens of others that dot West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The wall separates Palestinians from their homes and farmlands. But it's not just the wall doing so. Israel has built many "security roads" in the West Bank that serve as barriers and cut through the heart of Palestinian cities and farms.

Israelis insist the conflict is about security. But Palestinians know better. The real conflict is caused by Israelis who continue to confiscate more and more Palestinian land.

The old Jaffa Road which linked Jerusalem to Jaffa/Tel Aviv is now a "security road" that slices through the heart of the West Bank. Christians and Muslims are prohibited from using it. It separates Beit Hanina, where part of my family is originally from, and also Dir Nabala, a neighboring village.

The road is monitored by cameras and patrolled by police and soldiers. Apache helicopters fly over its length. There were four checkpoints where Arabs like me are pulled over and checked and interrogated. Even with a U.S. Passport, I am little more than an "Arab" to the Israelis.

I traveled the road before sunrise and I watched as farmers climbed the fence and scampered like frightened rabbits across the highway's empty six lanes in the pre-dawn night.

They were immediately rounded up by police and soldiers in military jeeps, sirens screaming and blue lights flashing. Fall is the harvest season and without a harvest, Palestinian families will surely die of starvation.

The wrists of the farmers are bound with those plastic ties. They are herded to a waiting area until at least 50 farmers are collected and are forced to walk several miles to the nearest detention center where their IDs are confiscated.

Without IDs, they can be expelled if they are caught again, forced to cross the border into Jordan or Lebanon. Some are taken to the big concrete prisons that line the route.

Mahani Ofer is a dark frightening place. Its sight stirs unimaginable horrors. Palestinians are held there in solitary, often never to be heard from again by their families.

Palestinians are prisoners in their own cities and Israelis are prisons in their own fear. They both live in a hell that neither seems capable of escaping.

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Thursday, October 21, 2004

Entertainment can change American minds, Oct. 21, 2004

Power of fiction can change the world
Arab American Media Services Oct. 21, 2004
Permission granted to reprint in full

By Ray Hanania

Arabs don't get the power of American entertainment, yet they spend a lot of time enjoying it.

Arabs have a wealth that ranks them financially among the most powerful on Earth. If they wanted, they could invest pennies of their wealth and produce some of the most compelling movies, television dramas and news programs in English that could dramatically change how Americans view the Middle East.

But while Americans view entertainment as a fundamental necessity to understanding the world's reality and as a force that educates, Arabs see entertainment as something that does little more than entertain.

The fact is, Americans take their entertainment seriously. They often rely on fiction and drama to supplement their formal education, or lack of education, too. Oftentimes, Americans turn to entertainment as an alternative to realities they prefer not to see.

This week, Hollywood re-scripted the Middle East conflict yet again, this time in the season premiere of "The West Wing," a popular award-winning TV drama that takes real events from the headlines that most Americans can't seem to understand, and re-engineers them into fictionalized dramas they can understand and accept.

The show is cast in a mock White House with a president, staff and political conflict that is often more compelling than real life.

Americans like their enemies cast in simple terms. They like the world painted in terms of either Good of Evil. That's one reason why a real-life president like George W. Bush who has no formal experience or training in foreign policy can destroy Middle East peace, create conflicts out of complacency, and still win the support of a majority of Americans using a policy that is defined in childlike terms of "you are either with us or against us."

There is definitely no "gray matter" in the president's thinking, especially when it comes to the Middle East.

The reality is, of course, that the Middle East is a very complicated mess of black and white and mostly gray in-between.

The premiere of the West Wing exploits that crisis, and scripts a situation where Palestinian terrorists murder two U.S. Congressmen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and another high level American administrator while conducting a fictional tour of the Gaza Strip. In real life, it would never happen for many reasons to complicated to explain.

But in TV entertainment, anything can happen and does.

The West Wing plot follows almost word-for-word Israel's official propaganda about the Palestinians, which falsely blames all violence and terrorism on the Palestinians while disguising Israeli government terrorism as peace. In reality, Israel's policies of confiscating Palestinian lands and expelling its inhabitants is the cause of the violence. But carefully managed by the Israeli lobby, most Americans don't understand that reality.

In the TV version of the White House drama, "everyone" clamors for the "U.S." to immediately retaliate and attack Palestinian targets in the Gaza Strip, something the U.S. has never done in real life, at least directly.

The fictional West Wing "President," played by Martin Sheen, fights hard to resist the emotional mob-like clamor for vengeance and he insists on fighting to protect any chance for peace.

In real life, Sheen, the actor, is an outspoken advocate for peace and justice for the Palestinians and security for the State of Israel. I suspect Sheen, the actor, played a significant role in writing the script for this TV drama.

The show is counter-balanced, of course, by the usual pro-Israel propaganda.

It is all fiction based on some small facts but it reinforces what Americans have been brainwashed for years by pro-Israel propaganda to accept for the past 56 years.

When "President" Sheen asks his staff to give him ideas on how to avoid war and bring Israelis and Palestinians back to the peace table, the staff rebels and refuse to make suggestions.

In the end, the Palestinians and Israelis are brought back to the peace table, the Palestinians are made to look like terrorists reluctant to support peace, and the TV program has all of the drama that wins big audience ratings and Academy Awards.

But that is exactly what American entertainment is all about.

Americans are fundamentally racist and arrogant. They scream for vengeance when Americans are killed, but seem uncaring when their policies cause the murder and death of innocent civilians in a host of Third World countries they exploit for resources, slave labor and, of course, cheap oil.

Americans do not want TV programs that challenge the lies they accept and that serve as the basis of their fundamental ignorance of complex wars like the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The meaning of "entertainment" is "fiction." And the meaning of "fiction" is an acceptable "lie."
One day, Arabs might understand that investing in a strategy based on clever fiction can have more impact in achieving their desire for peace and justice than relying on a poorly proffered strategy based on "truth."

Give me one talented Arab Hollywood filmmaker with a large enough budget -- the Arab World is the wealthiest regions in the world -- and have that person make a compelling fiction movie in English that recasts the Palestinians in a fairer light, and I will give you a strategy that can win over the hearts and minds of the American people.

And with the hearts and minds of the American people on our side, Palestinians could achieve a just and fair peace that results in a Palestinian State that would be "more generous" than the so-called generous peace offer made by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak that Arafat rejected as insufficient.

A good movie in English would achieve more for Palestinian justice than all of the pathetically inadequate policies and strategies devised by all of the Arab World's armies, kings and mullahs.

(Ray Hanania is an author, satirist and syndicate columnist. His columns are archived at

# # #

Monday, October 18, 2004

Israel's mistreatment leads to bitterness 10-15-04

Israeli mistreatment leads to bitter conflict
Creators Syndicate Friday Oct. 15, 2004
Daily Herald Monday, Oct. 18, 2004
By Ray Hanania

Qalandiya Check Point, Occupied West Bank -- The metal revolving doors resemble those you might find at any transit station in America. But these turn styles at the Qalandiya checkpoint lead to only one place. Bitter conflict.

To travel between Ramallah and Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank, Palestinians must pass through this military screening. Complete with barbed razor-wire, bunkers, meager tin roof shelter, watchtowers, and sometimes tanks, civilians are forced to stand in packed lines chest to back, shoulder to shoulder for as much as one hour.

Nothing is more dehumanizing or humiliating, worsened by soldiers who are arrogant, insulting and uncaring.

Hundreds of people stand seven across in two "lines," one for women and one for men. In the hot sun, people have the odor of a long day as they push hard against each other desperate to get through.

Feet push forward into the heels of the person in front. Literally on top of each other. You inch forward as if you are not moving.

On both ends of the checkpoint, cars and cabs sit coughing out exhaust fumes, making the experience even worse. Nearby, the 26 foot tall wall of solid concrete stretches as far as the eye can see.

With their automatic weapons ready, the soldiers wave people through slowly, four at a time, with a lazy, uncaring gesture. "Yalla!" they order, Arabic for "Hurry!"

Sometimes, the lines stop as the soldiers make you wait in the choking environment of degradation.

The soldiers appear to speak just enough Arabic to tell Palestinians to come and go. Their eyes are often blue but always cold. If you speak to them the wrong way, they can make your life miserable. They often do.

When you finally pass through the turn style, you pass sandbags and cinder blocks and walk a short distance to the screeners who speak better Arabic, check your IDs, and grill you with many questions.

Amazingly, the security is worse than the security at the airports. You walk through one metal detector and place your belongings atop a cement pillar where they are inspected by hand. So why do they have this security?

Maybe the Israelis might spend a little money on the Palestinians, to make the experience more efficient and more secure. More respectful. Less provocative. But then, maybe the Israelis might also try spending some money to improve the streets in Palestinian neighborhoods that they have turned into de facto prisons through blockades and check points and travel restrictions.

There might just be a little less anger. And with a little less anger, there might be less violence on both sides.

In all fairness, some of the soldiers are courteous. You can see they have a heart and don't like the jobs they have been ordered to do. But there are the young soldiers and the settler soldiers who are religious fanatics who wear a look of disdain that only fuels the fire.

"Why are you here?" they ask. The questions is insulting to a Palestinian who presents a passport and an ID card. I'm not allowed to visit my relatives? I am not allowed to visit my own land? I am not allowed to be in my own country?

I understand Israel's need for "security." But I don't understand a security system based not on security but on intimidation, harassment and indignation.

Palestinians claim Israel's policies are designed to pressure Palestinians to leave the country
rather than to continue to experience the many hardships. It's a subtle but powerful form of expulsion.

I oppose all violence. But when you experience this ugly process every day, you can better understand how resentment can breed violence instead of peace.


Friday, October 08, 2004

Muslim Coalition Building missing one key component Oct. 8, 2004

By Ray Hanania
American Muslims achieved a milestone this past week with the launch in Chicago of a daily live talk radio program called "Radio Islam." Broadcast one hour each night over a brokered ethnic station, the 1,000-watt WCEV (1450 AM) Radio, the station's audience reach is very limited.

But it has broken the glass ceiling that has kept Muslims out of the major media, except when stories involve Middle East violence or anti-Muslim conflicts.

On a recent show, the host interviewed several Muslims who spoke about coalition-building, especially as Muslims enter the presidential elections with other Americans.

They discussed many possible coalition partners, but the one that was almost always excluded was the one that would seem the most natural: Christian Arabs.

There are more than 7 million Muslims in America by many unofficial counts. We don't know the exact number because the U.S. Census continues to reflect the biases of the federal government, prohibiting the inclusion of a category for Muslims or Arabs on census forms every decade.

Of those 7 million Muslims, according to the Los Angeles-based Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), 33 percent are South Asian, 33 percent are African American or African, 9 percent are European, South Asian or "other," and only 25 percent are Arab, or about 1.75 million.

Not included in that study are the 1.5 million Arabs who are Christian, and who suffer equally with their Muslim brethren; most Americans can't tell the difference between a Palestinian or a Pakistani, and believe that all Arabs are Muslims.

And while they are a micro minority in the shadow of their larger Muslim cousins, Arab Christians offer the advantage of having open access into America's Christian societies. They are members of many churches, from Maronites and Orthodox sects that are based overseas to Catholics, Protestants and Baptists.

Yet few Muslim organizations make any effort to reach out to these abandoned natural partners. And that is even more ironic because when Muslims discuss political issues, one that is always mentioned is the battle for justice and fairness for Palestine.

It is amazing to me as a Christian Palestinian that Muslims will embrace the cause of Palestine but are reluctant to embrace Palestinians who happen to be Christian. That failure to be inclusive results in a weakening of their own agenda, especially the touted claim of championing Palestinian rights.

A good example of how this flaw undermines the cause occurred the week Radio Islam was launched. The radio station is supported by Sound Vision, a 501(c)(3) charitable institution based on Texas with offices in Bridgeview, a hub of Palestinian American activism that has sometimes found itself under the unwanted scrutiny of the FBI and U.S. Justice Department.

To raise funds for the new radio station, Sound Vision brought in Muslim comedian "Preacher Moss," who bills his comedy routine under the title "Allah made me funny." He is now performing on a 30-city tour that includes Chicago. His show is hilarious.

What isn't funny, though, is that his Chicago performance is at Zanies Comedy Club, the one club in the country that was a part of the decision by Jewish comedian Jackie Mason to publicly bounce a comedian from his stage because that comedian was Palestinian.

I am talking about myself, of course, when I was kicked off a show I was originally billed to showcase before Mason was added to the line-up as the last-minute headliner. Why would any Arab or Muslim comedian perform at Zanies given that history?

Part of the reason is that Arabs and Muslims are desperate for positive attention, believing that success in America can somehow extract them from the daily grind of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism that is rampant among Americans.

Another reason, of course, is that Muslims have a wide agenda that they speak from, but a narrow vision of practice. I'm glad Muslims finally have their own daily radio program.

I'm a little envious, too, considering decades ago, all Muslims, Pakistani, Asian or Arab, were also all considered "Yellow" people or "Syrians," and we worked so hard in the 1960s and 1970s to battle that broad-based hatred of anyone with a "Middle Eastern look."

If they hope to be successful, and if they genuinely seek to champion the many just causes under the banner of Islam, they must recognize that many people who are not Muslim suffer anti-Muslim bigotry, too.

Christian Arabs should be welcomed, not ignored. And their history of suffering should rank alongside the suffering that Radio Islam's proponents argue their radio station hopes to break.

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, October 01, 2004

Christians turning other cheek on Israeli violence 10-01-04

Christians turning other cheek on Israeli violence
By Ray Hanania

Many Americans mistakenly view the Arab-Israeli conflict as one between Jews and Muslims. That perception has been reinforced in the wake of Sept. 11th following the cowardly terrorist attacks in by 19 Islamists on Sept. 11.

Often ignored over the years is the toll that Israel's oppressive policies have taken on the Christians who are a minority not only in the Arab World but in the Holy Land where their religious movement began.

During many trips to Palestine over the years, I hear a constant chorus from Christian leaders appalled at how naïve and callous Christian brethren in America are to Israel's brutality and viciousness.

While the pro-Israel story is widely spread in America through a sophisticated lobby and media presence, the story of Christian Palestinians has been rarely examined. Orphaned, the tragedy of Palestinian Christians is forgotten making it easy for Israel to confiscate their lands in such historic Christian cities as Bethlehem, where my mother is from.

Also threatened by Israel's land policies are Bethlehem's sister cities of Beit Sahour and Beit Jala and the nearby lands of an equally important Christian region, Shepherd's Field.

Much of the land taken around Jerusalem to choke off the Christian and Muslim population belongs to Christian families who pray everyday at the Church of the Nativity where Jesus was born. The city of Bethlehem has been devastated by Israeli policies which allows Jewish settlers to roam freely and expand their settlements on confiscated Christian and Muslims lands, while Palestinians are locked into ghettos.

But all hope is not lost. In recent years, Christians voices are finding moral courage.

Earlier this year, the Presbyterian Church (USA) approved a policy to divest investments from Israel and all companies doing business with Israel.

The Presbyterians are morally outraged at the excessive and vicious policies Israel's military occupation has taken against innocent Palestinian civilians. Every week, scores of innocent Palestinian civilians are being killed and the Presbyterian vote came after officials of the church completed a first-hand tour of the embattled Holy Land.

But the Presbyterians are not the only ones to stand up for their Christian brothers and to demand a peace that is based on fair compromise and justice.

Recently, leader of the Anglican Church (which includes the Episcopal Church in this country) have recommended divestiture, too, after seeing the devastation firsthand during a recent trip. And Christians around the world are now openly taking about doing even more.

Israel continues to have the support of the more extremist Christian Evangelists who believe that Israel and the rebuilding of the Temple will herald the return of Jesus. Yet these Evangelists always end their sermons before explaining to Israelis that their prophetic beliefs also portend that Jews who fail to "accept Jesus" will suffer the same fate as other "non-believers."

It's the dirty little secret of the Evangelist movement that most moderate Christians like the Presbyterians, Anglicans and Episcopalians reject.

The timing couldn't be better as we enter another Christmas season where Palestinian Christians continue to suffer. Many American Christian Arabs already protest by unplugging their Christmas tree lights.

The greatest Christmas gift American Christians can give to their suffering cousins in the Holy Land is to find the courage to demand an evenhanded policy that not only condemns terrorism against Israel, but that also condemns the daily terrorism by Israel's government against Palestinians, too.

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