Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Palestinian candidates must oppose violence 12-22-04

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

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

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

And specific issues must be addressed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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