Friday, December 16, 2005

American War on Terrorism more a war on minorities and others

When fear rather than common sense drive policies
(C) Arab American Media Services
All Rights Reserved, 12-16-05
By Ray Hanania

I had no hesitation to follow in the footsteps of my father, George, and his brother, Moses.
Dad served in the 5th Army and Uncle Moses served in the Navy, both for more than four years during World War II. I have a brother who served in the Marines, and when my draft number was up for service during the Vietnam War, even though I opposed the war itself, I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in early 1973.

I spent two years at an F-111 base. The jet fighter was one of the best instruments of terrorism I have seen. It could fly low, and destroy entire Vietnamese villages without ever jeopardizing the pilot. Thousands of civilians were among the casualties as America fought to impose its view of the world order on Southeast Asia.

But hey, my job was to serve and I did. I didn’t have to like the war and my assignment made it easy to accept the assignment, working in the medical clinic. Military service in your adopted country of choice was essential and I didn’t shy away.

There were only two other Arabs serving with me in the unit. The "Asi" brothers. Twins who enlisted and served with me. My two best friends were Jewish, Mitchell from Los Angeles and Michael from New York.

My first year, I wrote a book called "The Palestine Irredentist," about you know what. The Arab-Israeli conflict. More than 500 pages trying to assert define the "moderate" position, a calling I have followed my whole life.

When the October 1973, the base commander called in the Asi brothers and myself, one at a time and asked us if we would have "problems" if the base fighter jets were sent to defend Israel.

I remember my answer was that I did not nit pick about events. I believed the Palestinians had rights and that both sides should compromise.

My base commander accepted my response and even read my manuscript. He suggested I send out to get published. Arnaud de Borchgrave, the Newsweek Middle East correspondent read it and loved it. And so did Palestinian civil rights champion Ibrahim Abu-Lughod.

Abu-Lughod loved it so much that when the Vietnam war came to an ugly end in 1975, he invited me to serve as a spokesman of the Arab American Congress for Palestine.

The Air Force allowed me to trade in my two remaining years of service for four years of service in the Illinois Air National Guard, where I served nearly a decade more.

It wasn’t until years later that I discovered the ugly truth, that the New York publishing establishment was so anti-Arab and hateful that getting a balanced book about the conflict published was near impossible.

I was proud, though, that I had served and so many others had not.

Yet, the day I left military service, because I was "Arab," the U.S. Government assigned several FBI agents who followed me around for more than two years, investigating the assertion that I was a "terrorist."

It was amazing to me that having served two years in active duty and while still in the National Guard, the FBI would waste so much money.

I had a security clearance in the service. What was it that made them think I was a terrorist?

They targeted anyone who was "Arab," or who expressed a view critical of American foreign policy. They wasted hundreds of millions of dollars in resources on needless investigations that were unjustified and that led nowhere. They did nothing to make this a safer country.

And course, in the past 30 years, little has changed.

President Bush has authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on thousands of Americans – on as many as 500 people at any given time – in his so-far unsuccessful "War on Terrorism."

I am sure they are wasting their time listening to me and monitoring my comings, goings, writings and private conversations.

The point is, with no real evidence to suggest someone is engaged in terrorism, why waste your time and money? It’s like buying a lottery ticket. The real way to earn money is to work hard and diligently and with professionalism. The real way to identify the terrorists is through professional criminal investigations based on evidence.

Not based on ethnicity, religion or even political views.

Of course, that would mean admitting that this country’s actions are failures and that we lost more than 2,100 American soldiers for absolutely nothing.

Politically, that is not what America is about to do. So, President Bush and his government would prefer to just pretend they are doing a good job of fighting the terrorists.

Better that, than to admit failure, I guess.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American journalist and author. He can be reached at www.hanania.com.)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Al-Arian acquittal an indictment of failed US War on Terrorism

al-Arian vindication an indictment of U.S. Government
Dec. 07, 2005
By Ray Hanania

Anyone who knew Ghassan Ballut and Hatem Fariz knew they could not be the terrorist the Justice Department made them out to be.

I knew both men, two of four co-defendants in a trial touted as a showcase of the Bush Administration’s "War on Terrorism" but that most Arab Americans have known is a sham. Their co-defendants are Sameeh Hammouda and Sami al-Arian.

The acquittal of the "Tampa Four" on all 51 indictments this week proves that you can’t take twist international causes that are unrelated to the War against al-Qaeda and turn them into proof of terrorist activity.

Ballut and Fariz were members of the National Arab American Journalists Association which I helped found back in the late 1990s. We had more than 145 members across the United States.

Palestinian Muslims, Ballut and Fariz were based here in Chicago. And they wore their politics on their shoulders, but in a respectful manner.

Both writers were "Islamicists" in the positive sense. They believed strongly in their Islamic faith and they also believed just as strongly that Israel was guilty injustices against the Palestinian people.

They often spoke harshly of Israel, maybe more harshly than myself and others, but they never at any time denounced, criticized or spoke in threatening ways against the United States, their adopted country.

And that is where the Justice Department continues to go wrong. Desperate to prove they are effectively fighting the War on Terrorism, President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft have charged anyone who is Arab and has sad harsh words about anything.

But the conflict against Israel and the attacks of Sept. 11 are not related, just as the War in Iraq has more to do with oil and Bush family vengeance than with protecting this nation from another terrorist assault.

Too many innocent people who have spoken out against Israel are either in jail or are being charged unfairly like Ballut and Fariz. That's not to say there isn't terrorism against Israel or that suicide bombings are justified. Suicide bombings are immoral and wrong. But criticizing Israel is not the same as supporting international terrorism.

There is Mohammad Salah also in Chicago. Salah was arrested in Israel in 1992 and charged with supporting Hamas. He was forced to sign under torture a confession in Hebrew, a language he does not speak or read. He served five years in an Israeli jail where he claims the torture continued and he was released by Israel in 1997.

Salah and his attorneys were about to conclude a deal that would allow him, his wife and three children to live the rest of their lives here in peace when Sept. 11 happened. Ashcroft immediately turned to Salah as the "poster boy" of his misguided "War on Terrorism."

In the past four years, the U.S. Government has harassed, intimidated and persecuted Salah. The family lives in the basement of a small apartment, barely able to make ends meet. All of their possessions and money confiscated. Friends who want to help have been threatened with imprisonment, too, for contributing to the defense of an alleged terrorist.

Like Ballut and Fariz, Salah often spoke harshly against Israel. But he never said a bad word against the United States, the American people nor did he ever say anything that would suggest he supported violence.

I do not know al-Arian, though I have read some of his public quotes that have earned him a nickname as a firebrand Islamicists. Nor do I know Hammoudeh. But I do know Ballut and Fariz. I was included on the defense witness list, prepared to testify on their behalf during the trial if called but was never called.

Clearly, Americans should be concerned by this jury verdict. Concerned not that four suspected terrorists are now free and may pursue further acts of violence.

No. We should be concerned that our government is ineffectively fighting the "War on Terrorism."

We should be concerned that all the Bush administration lies, the distortions, the arrests of the innocent, the weakening of our Constitutional Rights under the Patriot Act and the atmosphere of profiling have made this country more vulnerable to terrorist attack.

These politically motivated prosecutions intended to veil the Bush Administrations failure to fight the real "War on Terrorism" are making this country less and less safe.

While we focus on the wrong front, the real terrorists like Osama Bin Laden remain at large plotting, planning and waiting for the moment to strike again.

The acquittal of the "Tampa Four" sends a loud and clear message that we need to change how we define the "War on Terrorism" and re-examine what this country is really doing.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian journalist and author. He can be reached at www.hanania.com.)

Friday, September 16, 2005

I have a Dream -- Column from the archives (about 1997-1998)

I have a (an Arab American) dream

(One of my favorite columns from the past)
By Ray Hanania

I imagine waking up one morning into a different world. One where anti-Arab bigotry doesn’t exist, and where the Chicago news media slogans of fairness and objectivity mean something.

I buy a newspaper and I see among the many by-lines at least one Arab American reporter.

And I flipped through the pages and I find a story about how more than 350 Arab Americans joined to celebrate the retirement of one of our community leaders after many years of serving the City of Chicago.

There is a small Ad at the bottom of the page that teases me about a special section on Palestine, a decade after the Intifadah, and promises of a commentary there by renown Palestinian writer, Edward Said.

I have a dream.

After reading the newspaper, I get up and go to my car parked in the driveway. I see my neighbor, who is Irish American, and he wishes me a Happy Ramadan Kareem.

I wave back in gratitude even though I am not Muslim.I have a dream.I take out several letters that I want to send to friends and I go to the Post Office where they offer me stamps that commemorate Ramadan, Khalil Gibran, and the historic visit of the Orthodox Patriarch to the United States.

I see the stamps on the shelf along with all the other stamps that commemorate Kwanza, Christmas, Hanukkah, and all kinds of community leaders and events.

I have a dream.

I call work, and the message reminds me that today is a holiday, named in honor of Muhammad, the Great Muslim Prophet, or maybe in honor of the first Arab American to die while serving during World War I as a commander of the armed forces. Or, maybe, it is Khalil Gibran Day.I have a dream.

My daughter comes home from school, and instead of telling me about how she is harassed by other kids because she is Arab, she delights in relating to me about how the class will spend the next two weeks learning about the important culture of the Arab World.

The teacher plans to discuss all of the great contributions that Arabs have made to the sciences, to health, to music and to mathematics. There are so many, she can’t tell me about them all.

I have a dream.

And I turn on my television set to watch the news, and Mike Monseur, the CLTV reporter who was demoted as anchor because of his Arab American heritage, is sitting next to Carol Marin, detailing an exclusive investigation into corruption at Chicago’s City Hall.

In response, Mayor Daley has announced the appointment of celebrated Arab American attorney William Haddad as a special investigator to oversee the probe to insure the highest quality of legal leadership.

I have a dream.

The local cable TV program is also flashing on news about upcoming events, and I see that the City of Chicago is gearing up for the Arab American Day celebration.

There will be floats, and bands playing, and children waving Arab World flags. And Americans will be standing on the sides of the street as the parade passes them by, waiving and cheering as they do at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade every year.

I have a dream.

Later, this summer, I will plan a few days off of work, so that I can take my family to the annual Arab Food Fest, which will feature dozens of tents of Arab restaurants selling filafel, hummos, lamb kabob, and stuffed grapeleaves.

It’s so crowded, it takes forever to get to the counter to place my order.

I have a dream.

The Sunday Tribune arrives at my door step and I pick it up and I see on the cover that the book section features a review of my humor book, and books written by other Arab Americans like Sammer Ghouleh, Edward Said, Salameh Zanayed and Rashid Khalidi.

I have a dream.

And then my wife shakes me out of my slumber, and I have to return to the real world where Arabs face bigotry and the media ignores us.

And I sigh.

Wow.

I have a dream!

Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American journalist, author and writer. His columns are archived on the World Wide Web at ( www.hanania.com)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Muslims/Arabs over-react to Tancredo Comments, July 27, 2005

RELEASE: WEDNESDAY, JULY 27, 2005
ARABS AND MUSLIMS OVERREACTING TO TANCREDO COMMENTS
By Ray Hanania
I'm not as angry with Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo as many other Arabs and Muslims are. Tancredo supposedly said America should nuke Mecca, the Muslim Holy City.

Well, that's not what he said, though he came pretty close. Arab and Muslim American organizations quickly denounced Tancredo, demanding he apologize or resign. Not surprisingly, Tancredo stood by his comments, saying they were taken out of context.

Not only will he not apologize, he won't even admit his remarks were more ignorant than rant. That's because Tancredo's comments, accurate or not, are getting great play with an American public that is more and more concerned about a potential terrorist attack.

And Tancredo's getting a lot of media play, too. Most Americans had never heard of plans he had earlier in the year to run for president until the nuke Mecca controversy erupted. Now, his presidential bid is getting national coverage.

What was it that Tancredo really said?

Tancredo was being interviewed Jul. 15 by Pat Campbell, a talk-show host at WFLA radio in Orlando, Florida. The topic was a column posted on the popular WorldNetDaily internet site hosted by columnist Joseph Farah that asserted Islamic terrorists have already brought nuclear weapons into the United States across the impossible-to-monitor Mexican border. That's pretty scary stuff, especially coming right smack in the middle of two separate terrorist strikes by Muslims terrorists in London.

Here is the transcript of the interview, published by the Denver Post:

Campbell: "Worst-case scenario -- if they do have these nukes inside the
borders and they were to use something like that, what would our response be?"

Tancredo: "What would be the response? (pause) Um, you know, there are
things you could threaten to do before something like that happens and you may
have to do afterwards (unintelligible) draconian."

Campbell: "Such as?"

Tancredo: "Well, what if you said something like, 'If this happens in the
United States and we determine that it is the result of extremist,
fundamentalist Muslims.' You could take out their holy sites."

Campbell: "You're talking about bombing Mecca?"

Tancredo: "Yeah. What if you said, 'We recognize this is the ultimate
threat to the United States, so this is the ultimate response.' I'm just
throwing out some ideas because you would be talking about taking the most
draconian measures you could possibly imagine. Because other than that, all you
could do is, once again, tighten up internally."


I think the Arab and Muslim American organizations are overreacting. They bash anyone who even questions their religion. But when it comes to denouncing Islamic terrorists who have hijacked their religion and killed thousands of Americans, they seem selective.

Rather than publicize Tancredo, Arabs and Muslims should ignore him.

What Tancredo said or didn't say doesn't matter. What does matter is the growing hostility against Arabs and Muslims by many Americans that has nothing to do with Tancredo at all. The fact is, Tancredo's comments are mild compared to the chorus of Americans who are screaming for the United States to drop nuclear weapons on Arab and Muslim countries in response to Sept. 11. Just turn on any radio or TV talk show.

To many Americans, Tancredo probably didn't go far enough. The idea of responding with a larger, worse nuclear counter-strike is built into America's policy of nuclear deterrence. More importantly, though, Americans may be angry, but they are not stupid.

They see how Arab and Muslim Americans organizations are selective in criticizing some acts of terrorism but not all. To some Americans, Arabs and Muslims also look hypocritical in the Tancredo controversy. Isn't it Arabs and Muslims who are always arguing that Americans need to get to the "root causes of the terrorism?"

Maybe Arabs and Muslims should practice what they preach, and understand the "root causes" of the growing anti-Arab and anti-Muslim feelings that make it easy for elected officials like Tancredo and the American public to clamor for a tougher response to Islamic terrorism?

That's not to say that Arabs and Muslims should rally behind Tancredo's presidential candidacy. No. Until now, Tancredo was known to Americans for his history of insensitive comments about all immigrants, not just Arabs and Muslims.

But aren't there more important issues Arabs and Muslims should focus on, avoiding the cheap shots that play into, rather than assuage, the growing fears and anger of Americans?

To find out more about Ray Hanania, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2005 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
Originally Published on Wednesday July 27, 2005

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Muslims sometimes feed Islamic stereotypes, July 20, 2005

RELEASE: WEDNESDAY, JULY 20, 2005
MUSLIMS SOMETIMES FEED ISLAMIC STEREOTYPES
By Ray Hanania

The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) released a PSA last week they hope will convince Americans that Muslims oppose terrorism. But the PSA fails to address some of the real challenges that feed American bigotry against Muslims and Arabs.

In fact, CAIR narrowly defines Muslims so harshly that it might even feed further misunderstanding.

For example, the PSA includes several individuals, including two women who argue that terrorism is not condoned by Islam. Both are wearing a Hijab, a head covering some Muslims wrongly assert is required for women by the Quran. It is not.

The issue of the Hijab has become central to the conflict Americans have with Muslims. Sadly, many Muslim women are forced to wear the Hijab because Muslim men, who live under conditions free of the very restrictive inhibitions they impose on women, insist they wear them. The CAIR PSA therefore feeds, rather than undermines, the bias some Americans have against Muslims. Another issue involves the more complex distinction between Muslims and Arabs.

The two are often interchanged to suit the convenience of both American bigots and Muslims who often engage in their own policies of discrimination against non-Muslim Arabs or Muslims who do not accept the extreme interpretations of Islam.

The Arab-Israeli conflict involves Arab opposition to Israel's discriminatory practices against Arabs who are both Christian and Muslim. It is not the same as the campaign of terror driven by Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden.

Although Bin Laden claims to represent all Muslims, he does not. And his mission is not one of freeing Muslims or Arabs, but destroying Western civilization and those who do not accept his strict interpretations of Islam, people more commonly referred to by extremist Muslims as "infidels." Infidels not only include Americans and all Jews, but also Christian Arabs and Muslims who are more secular in their lifestyles.

The CAIR PSA feeds into the narrow definition of Muslims, excluding the secular Muslims and most Arabs. More than half of the estimated 4.2 million Arabs in America, for example, are not Muslim at all but are Christian.

The majority of Muslims in America, estimated as 7 million, are in fact non-Arab. Arabs only make up 23 percent of the Muslim-American population, and a slightly larger percentage worldwide.

Many Muslims are not Arab, and, as we have seen in London recently (where the suicide bombers were identified as Pakistani), many Islamic terrorists are not Arab.

Oftentimes, because Americans are uneducated about these subtle distinctions, they discriminate against Christian Arabs believing wrongly that they are Muslims. I am often mistaken for a Muslim. And while I am not insulted in the least, I am surprised at how many Americans don't even know that many Arabs are Christian.

Understanding these important subtleties might help the United States, for example, better prepare itself for another terrorist attack that is certainly going to happen. Chances are, for example, the United States will be the target of another suicide bombing.

Just as we witnessed the terrorism in London, we will see that kind of terrorism against civilian targets here in the America. But it is also a good guess that the perpetrators of the next terrorist act will not be Palestinian, who are engaged in an almost exclusively focused conflict against Israel.

Israel would like Americans to believe their conflict is the same as the war on terrorism, but it is not. The only Americans ever killed in Palestinian attacks were Americans who either were dual nationals carrying Israeli citizenship, too or Americans accidentally caught up in the Palestinian militant violence against Israel.

The violence of groups like Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad that includes suicide attacks is certainly immoral and is an unjustified form of resistance. Palestinians and most Arabs are not anti-American.

The real threat is not from those engaged in the Arab-Israeli conflict, but those who are fighting a larger battle not just against Israel, but against secular Muslims and Christian Arabs. Bin Laden is battling Western civilization and the freedoms its people enjoy.

These are issues that CAIR's national office should address. But Muslims, moderate and extremist, are oftentimes guilty of discriminating against other Muslims and Christian Arabs who disagree with narrow interpretations of Islam and the Middle East conflict.

One of the side effects of Bin Laden's terrorism has been the suppression of the secular Muslim identity and the isolation by extremist Muslims of the Christian Arabs.

In the end, that only helps Bin Laden achieve his terrorist goals.

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

COPYRIGHT 2005 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
Originally Published on Wednesday July 20, 2005

Friday, July 15, 2005

Not enough being done to condemn terrorism by Arabs and Muslims, July 15, 2005

Not enough being done to condemn terrorism by Arabs and Muslims
Creators Syndicate July 15, 2005
By Ray Hanania

Muslim and Arab American groups quickly and sharply condemned the terrorist attacks in London, but remained silent when suicide bombers struck Israel.

Last week, four attackers whom British officials now believe were suicide bombers, separately struck London’s transit system, killing 52 and injuring hundreds.

All four are believed to be a part of al-Qaeda’s loose network.

The attacks pushed the demarcation line on what is and isn’t possible. Many observers including Stephen Emerson warned that is is a matter of when not if suicide bombers strike America, again.

Yet one week later when a Palestinian suicide bomber struck a shopping mall in Netanya near Tel Aviv, nearly all the Arab and Muslim organizations were silent. The attack was blamed in Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Islamic sibling of Hamas.

These American organizations are playing a duplicitous and dangerous game. They are only saying enough to protect themselves against what they fear will be a repeat of the post-Sept. 11 backlash.

The greater danger though is the impact their silence is having on the efforts to bring peace to the Palestine-Israel conflict, often cited as the backbone of the anger many Muslims and Arabs have against Americans and the West.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who was elected in democratic elections held in January, remains politically crippled as Hamas and the PIJ exploit the suffering of Palestinians.

The harder it is to achieve peace, the more the oppressive Palestinian life becomes. Pushed to heightened anguish and emotion, Palestinians are less likely to speak out against the suicide bombings or the extremist groups like Hamas or PIJ, even though a March 2005 survey of Palestinian by pollster Khalil Shikaki shows most support compromise with Israel and oppose suicide bombings. Hamas and the PIJ have both publicly rejected compromise and Israel’s existence.

Although Abbas’ Fatah political organization continues to dominate Palestinian politics on a national level, Hamas and PIJ gains at the local election level are disturbing.

Abbas should ban both organizations and prevent them from participating in any elections until they renounce violence.

He has the legal mandate to pursue this demand as the officially elected leader of Palestine. In contrast, Hamas and the PIJ are basically operating as illegal militias or vigilantes.

On a moral level, the violence of Hamas and the PIJ go far beyond justified resistance. Although Israel is guilty of many actions that violate human rights and international law, nothing justifies a suicide bombing against any targets, especially those that are civilian.

Suicide bombings are morally reprehensible.

Hamas and the PIJ were not only behind the most recent suicide attack in Netanya, but also the last attack last February which was as much directed at killing Israelis as it was at killing the legitimacy of Abbas’ government.

How do American Arab and Muslim organizations fit into this deteriorating scenario?

As long as the major Arab and Muslim organizations refuse or fail to stand up and denounce Hamas or PIJ violence and suicide bombing attacks, Hamas and the PIJ have no real pressure to discontinue.

Last month when Abbas extended his hand to Hamas and invited them into a coalition government if they would end their violent campaigns, Hamas scoffed at the offer. The Netanya suicide bombing can be viewed as their more public rejection of Abbas and his government.

As long as the major Arab and Muslim organizations refuse or fail to denounce Hamas and PIJ attacks, the Arab American media and even the Arab World media will continue to incite the public against peace and in support of continued violence, claiming falsely that suicide bombings are an act of legitimate resistance when it is well beyond the realm of legitimacy.

Finally, while Arab and Muslim American organizations refrain from condemning Hamas and the PIJ, they are active in attacking any Arabs or Muslims, like myself, who speak out against Hamas and the PIJ and who call suicide bombings immoral and unjustified.

In part, these organizations can get away with this because Americans and people in the West allow them to get away with it.

The Palestine-Israel conflict is so complex that it is beyond the comprehension of most Americans.

The fact that the alleged suicide bombers in London were Pakistani and not Palestinians seems to be irrelevant to many Americans who continue to rail against all Muslim causes, including distant causes like the fight for Palestinian justice and statehood.

END

Friday, July 08, 2005

London bombings reveal how unsafe the world really is, July 8, 2005

London bombings reveal how unsafe the world really is
July 8, 2005 Creators Syndicate
By Ray Hanania

I think it is pretty clear that the world is not safer as a result of the war in Iraq.

It is also clear that our current security procedures are not working. Profiling Arabs and Muslims only tends to isolate a community that for the most part opposes the extremism of the terrorists.

The fact is, no matter what we might do, without support from the communities where we believe terrorism originates, we cannot properly defend ourselves.

In effect, we are at the mercy of the terrorists who strike not on our failed timetables of fast wars, but on their ideological calendar where the period between attacks may be weeks, months and even years.

The toll of lost lives from the concerted attack against several commuter targets in Britain’s capitol continues to rise. Bombs were set in six bus and subway locations.

Immediately, British officials identified al-Qaeda, the terrorist organization of fugitive Saudi militant Osama Bin Laden.

You would think that a sane person moved by the tragedy of the terrorism might ask the obvious questions: Why haven’t we captured Bin Laden? Why did we focus on Iraq rather than on completing the job in Afghanistan where Bin Laden is reportedly hiding along the border with Pakistan, a nation that supposedly is our ally?

Most Americans are already weary of the contradictions in the answers.

There are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. We so easily pushed that aside and found a new excuse to justify an unjustified war there. But every failed excuse leads to another failed excuse.

What’s next after "making the world a safer place’ proves to also be a failed objective in invading Iraq?

At some point, the American and British people might start demanding accountability from their governments.

But it is so easy to fall into the heated and emotional political debate rather than to examine the failed policies for real answers.

The answers are there for us to find.

We should immediately withdraw from Iraq. It’s a war we cannot win. We began with unbelievably na├»ve goals of crushing Saddam Hussein and winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.

Saddam Hussein is in prison but the persistent and very successful insurgency continues to grow, not diminish while the number of mainly Americans soldiers who are dying there continues to grow.

Rather than creating enemies in the Arab and Muslim World through foreign policies based on injustice and favortism, we should be working to resolve many of the longstanding problems that range from the brutal and unjustified Israeli occupation of Palestine to the continuing support this nation provides to Middle East tyrants and dictators who oppress their own people while speaking hypocritically about embracing Democracy.

We should end the politically driven prosecutions of Arabs and Muslims in America, many of whom have been targeted not because of anti-American activities but because of their political views critical of foreign countries like Israel.

If the United States and Britain imposed a fair and just solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict, that would do far more to undermine the popular support terrorists are receiving from the people of the Arab and Muslim world who are driven to that support by anger and emotion.

When we stop playing politics with our foreign policy and put real meaning behind building Democracies, freeing people and achieving justice in the Middle East, then we might find that the majority of those people will embrace us as the champions that we so far have failed to become.

It will also mean eliminating the injustices and tragedies that the terrorists continue to exploit as a cover for their crimes.

As a result of the London attacks, there is an increased vigilance in America and other Western nations for potential follow-up strikes by al-Qaeda against transportation centers.

But if there is one lesson we must expect from al-Qaeda, and their free leader, it is that they are unpredictable and our current methods of security provide no security at all.

END

Friday, July 01, 2005

Heavy burden of peace falls on Israel July 1, 2005

Heavier burden of peace based on two-states falls on Israel
Creators Syndicate, July 1, 2005
By Ray Hanania

Whether or not Israel does succeed in evacuating its settlers and soldiers from the Gaza Strip, the move will only fuel continued conflict not end it.

There is only one solution and that is the two-state solution. And the two-state solution is only viable if certain steps are taken by both sides that go way beyond the demands set by Israel and the United States on the Palestinians.

The real burden for peace is on Israel. Either Israelis accept the inevitability of a viable Palestinian State or they accept the reality of endless conflict.

Some Israelis view the fate of the Palestinians as being that of the Native American Indians who were overwhelmed by White European settlers so much that they were eventually pushed to the point of marginalized submission.

In the end, the Americans did not have to compromise with the Native Americans at all. They continued to lie, signing treaty after treaty they knew would either be broken by angry Indians driven by the unfairness of the conflict and broken pride or by the needs of their own growing population.

That’s the difference. The enormous population growth of the European settlers was so great that the Native Americans were marginalized to near oblivion.

Israel’s population has no where to grow. Severing off Palestinian population areas, like the Gaza Strip, is only a short-term answer.

You can see much of the same "conquest greed" in the Israelis that drove the American settlers. But it is blinding Israelis from the only real answer to their survival. Working towards anything but a viable two-state solution only guarantees the conflict will never end.

For the two-state solution to work, Israelis and Palestinians must both set aside their pride and accept a few realities.

The two-state solution is impossible if Palestinians insist that all of the refugees Israel forcibly evicted from the country in 1948 (and later in 1967, too) will have to be returned.

It’s not going to happen. Most Palestinians know it won’t happen but in the face of their continued dispossession, they are afraid to admit it. Pride not reason keeps them from accepting that truth.

On its part, there can be no real peace if Israel insists on selfishly controlling all of Jerusalem and preserving most of the illegal settlements in the West Bank like Gilo and Ariel.

Either Israel accepts the fate that all of the settlements must be dismantled, or negotiates a compromise where the settlers become a part of the Palestinian state. Two-states are not possible if the settlements remain.

And two-states are worthless answers if they do not involve a real sharing of Jerusalem, not the fake sharing plan that Israel offered a few years back.

Waiting in the shadows are the extremists and rejectionists and both sides who hope for unrealistic dreams of pushing the other into the sea. They will use the oppression of the conflict to fuel a resistance that will keep the conflict alive for generations to come.

There may be lulls in the conflict. But Palestinians will not become for Israel what Native Americans have become for Americans, wealthy but powerless casino operators and tribal tourist attractions.

Israelis need not fear a strategic Palestinian plan to destroy it. The Palestinians can’t win. But they can prevent Israel from winning.

There is a genuine opportunity to make peace happen, but it will take Israel to take the initial steps defined in a broader vision that defines a future of two-states, side by side and in peace.

It will require both sides to make concessions that today seem equally tough and painful, but in a future defined by peace will no doubt be worth the price paid.

END

Friday, June 24, 2005

America fails true test of Democracy June 24, 2005

America sullies its image with hypocrisy
Creators Syndicate June 24, 2005
By Ray Hanania

Most of this week, the news channels featured two American Marines jail guards assigned to Saddam Hussein, part of a publicity stunt organized by GQ Magazine.

We’ve learned from the GQ road show that Saddam Hussein still believes he is president of Iraq, is obsessed with cleanliness, makes bad coffee and loves Doritos sprinkled with water.

He also, apparently, offered the male guards advice on marriage saying he was in love only twice, both to his former and current wife.

Yet no matter the puerile nature of the banal details that they shared, one has to express some concerns. Not about Saddam Hussein but about the role the United States continues to play in undermining its already rocky image abroad.

While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is trying to sell the serious message of bringing Democracy to the Arab and Muslim World, the supposed symbol of American Democracy, the American news media, is filled with hypocrisy.

It is disrespectful to expose any prisoner to the circus-like glow of news media coverage. It’s disrespectful not to Saddam Hussein but to the United States as the so-called pillar of Democracy.

No prisoner in any truly Democratic nation would be subjected to that kind of public ridicule or scorn.

This isn’t the only incident. Recently, guards smuggled out photographs that depicted moments of personal privacy for Saddam Hussein wearing his underwear and in other compromising positions.

It makes a mockery of America’s claim to be the champions of Democracy.

Detailing Saddam’s Hussein’s life in a circus-like atmosphere doesn’t constitute war crimes, but it does reinforce the more troubling conduct of Americans at our prisons.

America is already notorious for abusing prisoners in its domestic penal system. The abuses and criminal acts by guards against prisoners who were convicted and sentenced to the American prisons system are endless. Many constitute felony crimes.

But now the United States is also guilty of violating the basic protections that must be accorded prisoners in jails set up to hold captives in our so-called "War on Terrorism."

Those abuses are also well documented and range from murdering prisoners either while in jail or in captivity, to violating the civil rights of individuals who in many cases have not been charged with any crimes and who continue to remain outside of the international legal system not on the basis of the power of law, but on the whim of the U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

The abuses involving death, torture, sexual and physical abuses, some of which were revealed in private photographic collections of U.S. Marine guards assigned to the prisoners is well documented.

All of it has been broadcast by the media, despite opposition from neocons and talk show demagogues who believe that when others commit crimes, they should be publicly flogged, but when America commits crimes they should be hidden.

The recent disclosures concerning Saddam Hussein only enhance the belief that the United States is less of a Democracy these days and more of a hypocrite who defines one set of laws for itself and another for everyone else.

The troubling conduct has had some repercussions with U.S. Senator Dick Durbin expressing disgust at images and photographs he has seen of all this misconduct.

Last week, Durbin read an email he received from an FBI agent who described the terrible conduct of American forces, and then told the U.S. Senate, "If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This is the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners."

Durbin deserves praise for his courage to tell the truth rather than be attacked as he has for his honesty. Ironically, his critics assert his words undermine America’s efforts both in the war on terrorism and in promoting Democracy.

Rather than blame those responsible for misconduct, many Americans find it more convenient to attack those like Durbin who expose it. Durbin is not the problem. Nor are the millions of Americans who question the war on terrorism and our misconduct in Iraq.

The real problem is in the failure of this nation to live by the principles we seek to impose on others all the while giving ourselves a pass.

In a true test of Democracy, the United States would fall short.

END

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Torture at AMerican Gitmo prison no surprise June 23, 2005

Torture at American Gitmo prison no surprise
June 23, 2005 Arab American Media Services
Permission granted to reprint
By Ray Hanania

In the United States, the issue is not really about whether or not American marines have engaged in atrocities, torture and even possible murder.

For most Americans, the issue is "so what?"

Ever since Sept. 11, and the failure of President Bush to arrest Osama Bin Laden, Americans have lost all sense of justice, abandoning a moral conscience to enjoy an emotion-driven vigilantism of hate.

Much of this American hatred has been redefined as "patriotism," although it is not patriotic at all. Just an unjustified anger to strike out at anyone who is an easy target.

And not since the 1950s when African Americans were the targets of American racism, have Americans found a more worthy victim.

Although the 1950s may sound remote, the fact is anti-Black hatred and racism continued through the 1990s. The lynching of Blacks continued, although at a more infrequent pace as the civil rights movement pressured Americans to curb their racism and store it in a closet.

That racism was able to resurface after Sept. 11 in the form of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hate. Arabs and Muslims are not as dark skinned as Blacks, but they are darker skinned than most Americans. Even more convenient, while Blacks have created strong advocacy organizations to combat racism, Arabs and Muslims remain the victims of their own political folly and failed leadership.

In the months after Sept. 11, 14 people who "looked Middle Eastern" were murdered by Americans enraged by Bin Laden’s terrorism. Every excuse was found to deny the link between the killings and a Sept. 11 backlash.

Although American officials have publicly urged Americans to show tolerance, the calls were mostly intended for show. The United States could not condone an open campaign of hatred against Arabs and Muslims while seeking the cooperation of Arab and Muslim dictatorships in the Middle East to hunt down Bin Laden, and to invade Iraq, the jackpot benefit that Bush found under the rubble of the destruction of New Yorks’ World Trade Center towers.

Iraq had nothing to do with Sept. 11, only proving the war on terrorism is really a war on Arabs and Muslims.

Although in every past war the United States has respected the international laws regarding conflict such as the Fourth Geneva Conventions, they cast he legalities aside in dealing with Arab and Muslim targets.

Americans celebrated when Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld explained incomprehensibly that those who attacked America, and those who defended themselves against American provocations, were "illegal combatants," literally a term that the Bush administration fabricated.

As a result, American Marines have been given the "wink greenlight" to abuse, torture and even kill any of the hundreds of prisoners that are being held illegally in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba or in other American prisons in the Middle East and Asia.

Amnesty International, an organization that has a impeccable history of decrying human rights violations in nearly every country, has denounced the American mistreatment of prisoners as "war crimes" and also calling them the "Gulag of our times," a reference to the harsh prison system that the former Soviet Union maintained to punish anyone who challenged the state dictatorship.

While some may be linked to anti-American violence, most of the prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay are dissendents and are heroes in the eyes of Arabs and Muslims and most people in the world.

Even the United Nations, which the United States loved until it found its independence from American dictates in the 1960s, has declared that prisoners held by American Marines have been tortured.

Just as the Soviets denounced the criticism of their Gulag system, the Bush administration is ferociously denying it is engaged in atrocities, war crimes or human rights violations. Their response is point to the viciousness of insurgents operating in Iraq who have responded to American brutality with a greater brutality of their own.

In other words, the current American government believes it can do whatever it wants and that international laws apply to everyone else but them.

That kind of attitude may appear to be working today. But in the long run, as the Bush administration fades into the sunset and the world continues to document American Marine atrocities, torture and murder, the reality of the civil rights abuses that Americans condoned so arrogantly today will come back to haunt this country.

Only those Americans who stand up and denounce these practices can claim to be true patriots who are defending the essence of American morality from the disease of political expediency and racist hatred.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning nationally syndicated columnist based in Chicago. He can be reached at www.TheArabStreet.com)

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Nawash-Zogby battle over extremism filled with hypocrisy June 16, 2005

Internal battle among Arab Americans moderates and extremists
Thursday June 16, 2005, Arab American Media Services
Permission Granted to republish
By Ray Hanania

While the war on terrorism debate focuses on extremists who excuse violence, not enough is done to support those Arabs and Muslims who denounce terrorism and extremism within their own community.

That’s the concern of a new organization called the Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism founded by Kamal Nawash who recently organized a rally against terrorism in Washington D.C.

Not surprisingly, many of the nation’s "mainstream" Arab and Muslim organizations refused to support the rally. Some even denounced Nawash as a "traitor." They continue to attack him in public statements and columns simply because he believes Muslims and Arabs must do more to denounce extremism.

But while some Arab and Muslim American leaders disagree with Nawash, many in the White House and American government do not.

Recently, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice named a delegation to attend a conference in Cordoba, Spain on intolerance and racism hosted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Originally, Arab and Muslim groups complained the delegation to Cordoba lacked an Arab or Muslim member, clearly an oversight. Rice heard the message but ignored their self-serving pitches to have themselves appointed to the delegation. Instead, she named Nawash and the vitriole against Nawash by rival Arab and Muslim activists has not stopped.

Rice and the Bush administration deserve a lot of praise for the courage to decipher through the complex challenges of America’s dysfunctional Arab and Muslim communities to find reasoned moderates.

Among the critics is a surprise, Jim Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute and a leading advocate for Arab political empowerment. Nawash claims Zogby falsely asserted in a widely distributed news release that Nawash is allied with notorious anti-Arab writers Daniel Pipes and Michelle Malkin. Nawash accurately notes Zogby is appealing to the emotions rather than reason.

Worse, Zogby knows his accusation is untrue. The week before, Nawash was asked on an AAI hosted TV show, "Will you condemn the statements of Daniel Pipes and Michelle Malkin in suggesting that Arabs be put in internment camps?" Nawash answered with an unequivocal, "I have and I do."

Incredulously, Zogby claims Nawash bashes other Arabs and Muslims, all while Zogby bashes Nawash. Nawash is correct in brushing off Zogby’s attacks off as "self-serving" rather than as "benefiting the Arab and Muslim community."

Despite his errors, Zogby continued the attack in his advocacy column that promotes the Arab American Institute agenda and his personal politics.

Why?

Nawash’s organization is new and its board consists of a wide range of Arabs and Muslims from across the country who openly and passionately debate issues but who remain united in the consensus that more must be done to combat terrorism.

No organization represents the Arab or Muslim American community. Nawash’s organization comes as close as any can, however, mainly because it tolerates free discussion and debate. Its membership is open not only to Muslims but to Christian Arabs, too, a group often excluded from the growing Muslim American activism.

Everyone claims to embrace peace and oppose violence, but Nawash does it unequivocally and more forcefully than most, including his critics.

To Nawash, the issue is principle and morality. Those on the moral high ground can be more effective. Arabs and Muslims who claim to be mainstream must separate themselves from the extremist minority that continues to exploit the growing emotion and dissatisfaction of the community.

Nawash is an unwavering advocate of Palestinian rights, but he does not use the issue as a shield to excuse the violence and immoral acts of suicide bombings that are committed in their name.

When Arabs and Muslims find it easier to criticize moderates than to criticize extremists, that’s not leadership. The continued attacks against Nawash only harm, not help, the challenges facing Arabs and Muslims in America.

Nawash has opened a very sensitive door in the Arab and Muslim community. The issue is not whether Nawash is too harsh on Arabs and Muslims who play both sides of the terrorism game.

Rather, the real question is why so-called "mainstream" Arabs and Muslims can’t muster the courage to denounce extremists who provide funding, forums, and political cover to suicide bombers, extremist organizations and totalitarian Arab World regimes.

(Ray Hanania is an award-winning nationally syndicated columnist. He is former national president of the Palestinian American Congress, an adviser to the Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism and a former longtime member of the Arab American Institute. He can be reached at www.hanania.com.)

END

Friday, June 10, 2005

Palestinians should annex Jewish settlers, June 10, 2005

Palestinians should formally annex Jewish settlements
Creators Syndicate, June 10, 2005
By Ray Hanania

Leaders of three Jewish settlements slated for evacuation in the West Bank are asking the Palestinian Authority to allow them to remain, creating a unique opportunity to show how the Palestinian leadership differs from rejectionists on both sides.

While Israel continues its policies of expelling Palestinians, confiscating land and restricting access to Jerusalem, Palestinians can show how wrong those actions are by doing something right.

Israel has announced plans to unilaterally evacuate the Gaza Strip, four settlements in the West Bank and to turn over to Palestinians control of five major cities. So far, Israel has given Palestinians control of only two cities and the settlement evacuations have faced opposition with some settlers threatening violence.

In contract, the West Bank settlers have appealed to the Palestinians asking the PNA for asylum to remain in the West Bank which will someday become the heart of a Palestinian state.

Asylum sounds reasonable. It would distinguish Palestinians from Israel in a positive way. For far too long, Palestinians have built their society around the conventions of Israeli history and policies.

Too often, Palestinian actions are the result of Israeli provocations, rather than on the basis of well though out strategic moves designed to strengthen not weaken the Palestinian position.

When Ariel Sharon visited the Haram al-Ash Sharif that Israelis call the Temple Mount in late 2000, Palestinians reacted to his action by launching an Intifada that only increased in violence as Israeli responded with more violence itself.

When an Israeli settler massacred 29 Palestinians who were praying at a Hebron Mosque in 1994, Hamas responded by the first of a long string of suicide bombings intended as "retaliation."

Even in public relations community building, the Palestinians seem to always follow Israel’s lead. Condemning Israel’s program to plant trees in honor of Jewish donors, Palestinians did the same for their own.

The pattern of Palestinian reaction politics has failed and must end. The plea from the settlers could reverse a long line of failed Palestinian strategies.

In the notion of compromise based on two sovereign states, nothing precludes Palestinians from living in Israel or Jews living in Palestine.

The concept is to eventually allow Jews and non-Jews to live anywhere, without undermining the concept of a sovereign Jewish State and a sovereign Palestinian state.

This can only come after some measure of trust is restored, and violent extremists on both sides are reigned in, disarmed or jailed.

It gives Palestinians the opportunity to recapture the moral high ground, rather than seeing the justice of their cause undermined by an endless series of reaction and retaliation.

By accepting Jewish settlers who wish to remain in Palestine, Palestinian leaders can demonstrate that their differences with Israel are not based on anti-Semitism, as many extremist supporters of Israel often assert, and are founded on solid objections to Israeli policy.

Palestinians do not discriminate and should not discriminate. By embracing those Jewish settlers who wish to live in a free, Democratic Palestine, Palestinians will be changing their predictable course of always reacting to Israeli policies and actions.

If the three West Bank Jewish settlements can be assimilated into Palestinian society, what will prevent that from becoming the model in dealing with the more complex challenges of the larger Jewish settlements like Gilo and Ariel that Israel is now seeking to keep?

These and other major settlements were originally built by Israel as security outposts after the 1967 war. The lands were illegally confiscated from Palestinian owners. With the passage of time, and continued faltering of the Palestinian position, Israel now hopes to keep most of the major settlements, even as a part of negotiations.

Let Gilo, Ariel and the other settlement blocs remain as a part of a two-state compromise, but seek to put them under the control of a Palestinian government with the Jewish settlers living under Palestinian law.

Some Israeli Jews may chose to not remain. But others might. Those that opt to participate in a future Palestinian State should be welcomed, not rejected.

END

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Real peace begins with battle against extremists, June 3/6, 2005

Real peace begins with the battle against extremists
June 3/6, 2005 Creators/Arlington Heights Daily Herald
By Ray Hanania

In 1994, Egyptian author and humorist Ali Salem climbed into his Soviet built car and drove to Israel. The next year, he wrote a book about the three-week experience called "A Drive to Israel."

This week, Salem was about to make the same trip by plane to accept an honorary doctorate from an Israeli university when Egypt stopped him.

Salem’s experience exposes challenges threatening Arab and Israeli moderates who are vilified by extremists for supporting peace.

Arabs are not allowed to communicate with the "Zionist entity" while Israel prevents criticism of its policies or being too supportive of Palestinian independence.

Penalties range from being prevented from traveling and subjected to public ridicule, to worse fates including arrest, detention and even death.

Egypt, against the better judgment of many Arabs who felt the country should not act on its own, signed a peace accord in the 1970s with Israel, without forcing Israel return Palestinian lands and recognizing a Palestinian State.

Egypt was boycotted by the Arab World and "President" Anwar Sadat (not really a president but an autocrat), was murdered. Years later, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was also murdered for signing a peace accord with the Palestinians.

In the case of Ali Salem, preventing him from receiving the doctorate from Ben Gurion University in the Negev Desert town of Beer Sheba made more news than allowing him to go.

The extremists don’t always have to murder you to make their point. They can exploit the emotions of their publics marginalize, disparage, persecute and slander moderates who try to break through the cycle of hatred that keeps Israelis and Palestinians from achieving a compromise based on two states, the return of land and a real front against violence.

Palestinian leader Sari Nusseibeh came under fire recently when he criticized a British teachers union boycott against an Israeli university that supported one of the Israeli settlements. Extremists pressured Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to have Nusseibeh fired as president of al-Quds University.

When I wrote that although Palestinian refugees have a rock-solid legal right of return founded in law and moral principle, but that achieving that return in a compromise is unrealistic to expect, extremists came out in force and branded me a "traitor."

Their campaign continues, pressuring Arab World newspapers and many Arab online web sites to drop my columns, and they have pressured Arab and Muslim organizations to cancel my speeches and comedy for peace performances.

Israeli extremists have and continue to do the same to moderates who criticize excesses in Israel’s brutal occupation and urge Israel’s total withdrawal from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Arab East Jerusalem. Jewish American newspapers boycott Palestinian moderates while many mainstream Israeli and Jewish online news sites constantly harangue them with accusations of being "terrorist sympathizers" simply for questioning Israel’s actions.

The real challenge to peace is the ability of extremists to so easily silence the moderate voices like Salem, Nusseibeh and others

Ali Salem should be allowed to accept the accolade. Those who have the courage to support peace based on compromise publicly should be defended for their courage and not so easily punished as "traitors."

If governments in Israel and the Arab World can’t tolerate peace contacts between their own people, no wonder they fail so miserably in achieving lasting peace.

END

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

"Sentinels of the causes" undermine Palestinian freedom, May 24, 2005

"Sentinels of the causes" undermine Palestinian freedom
May 24, 2005, Arab American Media Services
Permission Granted to Reprint
By Ray Hanania

Irrational rejectionism is a disease in the Arab and Islamic Worlds that stands in the way of Palestinian freedom and promotes intolerance. It broadens Israel’s occupation to create a self-occupation mentality.

It must be stopped.

Suffering under years of Israel’s oppressive occupation and by the suppression of Democracy and freedom in the Arab World, too many Palestinians find all they have left is to criticize and reject.

When it comes to Israel, there is a lot to criticize. But when it comes to preserve the Palestinian nation by achieving peace, rejection must give way to compromise.

Palestinians are burdened by self-appointed "sentinels of the causes" who claim to protect many of the sacred cows of the Palestinian national tragedy such as the Right of Return.

But instead of protecting these causes, these "sentinels of the causes" create a destructive environment that encourages extreme acts of violence. That violence goes far beyond the rights of resistance and instead include the immoral acts of suicide bombings and the murder of Israeli civilians or other Palestinians.

Recently, the "sentinels of the causes" turned their ugliness on Sari Nusseibeh, the president of al-Quds University. Nusseibeh is a leading moderate and co-signer of the Geneva Accords which defines a vision of a two-state solution for Palestinians and Israelis.

Nusseibeh dares to prompt Palestinians to find ways out of the conflict through non-violence, using free speech to define a new public dialogue.

This week, Nusseibeh weighed in on the emotional debate over whether or not Israel’s Bar Illan University should affiliate with a college in Ariel, a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank.
The move by Bar Illan University prompted a boycott by the British Association of University Teachers. Boycotts are common weapons not just by pro-Palestinian groups but by pro-Israeli groups, too.

The issues of Ariel extend beyond simple matters of academic freedom. Ariel is an illegal settlement allegedly created to provide "security." Israel said Ariel was temporary, as it violated international laws regarding the confiscation of occupied lands.

As time has passed with no solution, partly because of the rejectionists themselves, Ariel turned into what Israel calls a permanent city.

But Nusseibeh wasn’t addressing the issue of illegal settlements, something that must be decided in negotiations. He simply described the BAUT action as "wrong and unjustified," arguing that this and other issues must be settled at the negotiating table.

The Palestinian Union of University Teachers and Employees quickly condemned Nusseibeh saying his comments constituted a "normalization" with Israel and it’s rightwing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

They called for Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to fire Nusseibeh as al-Quds president and "to put an end to this behavior."

Palestinians are living under difficult times. The Israeli occupation, despite all the talk of peace, continues to be oppressive and claims innocent lives on both sides.

But maybe the PUUTE hasn’t read the news lately. President Abbas is engaged in "normalization" with Israel. The late President Yasser Arafat, a Palestinian hero, was engaged in "normalization" with Israel. Palestinians who elected Abbas embraced the concept of normalization, an end to the violence and peace based on compromise

Abbas is seeking to negotiate an end to the conflict and it is the PUUTE that must accept some facts. Compromise is unavoidable. The belief that Israel can be destroyed is a pipe dream. More importantly, uncompromising extremist positions continue to condemn Palestinians to a life of bitter oppression and unending suffering.

Yes, Israel is the occupier. But the "sentinels of the causes" who easily turn public reason into fierce and vicious mob-like hatred, are the occupiers’ greatest weapon.

In these times of increased individual freedoms, Palestinians and many Arabs find themselves burdened by restrictions on free speech making it nearly impossible to achieve an end to the bitter Palestine-Israel conflict.

Ironically, these "sentinels of causes" fail to achieve any of their goals such as restoring the legitimate rights of the refugees, destroying Israel and re-establishing "1947 Palestine," or undermining the oppressive rule of Arab and Islamic World dictatorships.

Incapable of achieving, their only power is in their ability to block, prevent, stop or destroy.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning syndicated columnist. He can be reached at www.hanania.com.)

END

Friday, May 20, 2005

Qur'an desecration creates Amazon jungle of issues, May 20, 2005

Qur’an desecration creates Amazon jungle of issues
May 20, 2005
Arab American Media Services
Permission Granted to republish
By Ray Hanania

Many things are not surprising about reports of the desecration of an Islamic Holy Book, the Koran (Qur’an), including that many Americans don’t see what the problem is.

In today’s post-Sept. 11 American world of growing anti-Arab and anti-Muslim animosity, no reason to hate a Muslim or Arab is a bad reason, including desecrating a book that is the Muslim equivalent of the Bible and Jewish Torah.

But fueled by hatred, this story has grown to be so much more.Here are so of the issues that I have seen.First is the role of Newsweek, which published the item reporting that an interrogator at an American prison for Islamic and Arab prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba ripped up pages of the Koran and flushed them down a toilet to further agonize the Muslim prisoners.

It wasn’t really a news story, but was a “news item” carried in a front section of the weekly news magazine where other “light” and unusual items are placed called “Periscope.” It’s basically an “afterthought” section for news that isn’t quite news.Newsweek’s first problem is its professional journalism failure to recognize the item for the larger news story that it really is.

Desecrating a Koran may not sound like news to American journalists, but in the Muslim World it is huge. You would only know that if you cared enough about that audience to recognize what is and what is not news.

The report outraged the Muslim World and provoked anti-American street protests throughout. In situations like this, Western media have one characteristic trait. On stories that they really care about and consider important, the editors always stand by their story and the reporters who wrote it.

Not Newsweek. They immediately apologized and confessed in a candor uncharacteristic of American journalism that their reporters failed to get a proper confirmation for the report. The report, by the way, was old news, reported previously by many other sources such as Amnesty International and the Red Cross. But in a reflection of the American media’s typical poor journalism, it was ignored by the mainstream American media.

This week, an Indonesian Muslim in Los Angeles, Azza Basarudin, said she had ordered a copy of a Koran from Amazon.com, the behemoth online bookseller. Ironically, most Arabs and Muslims in American order all their books online because many American book store retailers don’t carry the books of most interest to them.

When she received the book, Basarudin opened it and found a profanity scribbled on one of its pages along with “Death to all Muslims.”Basarudin brought her experience to one of the only American organizations that cares about racism and bigotry against Muslims in this country, the Muslim Public Affairs Council based in her hometown of Los Angeles. MPAC immediately denounced the act and demanded the Amazon.com explain the incident, apologize and take action against those that might be responsible.

At first, Amazon apologized for the distress caused to Basarudin, but MPAC pressed for more action, including “zero tolerance” for that kind of racist act. It is the same demand made often by Jewish and Christian organizations responding to acts of anti-Semitism or racism against their own.

Basarudin’s book actually came from Bellwether Books, which distributes through Amazon. Pressed by MPAC, Amazon suspended Bellwether from selling copies of the Quran through Amazon.It all seems reasonable.

In Bellwether’s defense, it’s owner said that the book Basarudin had purchased was a “used” copy. He said that if he could determine an employee of his company had been involved in desecrating the book or had written the obscenity, that employee or employees would be fired.

Immediately, notorious anti-Arab and anti-Muslim Internet hate sites challenged the incident suggesting the timing of the racism coming on the heels of the Guantanamo Bay controversy may have been contrived by Basarudin.

Of course, these same critics never suggest that the acts in and of themselves are wrong, but always place the burden of the crime on the victims.

Clearly, these events show two very disturbing trends. The first is the steady increase in anti-Muslim and anti-Arab racist acts committed by Americans.

But more troubling, the failure of the American media to treat anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hate with the same ferocity that they treat anti-Semitism against Jews or racism against other minorities.

In that environment, the only thing surprising is that these incidents of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hatred don’t occur often.

Of course, maybe they do, but the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim media just doesn’t seem too concerned about reporting them.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning syndicated columnist, humorist and author based in Chicago. A former national president of the Palestinian American Congress, Hanania’s columns are archived at http://www.hanania.com/.)

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Defiling Koran exposes myth of American Morality/Democracy, May 15, 2005

Koran story exposes myth of American Democracy and morality
May 15, 2005 Arab American Media Services
Permission granted to republish
By Ray Hanania

In a way, you have to blame Americans like former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and media bigots like Sean Hannity and Daniel Pipes for the moral corruption that drives many of the abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan.

With their help, most Americans easily made the jump from not only hating the hijackers responsible for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but also all Arabs and Muslims.

Few Americans questioned their nation’s decision to expand the war on terrorism from Afghanistan, where the al-Qaeda terrorists were based, to Iraq, a secular Arab dictatorship equally threatened by al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

Even fewer Americans believe that their soldiers who have engaged in murder, torture, physical abuses and acts of religious desecration such as the flushing of a copy of the Koran down a toilet at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, are guilty and should be punished.

Why should they have when their government leaders had waived all of the civilized guidelines of military conduct, declaring, for example, that Arab and Muslim prisoners would not be protected by the protections of the Geneva Conventions, used to protect the prisoners of all civilized countries in wars going back to World War II.

In reality, most countries like Nazi Germany, the Empire of Japan, Stalinist Russia and the Vietcong, violated those protections as often as we did. But at least, none were arrogant to openly declare their intent to violate those rights.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq represented a new evolution in American racial patriotism and "Christian pride."

Americans rushed to fight in both Afghanistan and Iraq, not just to avenge those responsible or not responsible for Sept. 11. They went there to act out generations of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim animosity fanned by Hollywood movies, the mainstream media, our educational system and their elected government leaders.

Claiming to be a Democracy seeking to avenge an injustice, the United States acted more like a mob gone wild willing to string up any Arab they crossed, in much the same way they tolerated the lynching of Blacks falsely accused of having looked at White women with envy.

I don’t know if the Newsweek story that an American interrogator did or did not flush a copy of the Koran down a toilet at the Guantanamo Bay prison. It doesn’t matter. American soldiers have done worse to the Arab and Muslim prisoners, many of whom have been detained without any civil rights protections for more than two years.

Even a serial killer or mass murderer – historically all in the United States have been Christians and White – are accorded legal protections to have representation, to have the charges against them reviewed for truth, and to be able to fight the charges not only in court but in the public forum.

Not so for the thousands of Arabs and Muslims held at numerous American prisons. The conditions under which most are being kept would never have withstood the scrutiny given the prison conditions of prior wars.

And even as the evidence of American abuses mounts, rather than admit to the behavior as criminal, many Americans and media pundits continue to brush the abuses aside as "justified."

In other words, immoral behavior is justified when it is us against "them." Slaughtering innocent people and "suicide bombings" are immoral if the bombers are Muslim and the targets are American, but are justified when the victims are American.

We saw examples of how Americans historically crossed the line of moral behavior in numerous Hollywood movies including "The Patriot" starring Mel Gibson, and "Pearl Harbor" with Alec Baldwin playing the legendary avenger Col. Jimmy Doolittle. Doolittle (Baldwin) vowed that if he could not return from his mission over Tokyo, he would crash his plane into any Japanese building in a justified act of suicide that brought cheers from teary-eyed American audiences in movie theaters across the country.

Of course, while the populations of many Arab and Muslim countries are protesting the defiling of the Koran, most of their governments remain silent and afraid to challenge the American racial imperialism.

That should be as troubling to the Arabs and Muslims of the world as much as the act of an American defiling their holiest religious icon.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning nationally syndicated columnist and managing editor of www.TheArabStreet.com. He can be reached at rayhanania@aol.com.)

Friday, May 13, 2005

The dangers of the so-called bi-national state, May 13, 2005

The dangers of the so-called "bi-national" state
May 13, 2005
By Ray Hanania

As the Palestinian leaderships’ failures in achieving peace become more and more evident, some are hoping to distract their despondent people by defining a new and more troubling "solution" to the conflict with Israel.

It’s called the "bi-national" state. In theory it sounds great. In reality, it is a formula for permanent conflict.

The advocates of the bi-national state include those Palestinians who once advocated Israel’s total destruction through conflict. But, the fact that they have been complete and utter failures at leading that "conflict" doesn’t seem to trouble them.

The other advocates are those whose patience have been wasted by poor leadership and who believing the two-state solution has not worked, will hope and dream for any other alternative.

The bi-national state concept essentially espouses that Israel will absorb the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and maybe even the Gaza Strip, putting millions of Palestinians under Israeli control.

Proponents of the bi-national option argue that eventually, the Palestinian population in this new scenario will surpass Israel’s Jewish population resulting in a "de facto" Palestinian state.

Eventually, they surmise, the bi-national scenario will undermine the Jewish character of Israel and create a Democracy where Christians, Muslims and Jews can live together in societal bliss.

Of course, that idea of a secular Democratic Palestine where Jews, Christians and Muslims can live together is a fallacy promoted for PR purposes. The fact is, Christian and Muslim Palestinians can’t live together at all. Well, they can live together if Christian Palestinians accept a status as "second class citizens" in a Muslim society.

But sometimes the lie always sounds better than the truth.

The two-state solution is a proposal where Israel withdraws from most or all of the territories it occupied in 1967. That’s when the incompetent Arab World governments threatened to "drive Israel into the sea." Instead, Israel defeated all their combined Arab armies in less than six days in one of World history’s most humiliating fiascos.

Assuming this two-state plan can be achieved through negotiations, Israel would remain a Jewish State and a second state would be recognized called Palestine and which would serve as the home for Palestinian Christians and Muslims.

Most extremists reject the two-state solution, and prefer to destroy Israel outright. But since they can’t do it through conflict – they can send young people to blow themselves up in suicide attacks but can’t seem to muster a true military insurgency against Israel’s military occupation – they instead support the lazy approach to their goals.

Let the high Arab birthrate overcome Israel’s birthrate and make Israel a Muslim dominated country where Jews would be a minority and Christians would be practically non-existent.

Some normally intelligent thinking moderates, frustrated with the failure of the peace process, actually believe the bi-national state concept may be a good alternative.

But it’s not. It will result in disaster. Not just for Israel but for Palestinians, too.

This bi-national state will become a nation where the Muslim and Christian Palestinian majority will be subjugated by a Jewish Israeli minority, pretty much what we have today.

I mean, the Israeli occupation is basically a portend of what is in store for Palestinians and Israelis in a bi-national state. Israel will never give Muslim and Christian Palestinians equal status in a bi-national state. They don’t do it now under occupation, and many Palestinians who are citizens of Israel argue that even as citizens of Israel they lack the same rights as Jews in Israel.

The only solution is a two-state solution. Compromise is the only road to achieving that goal.
Israelis must be ready to accept the reality of giving Palestinians sovereignty not just in the West Bank and Gaza Strip but also in parts of Jerusalem.

And Palestinians must accept the fact that Israel exists, it cannot be wiped out.

Palestinians should focus on reigning in their own growing extremists and fanatics who use violence and insist on Israel’s destruction. That goal only spells more doom for the Palestinians as a people and delays the inevitability of a two-state solution.

It’s going to happen. Both side should recognize that and spend their energies preventing more of their people from being killed as that certainty is delayed.

END

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Al-Arian prosecution symbolizes American Gulag, May 12, 2005

Arab American prosecutions symbolize the new American Gulag
May 12, 2005, Arab American Media Syndicate
Permission granted to republish
By Ray Hanania

If anyone in the Arab World has any doubts about the bankruptcy of the American pledge to bring Democracy and freedom to their country, all they need do is examine the case of Sami Al-Arian.

Al-Arian is one of four political prisoners being prosecuted for criticizing Israel, supporting the liberation of Palestine and opposing the Soviet war against Muslims, issues shared by nearly every citizen of the Arab World.

Next week, American prosecutors will pick a jury to hear charges that Al-Arian, 47, a former University at South Florida professor, raised money to support Palestinian and Islamic causes, and gave speeches denouncing Israel at rallies and conferences.

His co-defendants include: Sameeh Hammoudeh, 44, a former instructor and student at USF and an administrator at the Islamic Academy of Florida; Ghassan Zayed Ballut, 43, a small business owner who lived in Tinley Park, Ill.; and Hatem Naji Fariz, 32, who was manager of a medical clinic in Spring Hill, Florida.

Both Ballut and Fariz are also Arab American journalists who I know. While they are devout Muslims with strong political views critical of Israel, they have never engaged in anti-American activities or promoted violence.

None of the four defendants danced around handing out cookies on Sept. 11 after Al-Qaeda terrorists and followers of Osama Bin Laden crashed planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon or try to hit the White House.

Yet that is exactly why they can’t get a fair trial in America. They have been targeted unfairly as a part of the emotional wave of post-Sept. 11 anti-Arab hate that is sweeping this nation.

American prosecutors charge the four Arab Americans with supporting Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian militant group that hasn’t targeted Americans nor advocates any anti-American policies. The group is blamed, however, in more than 100 deaths in Israel.

None of the four defendants are accused of being directly involved in any of those attacks.

To make matters worse, the American judge overseeing the case has ruled that none of the four Arab Americans have the right to bring into their defense any aspects of the Palestine-Israel conflict or issues involving their Muslim beliefs.

None of the defendants are anti-American. None were engaged in any terrorist activities against the United States or American citizens. More importantly, none were involved in Sept. 11.

What it really all comes down to is that Al-Arian, Ballut, Fariz and Hammoudeh are American political prisoners being punished for criticizing Israel. In today’s America, that is the "new terrorism." That is the new crime.

To further underscore the political nature of this case, Judge James Moody Jr., has ruled that the defendants cannot discuss the political or religious aspects of the Middle East conflict,

In effect, Judge Moody has condemned every Arab American to the same eventual fate. Even though we are patriotic Americans who have defended this country against foreign threats, denounced terrorism, shared in the suffering of Sept. 11, we can all be prosecuted for the same crimes as the "Al-Arian Four."

America today is a nation of growing human and civil rights abuses. At any time, any Arab American can be harassed, victimized and even jailed with no legal recourse under the US Patriot Act, a law adopted to prosecute Arab and Muslim Americans.

This attitude of hatred has been carried into battle by some American soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. There seems to be no end to incidents where American Marines sent to liberate Arabs have instead engaged in the torture and murder of Arabs instead.

At one time, America stood against the oppression of political dissidents, especially in the Soviet Union, where individuals where convicted in similar trials and imprisoned for years.

One of the most famous dissidents is Alexander Solzhenitsyn whose writings describe in brutal detail the horrors of the Gulag Archipelago, the prison system where political dissidents were thrown after being denied their civil and human rights and railroaded through kangaroo courts.

Sami Al-Arian, Ghassan Zayed Ballut, Hatem Naji Fariz and Sameeh Hammoudeh are all modernday Solzhenitsyns.

Prosecuted on trumped up, phony charges, brought before politically motivated kangaroo courts where they are being denied the right to a defense, all four face the same fate as Solzhenitsyn in what surely is the beginning of the new American Gulag.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning syndicated columnist and former national president of the Palestinian American Congress. He is the managing editor of www.TheArabStreet.com.)

END

Monday, May 09, 2005

Palestinians must confront their own demons to achieve justice, May 9, 2005

Palestinians undermine credibility with silence
May 9, 2005 Arab American Media Syndicate
Permission granted to reprint
By Ray Hanania

Palestinians are notorious for screaming about Israeli extremism while responding to their own extremism with silence.

It’s not that the majority of Palestinians don’t want to speak out against the extremists in their midst, but they are easily intimidated into silence by libelous and unchecked attacks from their community fanatics.

Ironically, these verbal terrorists who seem to dominate the Internet find it easier to attack their own moderates because they are impotent in confronting pro-Israeli activists.

It’s easier for Palestinian extremists to attack their own, in part because Palestinians as a whole – extremist and moderate – are marginalized in the mainstream media. Moderates, especially, are shunned by supporters of Israel, those who would be natural allies who also seek a fair and just peace.

But Palestinians cannot denounce Israeli acts with moral strength if they avoid speaking out against the same alleged grievances against Palestinians. In other words, you can’t say that Israeli actions are wrong if you remain silent on the very same actions of your own people.

The Internet has spawned a cottage industry of extremist Palestinian sentinels who easily undermine Palestinian moderates within their own community circles.

The attacks are vicious and constant, and border on hate, but fall outside of the radar screen of mainstream and pro-Israeli audiences.

As long as Palestinians denounce Israel, they are hailed and embraced, as I was for many years.

The Palestinian sentinels tolerate some moderate voices as long as they stop short of serious issues, such as in addressing the Palestinian right of return or the issue of Palestinian extremism.

Once you cross that line, they target you more ferociously than they even target Israelis. It’s easy to attack a Palestinian, while it takes much more talent and effort to confront the Israelis, moderates and extremists alike.

I believe that line must be crossed more now than ever if we hope to strengthen the growth of a peace movement in Palestine and strengthen the hand of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas against the growing influence of Hamas and their secular allies on the extreme left.

I believe Palestinian refugees have a legal and moral right of return. It is undeniable, regardless of whether you blame their flight on Israeli military actions during the 1947-48 conflict (as Arabs often do), or if you blame their flight on the Arab countries who urged them to leave, vowing to push the "Jews into the sea" (as Israelis and Jews often argue.)

Somewhere in-between is the truth, but extremists on both sides work hard at keeping anyone from seeing that middle ground, which gathers dust and little public acknowledgment.

As a Palestinian moderate, I must criticize actions that I view are wrong, regardless of whether they are the result of Palestinian or Israeli actions. That includes criticizing the political policies of Israeli leaders like Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

But I also have a greater obligation to fight harder to expose the threatening presence of extremists in my own community who find cover by wrapping themselves in the suffering of the Palestinians under occupation, in the Diaspora and especially in the refugee camps.

Palestinians must accept the fact that the refugees will not return. They can believe firmly that they have a legal right to return, as detailed in the Fourth Geneva Conventions and international law. But in the course of seeking to achieve a compromise with Israel, Palestinians must accept the fact that the refugees cannot return to their original homes and lands in areas that are now a part of Israel.

Palestinian extremists also have a tendency to excuse away their own violence, while exaggerating the violence of the Israelis. Similarly, Israelis often excuse or ignore the violence of their own while constantly blaming all violence on the Palestinians.

It is wrong to claim that you support compromise and peace if you cannot stand up with moral courage and denounce suicide bombings. Suicide bombings are not justified and are immoral. Pushing individuals to serve as suicide bombers is even more morally reprehensible.

Peace is possible, but only if Israelis and their supporters, especially in the American Jewish community, recognize the need to define the line between right and wrong.

It is also only possible if, at the same time, Palestinians are willing to define a moderate voice based on reason, rather than on extremist rhetoric and hateful anti-Semitism, both of which are far too common in Palestinian discussion groups on the Internet.

It will take courage to stand up to these bullies. But it takes even more courage to stand up to the verbal terrorists when they are members of your own community.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning syndicated columnist and former National President of the Palestinian American Congress. His web page is www.hanania.com.)

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Analyzing the Hamas-Fatah elections May 7, 2005

The challenge of navigating Palestinian politics
May 8, 2005, Arab American Media Syndicate
Permission granted to reprint
By Ray Hanania

The existence and growth of the Hamas movement is directly linked to the brutality of Israel’s policies against the Palestinians.

That was demonstrated in recent municipal election contests between the two largest rival Palestinian factions, Fatah founded by Yasser Arafat and Hamas founded by Sheik Ahmed Yassin.

Although Yassin was murdered by Israeli assassins, the growth of his movement ends the Israeli myth that the personality-driven policies of the occupied Palestinians can be controlled by killing the leader.

Fatah and Hamas are strikingly different. Fatah is a secular ideological movement capable of making political compromises with Israel. Hamas is a religious political movement driven by faith and incapable of compromise.

For Palestinian voters, the choice is simple, continue to believe Fatah and its leader Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas can deliver an independent state through compromise, or that Israel can be eventually defeated by the promise of more Hamas militancy.

A third movement marginalized by the Hamas-Fatah rivalry also exists, but its influence is among Diaspora Palestinians and led by the disciples of the more violent and uncompromising secular movement, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, founded by George Habash’s and commonly called the "Jabha."

Jabha activists in the United States and Europe have been forced into a marriage of convenience with Hamas movement. They dominate most of the NGOs based outside of occupied Palestine including the powerful international al-Awda movement, which defines the rights of Palestinian refugees but fails to offer a strategy to implement those rights. And the Jabha rejects compromise with Israel.

Like many Palestinians, the Jabha activists see that one day Hamas will dominate all Palestinian politics.

Hamas got its start by accident when Likud leaders in the 1970s sought to "create" a rival to Arafat by shoring up the disorganized religious factions under Sheik Yassin in the Gaza Strip.

Yassin accepted Israeli help in raising funds and in building hospitals, schools and social centers that later became a political base. During the first Intifada, Yassin used that strength to launch Hamas, something the Israeli plotters never envisioned. Ironically, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon who played a direct role in shoring up Yassin’s strength, ordered his murder last year.

Although Hamas is denounced as a terrorist organization, it’s main attraction is the very network of social, health and public services, an area where other groups like Fatah have failed.

In fact, during the recent municipal elections, Hamas candidates countered their open rejection of compromise with Israel by promising more increased social and health services.
Support for that message grows.

Fatah won 56 percent of the overall vote compared to 33 percent for Hamas. Early returns show Fatah won in 45 of 84 communities while Hamas won 23 including in the three biggest towns up for grabs.

When you examine past election returns, Fatah dominates areas where the occupation and the deterioration of public services are less severe. Hamas dominates areas of heightened conflict and oppression.

Qalqaliya, where Israel has imposed the harshest of conditions on its residents, has become a Hamas stronghold. The Apartheid Wall encircles divides the city into zones, separating farmers from their land. The Apartheid Wall doesn’t protect Israelis from Palestinian attacks, but allows Israel to confiscate more land and define new political borders.

The Apartheid Wall is built inside occupied Palestinian territory, not on the 1967 "Green Line." The path of the Apartheid Wall places important land assets such as farms and water wells on Israel’s side while imprisoning the bulk of Palestinian population on the other.

This has created an enormous hardship on the residents worse than most other occupied cities, feeding a growing political discontent and undermining confidence in Abbas.

Hamas has found footholds outside of the Gaza Strip in West Bank towns like Qalqaliya where it staged a massive post-election victory rally.

Hamas reinforced power in Gaza towns and refugee camps like Rafah and al-Bureij, one of the poorest camps. Hamas strength continues to grow in the West Bank in direct proportion to growing discontent with the secular policies of the government.

Although Fatah has managed to remain in control and dominate the government, Hamas knows that its influence will continue to grow.

Parliamentary elections will be held in July. There, Palestinian representation in local municipalities will be reflected on a national decision-making level.

While it is too early to predict the results, Abbas and the Fatah movement surely will cling to an eroding lead.

Eventually, though, it is not unreasonable to predict that Hamas will soon take over the government as the promises of independent statehood remain elusive and unachievable.

Once in control, Hamas ideology will prevent any movement towards negotiated peace and will lead only to more conflict and violence.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning syndicated columnist and former national president of the Palestinian American Congress. He is managing editor of www.TheArabStreet.com.)

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The issue oif al-Awda MUST be discussed fully and more, May 5, 2005

Understanding the emotional issues surrounding al-Awda
May 5, 2005 Arab American Media Syndication
Permission Granted to republish
By Ray Hanania

No other issues evokes more emotion from Palestinians than the issue of "The Return," in Arabic, al-Awda.

It is a difficult and painful issue to address, as I and others have discovered in recent weeks when I began exploring ways to approach a peaceful compromise for Palestinians in Israelis. It involves real lives, real suffering and the hopes and dreams of millions.

Critics on both sides, Palestinians and Israelis, have weighed in on the issue, some attacking me personally. I understand it. But there are even more who responded with reason, understanding what I wrote and who agree we must explore the difficulty of navigating this issue if we intend to achieve a peace based on a two-state solution.

And I even understand the emotion from some activists and members of discussion lists who I believe have ignored the issues. That’s a topic for a future column, why we Palestinians sometimes prefer to burn down our own rather than understand the complexities of emotional issues that overwhelm us and that sometimes hold us hostage to a life of continued despair. It's something that plagues all communities.

I intend to move beyond that and explore the al-Awda issue in greater detail. We must all do it.

Even though I reiterated my belief that the Palestinian refugees who were expelled from their homes by Israel in 1948 have a legal, moral and ethical right to return that is solid and uncompromising, some who read the columns failed to understand that meaning. Maybe I didn't explain it properly.

The right of the refugees to return is a law. It is founded on a legal premise of human rights that is so great that no individual can erase and yet so hopeless fragile that it is the only thing from which Palestinian refugees have managed to preserve their very existence.

In the context of achieving two-states and resolving the Palestine-Israel conflict peacefully, how do we resolve the issue of al-Awda?

Regardless of the answer, the fact is that the Palestinian right to return is undeniable and solid. It doesn’t mean it will happen. It doesn’t mean that in a two-state solution, refugees can expect to return to their lands. It does mean the law is on their side.

Who knows what might happen in the future? Individuals cannot change laws, deny rights or compromise on fundamental justice.

In achieving a compromise, there is also the view that while that legal and moral and ethical right exists, it may never be implemented.

And that is my challenge to my critics – the harsh critics and the sound ones who have offered intelligent responses. How do you organize a movement to achieve that right, as opposed to creating a movement that celebrates that right?

In other words, if it is a right, why haven’t Palestinians succeeded in implementing their legal, moral and ethical right to return to their rightful lands and homes?

Whose fault is that failure to achieve that goal, and how do we go about making it a reality?

Of course, some Palestinians have pointed out issues extraneous to the discussion, which they often refuse to debate. I am a Christian. I am married to a Jew. I oppose all violence and I support compromise. I believe that we should work toward ending the suffering of the Palestinian refugees, not cling to their suffering as an excuse to agitate.

Is the point of our existence to hold meetings and conferences and stand around nodding our heads in agreement that an injustice has been done? Or, should we demand more from our leaders and hold them accountable?

Should we not demand that those who claim to champion the al-Awda movement – and there are many great members of al-Awda who have been outside of this debate – must be accountable and responsible for what has happened and what has not happened?

Leaders are judged not on their personalities or the popularity of the issues they champion. Leaders are judged by results.

In responding to my columns, some have not been leaders. They typify the stereotype of the over-burdened Palestinian fraught with suffering and a life of despair who cannot get past their emotions. They find it easier to attack those among our community who seek to have an open and free discussion, rather than channel that energy into a positive movement that shows results.

I believe we can have better leaders. I also believe al-Awda deserves more public discussion than one or two columns. For the sake of the refugees. We may discuss and debate the issue but the refugees live the tragedy.

I believe it deserves further understanding on all sides, my side included. I will explore the reality of the return against the reality of compromise. There is the challenge to define how we embrace al-Awda if we achieve a two-state solution where Palestinians have real sovereignty over only part of the land.

It may not mean that refugees will be going back to their homes. But it also does not mean that they must be forced to give up their legal and moral and ethical right in a compromise.

That’s a challenge Israelis will have to confront and Palestinians must better understand.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning syndicated columnist and writer based in Chicago. He is the former national president of the Palestinian American Congress. He can be reached at rayhanania@aol.com)