Friday, February 25, 2005

Sharon moves perplexing but welcome 2-25-05

Sharon moves perplexing and welcome
Feb. 25, 2005 Creators Syndicate
By Ray Hanania

Did someone kidnap Ariel Sharon and replace him with a moderate?

Sharon is a man reviled by Palestinians, yet he has taken dramatic recent steps – only a few so far, but important – that have reversed what Palestinians believe have been civil abuses against that have undermined peace.

One of the most egregious of Israel’s policies has been "collective punishment." That is where Israelis could take out their anger and vengeance against suicide bombers who are not around toe be punished. The Israelis would punish the bomber’s innocent relatives and families.

Over the years, through collective punishment, the Israelis have destroyed thousands of homes belonging to the family and relatives of not only suicide bombers, but also those accused of terrorism, even when the violence was less terrorism and more about resistance.

The destruction of the homes feeds into the Palestinian belief that not only are the Israelis unfair, but they also are using every technique to remove non-Jews.

Israel has not only destroyed homes, it has also killed innocent Palestinian and American civilians (such as Rachel Coury) in the process. When Israel has targeted and attacked extremist Palestinian leaders, they have done so in a manner that results in the killing of many innocent civilians who happen to be nearby, including the target’s wife and children.

That is a form of collective punishment, too.

All of it has reinforced the imbalance in justice that has dominated Palestinian-Israeli relations.
Palestinian extremists have also used their own policy of collective punishment, targeting Israeli civilians in their attacks who are not directly involved in Israeli government policy.

But there has been a double-standard in how this relationship is defined in the West. Israeli collective punishment is tolerated, while Palestinian collective punishment is denounced as symbolic of Palestinian societal erosions.

The point is "collective punishment" is wrong. It is immoral. We wouldn’t tolerate this kind of practice in our own society. Even after Sept. 11, we have taken specific steps to avoid punishing the innocent in our effort to fight the war on terrorism domestically.

The fact that Sharon has declared an end to the policy is a significant shift that is even more important than the act of recognizing Palestinian rights to statehood.

Most Palestinians want an end to the conflict and want a peaceful compromise. They just haven’t believed Israel truly will make the concessions on land and policy required to achieve two-states. Collective punishment and other Israeli policies, such as "extra-judicial killings," have contributed to undermining that public confidence which is necessary to make any peace plan work.

Removing it, coupled with other symbolic but important steps such as reportedly preparing to dismantle many of the humiliating checkpoints, will go a long way to demonstrate that Israeli truly seeks genuine peace. Israel is showing that not only does it desire "an end to violence," but it also supports goals most important to Palestinians, such as peace that is "just and fair."

Sharon has said and done things before that seemed to suggest he is headed away from his history of violence, but has turned around fast. His personal, deep seated grudge against the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat was always seen as the motivator of his past actions. Maybe with Arafat gone, that grudge has finally softened. Or, maybe, the threats against his own life by Israeli extremists in his own party and in the violent settler movement have changed him.

Regardless, if Sharon continues on this path, he might help bring about a resolution to a conflict that goes beyond anything his predecessor Ehud Barak proposed.

And just as important for Palestinians, they must act, too. They must recognize that they cannot continue to base their future strategic planning on the high levels of emotion that have risen from a painful history and past.

Yes, Israel has done many terrible things to the Palestinians. But, Palestinians have also done many terrible things to Israelis.

Peace based on compromise that achieves not only Israel’s goals of security and non-violence and also Palestinian goals of fairness and justice, is something new. It is far more important than even national vanity.

I did not like the old Sharon. But I won’t let memories of the old Sharon, including painful ones, stand in the way of a just and fair peace.

If this is really a new, genuine Sharon, I can support him.


Friday, February 18, 2005

Presbyterians fighting for justicem not advocating anti-Semitism 2-18-05/2-21-05

Standing up for Middle East peace is a Christian responsibility
Creators Syndicate, Friday Feb. 18, 2005
By Ray Hanania

Last year, the largest Presbyterian denomination in America voted to divest its funds from any company doing business with Israel that it felt might be contributing to the violence.

Caterpillar, which supplies the bulldozers that destroy civilian homes, and General Dynamics which produces the missiles fired into civilian targets, are two of many potential targets.

The goal, according to members of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is to apply pressure on those who might be contributing to violence. But the church has come under attack from supporters of Israel who, predictably, claim the decision is "anti-Semitic."

The Presbyterian Church has a history of speaking out against all kinds of government injustices. They support a peaceful, non-violent and "just" resolution to the Palestine-Israel conflict that recognizes the rights of both states. Far from being anti-Semitic!

More importantly, the Presbyterian Church did not act out of hostility towards Jews, but in response to pleas from Palestinian Christians. What the Presbyterian Church (USA) heard last year was a loud and clear plea from Christians from Bethlehem and other Palestinian cities who insist Israel is engaged in excessive force not just against extremists and militants, but also against civilians.

What is really surprising to me is that more Christian Churches in this country have not also stood up to defend the rights of Christians in the Middle East.

The Presbyterian Church is based on a complex democratic system much like our own Democracy. Many founding fathers were Presbyterian. Presbyterians believe in the separation of Church and State, but they believe that Christians must apply their beliefs to work for peace and justice in individual and societal life.

Rev. Lynne Myers, the Moderator of the Presbytery of Chicago, said that since last year’s vote, they have come under intense criticism. The vote has been denounced as "anti-Semitic."

Although I am not surprised criticism of Israel is always denounced as "anti-Semitic," I am surprised Jewish Americans don’t have a better response. It is wrong for supporters of Israel to call the Presbyterian action "anti-Semitic."

Asked about the controversy, Rev. Myers said, "It has never been our intention to do anything anti-Semitic or anti-Islamic. We are certainly willing to assist our Christian brothers and sisters as best we can. We have a responsibility to do so and we feel Christians in the Middle East and in the Israel-Palestine conflict need our support. … This isn’t against the Jewish people. It is about standing up against a government policy. It would be the same as working for justice and peace in the past conflict between Bosnia and Serbia."

I agree with Rev. Myers. I admire the Presbyterian Church for standing up for Christian rights, the same way I expect American Jews to stand up for Israel and Jews mistreated everywhere, including in the Arab World.

In the meantime, Presbyterian Churches around the country are sponsoring conferences to raise the understanding of their actions. I’ll be at one conference sponsoredby the First Presbyterian Church of Wheaton on Saturday, Feb. 26 exploring this controversy and making my voice heard as a Palestinian Christian, loud and clear.

Palestinians are speaking out against their own extremists and against violence. But, when will Jewish Americans stop the knee-jerk defense of Israel and start separating bad Israeli policy from good Israeli policy?

In other words, when will supporters of Israel start criticizing Israel, constructively?


Thursday, February 17, 2005

My family land Newsday Essay, 2-13-05

Seduced by the soil
Newsday Feb. 13, 2005

Ray Hanania, a columnist and managing editor of TheArab, is an American of Christian Palestinian descent.

A neatly folded piece of paper browned from age and so delicate it can easily crumble like dirt is the only legal link that my family has to a majestic piece of land between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

A relative of my mother purchased the 10 acres of land in the late 19th century for 30 pieces of gold. In recent years my cousin, who is now in his mid-90s, asked me to take a more active part in protecting its very uncertain future.

As the Middle East conflict has moved from each new hopeful high to each new violent low, Palestinian land such as this has been handed down from generation to generation, along with a sense of fear and apprehension.

My family's land is in a valley framed by small mountains and a breathtaking northern view of West Jerusalem. It has more than 100 ancient olive trees shading an underbrush of small bushes that produce a yellow, sweet-tasting berry-sized fruit called zarour. Lizards dart among the rocks, which are covered with large snails.

A dirt road created several years ago by Israeli soldiers has replaced the narrow footpath along the mountainside that was once the only entrance to the plot from a small nearby Arab village that shares the land's name, "Sharafat."I visited the land 10 years ago, mostly out of curiosity. Now entrusted with its safekeeping, I returned in October. This visit was much more emotional. As I picked ripe brown olives from the trees or the little zarour fruits from the bushes, I felt the weight and passion of the Arab-Israeli conflict more acutely.

Land is at the heart of the political strife that engulfs Palestinians and Israelis. Sharafat is in the West Bank, which was occupied by Israel in 1967. Four years later, the Israelis confiscated the mountaintops around Sharafat to build Gilo, a settlement Israel said it needed to provide security. My relatives fear Israel will also confiscate our land, for security.

Earlier this year, Israel approved a secret directive confiscating all land in the West Bank near East Jerusalem, including ours. Any land whose owners are Arab but not living there are designated by Israel as absentee owners. Under mounting international pressure last month, Israel backed down from the order. But the confiscation and the loss to Israeli control of land like Sharafat has fueled the most violent resistance and has stood in the way of a permanent peace.

I didn't learn of the Israeli action until after my most recent visit. During that trip, I met with some of the villagers my family has allowed to harvest the olives each year, so they can survive. I could see the changes that have been imposed on the land by the Israeli settlers of Gilo, who can look down upon the valley from their Western-style homes. In addition to the new dirt road, the Israelis have installed underground sewers and water pipes through our land to service the settlements.

The Israelis don't ask permission. Yet, despite the way the land has changed, nothing can dim the gleam that shines in the eyes of my aunt who accompanied me on a difficult four-hour journey through three Israeli military checkpoints. Because I was born in the United States and I hold a U.S. passport, I can pass through them with a heightened sense of assurance. As a resident of Ramallah, my aunt has to sneak through. Everyone in my family believes that because I am American, that might keep the Israelis from taking the land.

Israel believes it can do whatever it wants to us. For me, the burden of defending the land is almost religious. It's spiritual. But it is also difficult. How do you fight a government bureaucracy, especially one locked in military conflict?

I have to scrape around to find the money not only to visit the land, but to find a capable lawyer to free it from possible Israeli control. The lawyer has to be fearless enough to challenge the Israeli military occupation, which technically controls the land. My worst fear is that I will one day reach an age when I will have to turn over responsibility for the land to a younger relative. Will that relative have the spirit and the courage to fight for the land, if a fight is all that we have left to defend it?

My aunt can't predict the future; her memories of happier but long gone days of family picnics on the land remain as crisp and as clear as if they happened yesterday. Hearing her remember the land only makes the burden of the future harder to bear.

And as we ended the afternoon and began the return trip to Ramallah, we both paused to pick up a few stones as souvenirs, little reminders that what we have is real. At the crest of the village of Sharafat, we both looked back with different concerns.

This may be the last time my aunt will ever see this land. She is in her late 60s. She has to take long pauses as we walk to catch her breath, panting from the heat of the sun. And I leave worrying that this conflict that exhausted the lives of so many relatives and ancestors might also outlive me.

Copyright © 2005, Newsday, Inc.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Who really broke the cease-fire? Feb. 12, 2005

Palestinian-Israeli cease-fire already tested
Feb. 12, 2005 Arab American Media Services
By Ray Hanania

By now, you’ve probably read how days after Israeli and Palestinian leaders signed another cease fire agreement, opening the door to renewed peace talks, “Palestinians” fired rockets into an illegal Israeli settlement in the Gaza Strip.

Newspapers around the world, including in the rightwing Jerusalem Post, praised Israel for not striking back and showing restraint. How much better the Israelis are than “those Palestinians.”

But, as usual, either through laziness, bias or fear of being called anti-Semitic by extremist mainstream Jewish American organizations, few media reported that before the Palestinians fired rockets into the settlement, Israeli soldiers fired guns and missiles at Palestinians.

No Israelis were killed in the Palestinian rocket attack that got international coverage and was the focus of many conservative cable talk shows. Two Palestinians were killed, but no one would know that because no one reported that.According to the Palestinian and Arab news media, including al-Jazeera, and according to several Palestinian organizations, including the most reliable of them all, MIFTAH, which is headed by Hanan Ashrawi, one of the most moderate leaders in the middle East, Israelis included.

Ashrawi’s organization reports that the mortar attacks against the Israeli settlement on Feb. 11 was the direct response to Israeli attacks by soldiers and settlers in the two previous days.

But it’s typical of how the biased media especially in America where “bias” is the norm, tends to always show concern when Israelis are attacked and never when Palestinian Christians and Mulims are not only attacked but killed.

The two dead Palestinians the media hasn’t bothered to write about because Palestinian lives have no value in their eyes were unarmed and shot in cold blood.But who cares? As long as Israelis are not killed. The purpose is not to upset the pro-Israeli organizations and leaders in America who push fanaticism harder than the Palestinian extremistsPeace is important to Palestinians as well as to many Israelis. But the difference is that more Palestinians speak out without ever being recorded against the violence than Israelis, whose comments get covered all the time.

Peace is not some arbitrary concept, no matter what extremist pro-Israel organizations like Campus Watch, CAMERA and the American Jewish Committee would like you to believe.Peace is defined as the result, not precondition, to a settlement of a conflict that has been going on for more than 58 years.

To Israelis, peace should be about keeping the land they took in 1948 to create their state. To live in security and to live without fear of attack.

To Palestinians, peace is about justice and fairness. Fairness means that Israelis have to stop stealing more and more Palestinians land that they incredulously insist they are not stealing.

And justice means that Israel must accept its share of responsibility for not only causing the conflict and making things worse, but also for forcibly expelling Christians and Muslims from their homes in 1948 and again in 1967 in order to reduce the non-Jewish population of their state.Compromise means both sides must make sacrifices, and peace means that those sacrifices must be fair.

No matter what the biased American news media asserts in their unprofessional and clearly one-sided reports, Palestinians have as much rights as Israelis. And until that fact is recognized, the violence will continue no matter how many Palestinian and Israeli leaders reach over some table at a seaside resort and shake hands.

(Ray Hanania is a nationally syndicated Palestinian American columnist, author and managing editor of


Thursday, February 10, 2005

Peace needs more, Orlando Sentinel Feb. 10, 2005

Peace needs more support for breakthrough
By Ray Hanania
Special to the Sentinel, Posted February 10, 2005

When Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reached across the table at Sharm El-Sheikh this week to launch a new peace initiative, they weren't achieving anything new.

How many times in the past has the same scenario played out, only to be sabotaged by the violent whims of extremists?

That is the true challenge facing any Palestinian-Israeli peace accord. Agreeing on what needs to be done is far easier than staying the course when extremists strike.

Serious hurdles remain in the way of a final peace based on the two-state solution with a free and secure Israel and a viable Palestinian state. But they can be overcome if leaders on both sides stand firm and will not be blackmailed into abandoning peace when violence occurs and the public screams with emotion for revenge. Palestinians and Israelis must be ready to stand together to protect peace when violence strikes. Rather than suspend peace talks in the wake of this expected violence, both sides must be ready to respond by increasing their efforts, leading their people out of a cycle of emotion, pain and suffering that has so far made peace nearly impossible.

Jewish and Palestinian leaders, and their organizations here and abroad, must unequivocally endorse the Abbas-Sharon declaration.

All sides can contribute toward peace by adjusting their rhetoric. Peace cannot succeed on promises alone. Palestinians and Israelis must show human compassion and stop seeing themselves as the sole victims of each other's violence.

Israelis must accept certain inevitabilities: They must return the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, dismantle all of the settlements including those that circle East Jerusalem. And the price of peace demands that Jerusalem be shared and the rights of Palestinian refugees be addressed through a fair and just compromise.

The Israelis must set aside their arrogance and power and assume their share of the responsibility and blame. You cannot take the lands, homes, possessions, rights and dignity of a people and not expect them to react in anger or violence.

Palestinians bear a special burden caused by the reality of the events that have taken place over the past four years, one of the most bloodied and brutal in Palestinian-Israeli relations. Palestinians must denounce the murder of Jews as quickly and as forcefully as they denounce the murder of Palestinians.

Abbas and the Palestinian people must be ready to respond with force when any Palestinian individual or organization engages in any form of violence, especially acts of suicide bombings.

If Hamas, Islamic Jihad or any other Palestinian group commits an act of violence, Abbas must arrest and jail those responsible. This is not to satisfy Israeli demands, but to underscore the fact that no one may take the law into his own hands. The will of the Palestinian people as exercised in the recent democratic elections must be respected.

The United States has a special challenge to resume its role as an aggressive arbiter for peace. President Bush must prove his commitment to peace by equally pressuring both sides to make the tough choices.

But Bush can't do it alone. Congress, which often acts more like an extremist organization than an institution of principled democracy when it comes to the Middle East, must stop being an obstacle to peace.

That means Congress must abandon one-sided, partisan policies such as by rejecting the proposal to declare the Palestine Liberation Organization a "terrorist" group. American Jewish and Palestinian organizations and leaders who publicly and unequivocally embrace peace and speak out against violence on both sides should be rewarded, recognized and strengthened.

Groups such as the national Jewish-American organization Brit Tzedek v'Shalom and the newly established Palestinian-American grassroots group, the American Task Force on Palestine, based in Washington, should be brought in by the White House in a high-profile way to nurture peace among Palestinian and Jewish constituents.

Difficulties and pain remain between the encouraging words of Abbas and Sharon at Sharm el-Sheikh and achieving a final peace.

Palestinians and Israelis must not only be ready to sit down together to sign promises of peace, they must also be ready to stand up together in the face of a violence we all know is certain to come.

Ray Hanania is a nationally syndicated columnist and managing editor of He also is the former national President of the Palestinian American Congress.

Copyright © 2005, Orlando Sentinel

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Peace breakthrough still needs more support 2-09-05/Newsday

Peace breakthrough still needs more support
Feb. 9, 2005 Exclusive to Newsday

No single event is more encouraging for peace in the Middle East than the joint declaration yesterday at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon calling for an end to all violence. The cease-fire they announced comes after a four-year war that has killed more than 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis.

Yet, we must not forget that some of the worst moments in Palestinian and Israeli history have come at the very moment when peace was imminent.

This is not pessimism. We shouldn't pretend serious hurdles do not stand in the way of a final peace based on the two-state solution. History shows it prudent to expect that extremists on both sides will use violence to plunge the region into continued conflict as peace nears. Already groups like Hamas have declared that they are not parties to the agreement.

When violence does occur, Palestinians and Israelis must not be blackmailed into abandoning the peace process as they have done in the past.

Palestinian extremists are seeking to destroy Israel while Israeli extremists, who are more strategic and public-relations savvy, are hopingto block compromise with the Palestinians.

Palestinians and Israelis must be ready to stand together to protect peace when violence strikes. Rather than suspend peace talks in the wake of violence, they must respond by increasing their efforts, leading their people out of the cycle of emotion, pain and suffering that fuels thecontinuing cries for vengeance.

One immediate step is for all Jewish and Palestinian leaders to unequivocally endorse the Abbas-Sharon declaration. Four years after the outbreak of the worst violence between Palestinians and Israelis, both sides can advance real peace by adjusting their rhetoric and policies.

Palestinian leaders here and abroad must make the hard choice to either declare themselves on the side of peace or expose themselves as double-talking extremists standing in the way. Pro-Israeli leaders here and abroad must make the hard concessions, returning all occupied lands including accepting a real plan to share Jerusalem and fairly compensate Palestinian refugees.

Just as importantly, the United States must resume its role as anaggressive arbiter for peace, a role it abandoned four years ago. PresidentGeorge W. Bush must demonstrate his commitment to genuine peace bypressuring both sides equally to make the hard decisions to end a conflict that today is a part of the war on terrorism. Bush can't do it alone.

Congress, which often acts more like an extremist organization than an institution of principled democracy when it comes to policies affecting the Middle East, must end its partisan and political outcries. Rather than introducing one-sided resolutions such as the proposal to declare the Palestine Liberation Organization as a "terrorist" organization, congressional leaders who claim to love Israel and seek peace must now become responsible.

Bush can help by recognizing organizations on both sides that take genuine steps to support peace, such as the mainstream Jewish American organization Brit Tzedek v'Shalom and the newly established Palestinian American grassroots group, the American Task Force on Palestine, based in Washington.

One of the final components that has been missing from all of the recent peace efforts has been the semblance of human compassion. Palestinians and Israelis must stop looking at themselves as the sole victims of each other's violence. Palestinians must change their policies and view the Israeli victims of suicide bombings and violent resistance as true victims.

Palestinians must denounce the murder of Jews as quickly and as forcefully as they denounce the murder of Palestinians. If Hamas, Islamic Jihad or any other Palestinian group commits an act of violence, Abbas must arrest and jail those responsible. This is not to satisfy Israeli demands, but to underscore the fact that no one may take the law into their own hands. The will of the Palestinian people as exercised in the recent democratic elections must be respected.

For Israelis, they must set aside their arrogance and their power and recognize that their actions are as much to blame as the Palestinians for the violence. You cannot take the lands, homes, possessions, rights and dignity of a people and not expect them to react in anger or violence.

The road between the encouraging words of Sharm el-Sheikh and the reality of a final peace will be difficult. But it is worth fighting for.

(Ray Hanania is a nationally syndicated columnist and managing editor of He also is the former national President of the Palestinian American Congress.)

Monday, February 07, 2005

Two-State solution is a two-way street Feb. 4/7, 2005

Feb. 4/7, 2005
By Ray Hanania

The only real road to peace for Palestinians and Israelis is the two-state solution, which proposes one Palestinian state and one Israeli state side-by-side in peace and security.

A two-state solution is a two-way street, requiring Palestinians to end violent resistance to Israel's policies. It also demands that Israel return land it occupied in 1967 and end its policies of stealing Palestinian land.

There is no other way to describe what Israel has been doing than to call it "land theft."

Palestinians didn't just wake up one day and say they wanted to attack Israel. The real conflict has always been about land ownership.

More than 700,000 Christian and Muslim Palestinians were forcibly pushed off of their land by Israel, which sought to increase its Jewish population while reducing its non-Jewish population. When it occupied Arab East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967, Israel began a program to evict Christian and Muslim Palestinians from their land to build Jewish-only settlements.

How else has Israel built so many illegal settlements in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and in East Jerusalem?

Israel's defenders assert Palestinians expelled by Israel in 1948 and in 1967 were replaced by Jews fleeing Arab countries. But that's not true. Most Jewish Arabs were urged by Israel to leave in a highly publicized and ongoing program to settle them in Israel.

For example, Israel also urges Jews to leave America and settle in Israel. But, is Israel saying that America is forcing Jewish residents to flee, as they claim Arab countries are forcing Jews to flee?

In contrast, Palestinians are fighting to stay on their land and in their homes. Israel is pushing them out in order to increase the Jewish population and decrease the non-Jewish population. Israel's defenders also deny Israel is "stealing" land.

But, the truth came out when it was recently revealed that Israel's extremist Prime Minister Ariel Sharon secretly authorized a plan last June to confiscate by force and without compensation (my definition of theft) all Christian- and Muslim-owned land in East Jerusalem.

Only because of the outcry from the international community was Israel forced to abandon that plan. But will they abandon it permanently or seek other ways to steal the land?

Israel intentionally makes life difficult for Christians and Muslims not only in Israel but in the occupied territories. Why? Because Israel wants to build more Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land.

My family owns 10 acres of land in East Jerusalem with 160 ancient olive trees. We are not allowed to build on it or to develop it. We are discouraged from visiting it. To visit the land, I must travel through several Israeli military checkpoints, at gunpoint, and submit to humiliating treatment from the soldiers and settlers who live in Gilo, the Jewish settlement that overlooks my property.

The Israelis don't want us. They want Christians and Muslims to leave.

The two-state solution means that not only must Palestinian extremists end their campaign of violent resistance against Israel, but Israel also must end its violent campaign to expel Christians and Muslims from their lands and their homes. Palestinians want to live in peace.

The question is, will Israel allow it? Israel can either have stolen land or real peace. But not both.

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

Originally Published on Friday February 4, 2005

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Troubling turnout of Iraqi American voters, Feb. 1, 2005

Troubling turnout of Iraqi Americans voters
Arab American Media Services, Feb. 1, 2005
By Ray Hanania

Facts and numbers have always been a problem in the Arab World.

I thought it was an Arab cultural issue. But after following the election returns in Iraq, I wonder if the Arabs simply learned the art of exaggeration from the Americans and the West?

According to the American Military Occupation forces in Iraq, between 60 and 80 percent of registered Iraqi voters turned out to vote in Sunday’s election for the 275-member National Assembly and regional council seats.

They claim more than 90 percent of Iraqi expatriates voted at five American cities.
The military claims it will take 10 days to tally – which is half the time it took to tally the November 2000 presidential results in Florida.

And here’s where my concern comes in. Voter turnout is based on how many people registered. And the flaw in the system is that so few Iraqi expatriates actually registered, you have to wonder why?

We don’t have "official" tallies to work with, but here is what I found. In Iraq, voters faced the threat of violence from insurgents and the occupation. In fact, on election day, 44 people died in Iraq.

There were no such threats or deaths in the expatriate community. So, why was the registration and the turnout so low?

Iraqi expatriates were permitted to vote by absentee ballot in 14 countries under the auspices of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Iraqis had only one day to vote in Iraq, but expatriates had three days to vote.

According to reports, 280,303 Iraqi expatriates registered to vote worldwide out of a total of 2.5 million expatriates, half are qualified to register. That means registration was only about 7 percent.

Of the 280,303 registrations, only 85,000 actually voted, which is about 30 percent turnout worldwide.

In the United States, the number of Iraqi expatriates is about 500,000, with about 300,000 are qualified to vote. Yet, only 24,335 Iraqis reportedly voted at the five U.S. cities.

That is a turnout of between 8 and 10 percent. That’s it? With freedom banging on their door? What really gives with expatriates?

Apparently, they were not as excited about the voting process as their brethren living under the American military occupation. And that suggests the occupation may have even pumped up voter turnout in Iraq, or worse, exaggerated the numbers.

The IOM set up voting stations in five American cities where the majority of Iraqis – Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Christians, Sunni and Shi’ite – all live. Those cities were Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Nashville and Los Angeles.

Now, in Chicago, the Assyrian community claims to have more than 100,000 members. Assyrians are Christians who reject to the point of belligerence any claim that they are "Arab."
So, in addition to the Assyrians, there are about 25,000 Arab Iraqis in Chicago who are Muslim and Christian Arab.

In Detroit, the numbers of expatriates are higher. There are more than 150,000 Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Arabs -- Chaldeans are Iraqi Catholics.

That’s a total of 275,000 from just two of the five cities, which I estimate – since no one has real numbers – to be about 500,000 total in the United States. Several news sources claimed the number is about 360,000 nationwide with 240,000 (born on or before December 31, 1986) are actually eligible to vote.

Most Kurds live in Los Angeles and Nashville. The smallest community is around Washington D.C.

The numbers in the different cities are not encouraging. According to media reports, only 6,351 voted in Chicago. Out of 125,000 people?

In Detroit, only 9,715 registered to vote and 8,975 voted. Out of 150,000 people?

Turnout in the remaining three cities was even lower, totaling about 9,000. In Irvine near Los Angeles, only 3,903 registered to vote with smaller numbers in Nashville and Washington D.C.
Many Assyrians immediately blamed the low 24,335 voter turnout on the IOM, which they assert is controlled by Muslim Kurds.

But in the end, it is clear that far less than 10 percent of the Iraqi expatriates in the United States who were eligible to vote, actually registered, and even fewer actually voted.

That is a pathetic endorsement of the Iraqi elections.

Worse, the low turnout might suggest Iraqi expatriates in America who fled political and religious persecution by Saddam Hussein, also do not support the American military occupation.

And that might explain why so many Democratic elections in the United States are fraught with corruption, or just stolen. Why should the new Iraq be any different?

(Ray Hanania is an award-winning nationally syndicated columnist and Palestinian American author. He is the managing editor of