Friday, April 22, 2005

Palestinians must accept Reality of Right of Return April 22, 2005

Arab News Saudi Arabia
Orlando Sentinel, Florida, USA
By Ray Hanania

In Arabic, the term "al-Awda" means "the return," and it symbolizes the dreams and hopes of millions of Christian and Muslim Palestinians forced into exile as refugees by Israel in 1948. It's the essence of the Palestine-Israel conflict.

In order to create a Jewish state, Jews had to increase their population through immigration. When the notion of a Jewish homeland was embraced in 1917, there were about 85,000 Jews and 650,000 Christian and Muslim Palestinians.

That changed 30 years later to 614,000 Jews and 1.4 million Palestinians. They were still short of what they needed.

The United Nations proposed a partition plan to create a "Jewish state" and an "Arab state." But, the "Jewish state" had as many non-Jews as Jews. The proposed "Arab state" was overwhelmingly non-Jewish. Israel was faced with a harsh reality. It had to forcibly expel the non-Jews.

The 1947 war sent more than 700,000 Palestinians into exile. Israel also occupied half of the "Arab state," leaving Arabs with the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, about 22 percent of the original land.

That population change has stymied all progress toward peace. To remain a Jewish state, Israel cannot take the refugees back. Yet how do you reconcile refugee rights, which are supported by clear and irrefutable international laws?

It is such a difficult issue that Palestinian President Yasser Arafat could not accept Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's plan because it brushed off refugee rights and failed to provide a real sharing of Jerusalem.

For years, Palestinian refugees have been fed endless empty promises from the Arab countries that they will someday return. It's the main reason why most have lived and died in refugee camps rather than relocate and assimilate into the Arab world.

The problem has also created a powerful movement called "al-Awda," which is run by uncompromising ideologues and extremists who use the right of return as a political bludgeon to prevent Palestinian moderates from compromise with Israel.

The newly formed American Task Force on Palestine, an advocacy group based in the nation's capital, became one of the first Palestinian organizations to publicly define a moderate approach, writing: "Implementation of the right of return cannot obviate the logic of a resolution based on two states.

The challenge for the Israeli and Palestinian national leaderships is to arrive at a formula that recognizes refugee rights but which does not contradict the basis of a two-state solution and an end to the conflict." The ATFP was immediately denounced as "traitors" by the international al-Awda movement, even though compromising on the right of return is fundamental to achieving a two-state solution.

The Palestinian refugees have a legal and moral right to return to their lands. But the reality of the world today is not the reality of 1947, when the conflict forced the refugees into camps. Fifty-five years later, Palestinians have no choice but to accept a full and fair compromise, which Israel has yet to embrace. That compromise must include compensation and, more importantly, Israel's acknowledgment of their role in causing their plight.

Surveys show that despite the uncompromising al-Awda movement, most refugees do not expect to return to their original homes or lands.

So what's the real problem?

The al-Awda movement's rejection of compromise is based on generations of suffering that are easy to exploit. But it is the height of irresponsibility for any Arab group to tell the refugees that they should sit tight because one day they will return to the hills and valleys of 1947 Palestine. It is never going to happen.

The al-Awda activists, who rallied this past week at the University of California in Los Angeles, insist no one has a right to negotiate away the right of return.

That is not true. In fact, when a people turn to democracy and elect a government, as Palestinians have done twice, the government has a greater right to act above the individual interest and preserve the more important national interest.

The refugees deserve the truth, not more lies. Some may be able to return as a part of a negotiated deal with Israel. The rest will live in a smaller Palestine, compensated by their memories. In order to save Palestine, the bulk of the refugees must accept that reality.

A negotiated Palestine state will be their final homeland. Organizations like al-Awda are well-intentioned but are doing a great national disservice to Palestinians by insisting on the "legal right of return" while irresponsibly ignoring the "reality of the return."

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 April 22, 2005

Friday, April 15, 2005

Racism of Sharansky bigotry clouds peace April 15, 2005

Sharansky Symbolizes Anti-Arab Hatred
Ray Hanania, Creators Syndicate/Arab News (Saudi Arabia)
April 17, 2005

Natan Sharansky is supposed to be responsible for ministerial oversight of Jerusalem. But his real job is to serve as chief character assassin responsible for a vicious campaign of lies intended to undermine Palestinian rights.

Before coming to Israel, Sharansky was the victim of Soviet oppression. He claims he was tortured in the old Soviet campaign of hatred against Jews.

It’s a convenient shield Sharansky often exploits to deflect criticism that he and many of his right-wing Israeli colleagues are engaged in a vicious hate campaign against Palestinians.

While Sharansky often speaks about Palestinian failures in the peace process, he fails to address Israel’s own violations. Israel continues to confiscate Palestinian lands, expand illegal settlements and build the Apartheid Wall that is slowly encircling Palestinian cities.

When the issues do surface, as they did recently in meetings between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Sharansky’s boss, and President Bush, Sharansky’s job is to deflect public attention elsewhere.

For example, Sharansky recently repeated exaggerated claims that Palestinians, as a society, promote anti-Semitism and teach their children hate.

Of course, Palestinians don’t have to teach their children to hate Israel. Israelis teach Palestinians to hate Israel by their own policies.

When Israeli snipers shot and killed three Palestinian children who were playing soccer near an illegal Israeli settlement, Sharansky and others defended the soldiers, asserting that the children were transporting bombs. And of course, we have to take Sharansky’s word, because Israel prohibits neutral third parties from investigating such incidents.

Brushing off the murder of Palestinian children, Sharansky mentions that many maps displayed by Palestinians do not show Israel, as evidence that Palestinians are anti-Semitic.

That may be so. But I have seen many maps displayed by Israelis that do not show Palestine, even as occupied territory. And, Israel continues to assert that Jerusalem is its capital, in clear violation of international law. But what’s the law to a champion of free speech like Sharansky?

When Sharansky talks about free speech, he is referring to the fact that Israelis are free to hate Palestinians, but Palestinians have no right to be angry or to criticize Israel.

Palestinians, Sharansky claims, continue to refer to the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the anti-Semitic fabrications published by the Russian secret police in the early 20th century to blame the Jews for Russia’s troubles. Sharansky doesn’t mention that copies of the Protocols are freely sold in many Western nations, including in many American bookstores, alongside copies of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.”

For every example that Sharansky highlights as evidence of Palestinian anti-Semitism, there are just as many examples of Israelis denying Palestinian rights, history and justice. Many Israelis insist Palestinians “don’t exist.” Others deny Palestinian Christians and Muslims outnumbered Jews significantly* when the UN partition was approved.

Some Palestinians are learning to hate Israelis. But that lesson is not being taught in Palestinian classrooms or by Palestinian parents. It’s taught every day by Israeli soldiers who are rarely held accountable for the taking of innocent Palestinian lives.

The real obstacle to peace is Sharansky and his right-wing colleagues. Sharansky is living proof that a victim of oppression often makes the worst oppressor.

Few Israelis have the courage to speak out against Sharansky. It’s so much easier to blame Palestinians for everything. But that doesn’t contribute to peace. It only makes peace more unlikely.

— Ray Hanania, the former national president of the Palestinian American Congress, is an author and syndicated columnist based in Chicago.

[NOTE: UNSCP Figures for 1947 show 68.5 percent Christian and Muslim Palestinians and 31.5 percent Jewish. But Palestinian representatives have argued the number did not include 200,000 bedouin Arabs roaming the lands, and that Jewish numbers were exaggerated while Palestinian numbers were deflated to help support Zionist claims. But for the point of this column "significantly" is appropriate.]

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Palestinian foreign policy stymied by in-fighting April 12, 2005

Are we a revolution or a government?
April 12, 2005, Arab American Media Services
By Ray Hanania

Are the Palestinian people moving toward government, or are they clinging to the memories of a fading revolution that was more successful?

This is a question that must be answered before Palestinians can activate an American Palestinian movement to help educate Americans about the realities of the Middle East rather than the myths so successfully manufactured by Israel.

Palestinian efforts are stymied by the dual conflicts that continue to exist between the old guard led by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and the new guard of the Palestine National Authority (PNA).

The PLO was founded by individuals who rose to leadership through conflicts that successfully forced the world to recognize the rights of the Palestinian people that were ceased by Israel in 1948 and repressed in 1967.

It is unDemocratic and consists of the old boy’s network of revolutionaries and disciples of the late Yasser Arafat. It’s chief spokesman is Farouk Kadoumi, also known as Abu Lutf, who is super-glued to the post of Foreign Minister.

The PNA, in contrast, is Democratically elected. Arafat was the first elected president and he was been succeeded after his death by Mahmoud Abbas in elections held this past January.

Abbas named Nasser al-Qidwa, an Arafat cousin and the former Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations, as the PNA’s foreign minister in a reshuffle of his cabinet.

Abu Lutf has greater power outside of Palestine, where he has vowed never to step foot while it remains under "Zionist" occupation, while al-Qidwa has free reign in the Palestinian territories where foreign policy is restricted to media reports and public emotion.

While being an articulate and able spokesman of the Palestinian cause, Abu Lutf is ineffective as a foreign minister. The world has only one super power, the United States. And the United States, working closely with Israeli, aggressively manages its foreign policy with respect to Israel.

In an ideal world, Palestine would have an effective foreign policy strategy managed by an ambassador skilled in maneuvering the American political landscape.

But Abu Lutf’s clumsy foreign policy ineffectiveness is driven by the fact the he is marginalized by the United States and Israel. His sole purpose is to protect his post while "lecturing" like a professor without tenure to small groups of Palestinian loyalists in the United States and abroad.

That’s not to say that Abu Lutf is not a Palestinian hero who earned his stripes and medals of honor in the early days when the revolution went head-to-head in combat with Israel and won.

As one of Arafat’s strategists, he deserves much credit for the many victories that were achieved in the 1970s and 1980s.

Although he is sometimes compared to the charismatic and late Palestinian intellectual and writer, Edward Said, Abu Lutf is not nearly his equal. Abu Lutf lacks Said’s charisma and has an even narrower audience that he frequents than the privileged circles that Said would address with his wonderfully stuffy writings that few people other than activists, academics, Palestinians and Israelis ever bothered to read.

Certainly no average Americans who need to hear the Palestinian narrative ever read any of Edward Said’s brilliant but heavily footnoted dissertations. And even few Americans have even heard of Abu Lutf, and that’s not a good thing for any foreign minister.

The problem is that Palestinians have been oppressed so long that they don’t know how to react when given freedom. Instead of using the freedoms that exist in the United States to build and implement an effective foreign policy strategy to win over American support, most Palestinians find themselves doing what comes naturally, expending all their energies to protect their small successes.

In Palestinian politics, crumbs look like cake. Every Palestinian is his own advocate. There are several Palestinian organizations in the United States but not one is effective, has a grass roots constituency essential to building a strategic communications and political movement to change American attitudes.

Rather than support existing institutions and bringing them together as one strong voice, Palestinians spend most of their time undermining each other as if Americans care about the fate of those groups.

The victims of this Palestinian political tragedy are the Palestinians themselves who continue to live under a continued occupation that is brutal and repressive.

They’re helpless to bring the bickering of their American Palestinian activists to an end. Every Palestinian has an untested answer to the challenge but none is capable of acting.

In that disorder, Abu Lutf reigns supreme and Israel remains unfettered in imposing its unilateral decisions confiscating more land, expanding settlements, undermining long term peace and ignoring the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people.

The divisiveness of Palestinian American politics remains unthreatened and thereby ineffective, causing the government of Palestine to be weaker when it should be far stronger. The real foreign minister, al-Qidwa, has a powerless voice.

The only thing Palestinians seem to succeed in is in not succeeding at all.

(Ray Hanania, former National President of the Palestinian American Congress, is an author and syndicated columnist based in Chicago.)


Friday, April 08, 2005

Pope inspired Palestinian peace and rights 4-08-05

Palestinians fondly recall Pope John Paul II
April 8, 2005
By Ray Hanania

The Palestinian cause has received support from many courageous and inspiring world leaders, including Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and many years before them, Mahatma Gandhi.

One of the most inspiring was the support of Pope John Paul II, who died this past week. And he spoke from a powerful moral platform that helped to add backbone to Europe's longstanding support of Palestinian rights and criticism of the excesses of Israel's occupation.

Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian to hold the title in 455 years, elected on Oct 16, 1978. His defense of Palestinian rights held strong resonance especially because his priesthood was driven during the height of the Nazi occupation of Poland where he lost all his family members.

In March of 2000, Pope John Paul II visited Palestine conducting services at the Church of the Nativity. He met many times with the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, and urged a peaceful compromise that recognized the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. During a visit with Arafat, the Pope kissed a bowl of Palestinians oil brought to him by Palestinian children, a powerful symbolic gesture in the eyes of many Arabs who revere the cause of Palestine.

While conducting a two hour mass at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the Pope declared, “No one can ignore how much the Palestinian people have had to suffer in recent decades. Your torment is before the eyes of the world. And it has gone on too long,” the Pope declared. “The Holy See has always recognized that the Palestinian people have the natural right to a homeland, and the right to be able to live in peace and tranquility with the other people of this area.”

He reiterated, “I have repeatedly proclaimed that there would be no end to the sad conflict in the Holy Land without stable guarantees for the rights of all the peoples involved, on the basis of international law and the relevant United Nations resolutions and declarations. Only with a just and lasting peace, not imposed but secured through negotiation, will legitimate Palestinian aspirations be fulfilled.”

Later, he visited the Dheisheh Refugee Camp in Bethlehem to remind the world of the palestinian’s suffering and their Diaspora.

The following year, he became the first Pope to ever enter a Mosque during his visit of peace to Syria. His motivation may have been as much a pilgrimage to an historic Christian religious site in May 2001 when he entered the Umayyed Mosque in Damascus, said to be the site of the grave of Saint John the Baptist.

That was not out of character for Pope John Paul II. He also was the first Pope to visit a synagogue and also the first to visit a Holocaust concentration camp memorial at Auschwitz.

Clearly Pope John Paul’s support of Palestinian rights reflected his personal struggle for the soul of humanity, always on the side of justice and fairness.

Much attention in the Western press has been given to extremist Muslim leaders of al-Qaeda and more mainstream fundamentalists as activist and editor Gamal Sultan of the al-Manar Journal in Egypt, which shares the name of the satellite broadcasts of the Hizbollah terrorist organization.

But despite these few expected voices of extremism, Pope John Paul II’s death has captured the hearts of mainstream Arabs. His funeral has been given unprecedented coverage in more mainstream Arab Media including on Arab satellite stations such as al-Jazeera and al-Arabiyya.

Troubling to me is the absence of a champion who will succeed the Pope and who has the Pope’s stature. Will the next Pope take up the Palestinian cause which more and more is identified as a Muslim cause and as the numbers of Palestinian Christians continue to dwindle?

If the new Pope is from the Third World, the answer maybe yes. If more Western – although pundits have ruled out a successor who is American – the political weight of the Vatican might shift significantly.


Campaign against Arab professors stumbles with study, April 8, 2005

Charges of anti-Semitism at colleges unfounded
Creators Syndicate April 15, 2005
By Ray Hanania

Much has been written about charges that professors who support Palestinian rights have engaged in anti-Semitism against students who support Israel.

When I was a student at the University of Illinois, we complained that pro-Israel professors constantly discriminated against us because we were Palestinian. No one cared or examined our complaints.

Now the shoe is on the other foot and pro-Israel students complain that pro-Arab professors are discriminating against them.

One case involves Columbia University in New York, home to the late Professor Edward Said. Said was an articulate and brilliant literary genius whose defense of Palestinians defined the war of wars that continues between extremists on both sides of the conflict.

He has been succeeded by former University of Chicago Professor Rashid Khalidi who is an author but not nearly as articulate or charismatic as Said. He is a decent advocate, who like Said, has his own political bend that not all Palestinians support.

But it was the actions of another professor, Joseph Massad, who lecyures at Palestinian events around the country, who drew the most concern. The incident involved his alleged reaction to one of his students who asked if it is true that before striking out at militant Palestinian targets in civilian neighborhoods, Israel issues warnings.

Instead of saying no, that it is not true at all, Massad reportedly exploded in anger and threatened to throw the student out of his classroom. (Massad denied the incident took place.) It is a classic example of why people with short fuses should never be put in charge of classrooms or why it’s wrong to ascribe extremist behavior to all Palestinians or Israelis, for that matter.

Last week, Columbia released its report on allegations by pro-Israel students that professors supporting the Palestinian cause had discriminated against them to the point of being anti-Semitic.

The findings show none of the incidents investigated by a special committee (which included pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli professors) involved anti-Semitism. The charges were false.The report notes the incident involving Massad, but identified another issue not addressed in the complaint regarding pro-Israel students who harassed and disrupted pro-Arab professors.

The report goes into detail about the broader "environment of incivility" on campus with pro-Israel students "disrupting lectures" on Middle Eastern studies and some teachers claimed they were "spied on."

When I was a Circle Campus student, the school newspaper always covered pro-Israeli events and never covered pro-Palestinian events. That prompted me to become a journalist and working for the Illini where my battles over the discrimination with editors was never-ending.

Circle always worked with pro-Israel students to provide funding for their speakers, but rarely approved honorariums for pro-Palestinian speakers. They even routinely refused to give us classrooms to hold our events.

Finally, I remember being in an Arabic language class taught by a Jewish Arab teacher whose final exam asked us to precisely translate three sentences, or face getting a failing grade missing only one.

The sentence that no Palestinian could ever translate let alone utter read, "Jerusalem is the capital of Israel."

It was, we felt, a clever way to flunk pro-Palestinian students from the class.

Our complaints to the university went unheard and unanswered. Although today’s pro-Israel students can get someone to care about their complaints, that’s more than we ever got.

American Palestinians and Jews should be permitted to openly discuss the Middle East conflict from their perspectives and without fear of being labeled as racist or anti-Semitic.

Although examples of anti-Arab racism are present in many pro-Israel lectures and events, and examples of anti-Semitism are present in many pro-Palestinian events, the majority of speech at both reflect justified criticism.

In order to achieve Middle East peace, Palestinians and Israelis might have to take a stand and stop the pendulum from swinging in either direction. Rather than censor everyone, we should instead listen to the criticism with open hearts and open minds on both sides.

That is exactly the kind of education that students at American universities and colleges should receive.


Friday, April 01, 2005

Second conviction of Maynulet offers more hope, April 1, 2005

Arab World can find some hope in American justice
April 1, 2005
By Ray Hanania
American justice manages to prevail even despite itself, and that might open the door to Democracy in the Middle East.
This week, a military court convicted a 30-year old US Army Tank Commander from Chicago, Capt. Rogelio Maynulet, of murdering a wounded Iraqi prisoner last year.
Maynulet claimed he killed the prisoner to "put him out of his misery." He was convicted of a lesser charge of "assault with intent to commit voluntary manslaughter" which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years, half what he deserved under tougher, more deserving charges.
Despite the leniency of our system to our own soldiers engaged in such crimes, people in the Middle East should see the conviction as a glimmer of hope.
In the face of the brutal manner in which Americans abuse, torture and even kill prisoners at Abu Gharib, Guantanamo and in conflicts around the globe, Arabs hope America will someday become the Democracy it seeks to impose elsewhere.
Arabs know their governments abuse civil rights. They know the Muslim World mistreats women. They know the Muslim World is governed by tyrants cloaked in religious fervor that promote ignorance as a societal tranquilizer.
But we, in America, pretend everything is perfect here when it’s really not. Before Americans preach to the Arab or Muslim Worlds about Democracy, shouldn’t we practice it first?
How about truly freeing American women from the institutional discrimination that continues to deny women their full rights?
Wouldn’t it be nice if America really eliminated racism in our cities and schools and in the way we fight crime, rather than accepting a status quo where the primary victims of abuse are African Americans?
How about doing more than pretend we mean what we say when our leaders denounce post-Sept. 11 violence against Arab Americans?
Since Sept. 11, more than 14 people "who looked" Middle Eastern were the victims of hate crimes, yet those crimes have never been recognized as hate crimes and were treated as "isolated" incidents of murder where the victim happened to be different and the killer happened to utter racist threats in the killings.
All this talk about bringing Democracy to the Middle East is encouraging, but how about bringing Democracy to the American media first, the place where the message begins and drives American attitudes.
The truth is most Americans don’t spend a lot of time understanding the complex realities of the Middle East. They have no idea what is really accurate history or what even is fair. What they do know is what they see in hundreds of Hollywood movies that portray Arabs in a vicious and racist manner, or from popular fiction like Exodus which is built on the compost of anti-Arab hatred.
The conviction of Maynulet and the few others who have been charged since the illegal Iraq war began is a good start toward sending the right messages about Democracy to the Middle East.
How much more torture at Abu Gharib has been covered up? How many Iraqi civilians have been murdered in Iraq that our media doesn’t report but that the Arab media reports constantly?
But Americans still have a long and difficult way to go.
If there is one real character in being an American, it’s that we rarely ever admit that we are wrong, even when it’s so apparent to others.