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.


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

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.


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


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.


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.