Friday, January 06, 2006

Fundamentalists of all religiouns threaten Middle East peace Jan. 6, 2006

Christian fundamentalism drives American extremism and racism

Arab American Media Syndicate, Jan. 6, 2006
Permission granted to republish

By Ray Hanania

Imagine, Israelis are outraged with the anti-Semitic comments of their frequent ally, Christian Fundamentalist Pat Robertson.

As he and other Christian fundamentalist demagogues have done in the past, Robertson has offended Jews. He said that the brain hemorrhage of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is God’s punishment for "dividing" the land of Israel and compromising with the Palestinians.

He said the same about Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was murdered by an Israeli extremist. And he continues to blast all those who urge compromise and non-violence as a basis for a Middle East peace accord.

Robertson is typical of American racists who exploit the Arab-Israeli conflict for personal gain. Their support sustains American foreign policy and conservative leaders like President Bush.

In reality, Robertson and the Christian fundamentalists are worse than the Islamic extremists that they, Bush and other American conservatives constantly attack.

Robertson is a Christian Ayatollah. His equivalent of suicide bombing is his "suicide bombast." I am certain that if Christian Fundamentalists in America were to ever find themselves in the same situation as the Palestinians, for example, they would defend suicide bombing as a "justified" form of combat.

Israelis know that Robertson and the Christian fundamentalists are a double-edged scimitar.

I watched one Israeli spokesman on CNN hem and haw in shock when confronted with Robertson’s comments. Instead of denouncing Robertson, the spokesman distracted the issue to inflaming the hatred of Iran’s president who often spouts anti-Semitic and anti-Christian comments.

To extremist Israelis, they, too, exploit Christian Fundamentalism to strengthen their own ideological goals. The dirty, ugly secret of Israel’s embrace of the Christian Evangelical movement is that deep down, they know that Christian Evangelicals and Fundamentalists are in fact more anti-Semitic than the Iranians, and may be the most anti-Semitic people on Earth.

Christian fundamentalism is built on a latent hatred of Jews. But they are not beyond exploiting Biblical prophecy to drive their own money machines, disguised as Christian Ministries. They downplay their anti-Semitism and exploit the tragedy of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Christian fundamentalists like Robertson believe Jesus cannot return to cast judgment on humanity until Israel is established and the Jewish Temple is rebuilt in Jerusalem.

But the core of the Evangelical movement is the belief that all non-believers, including Muslims, moderate Christians and especially Jews will be dispatched to an eternity of hellfire on that Judgment Day.

Ironically, most moderate Christians who wince at the outrageous comments of Christian fundamentalists like Robertson and others tend to ignore these anomalies and contradictions to true Christian belief.

Moderate Christians believe that all people who believe in the One God, be they Christian, Muslims or Jews, will go to Heaven. Fundamentalist Christians, however, believe that only those who embrace their interpretation of religion will go to Heaven.

It is an uncomfortable reflection of the core beliefs of extremist Muslims, too, who believe that those who do not embrace Islam will also burn in hell. That includes all Christians, all Jews and even secular Muslims.

Christians constantly criticize this Islamic view, but their silence on the ignorance of Robertson and other Christian Evangelical Ayatollahs is deafening. Their silence is the real sin, the true violation of Christian belief.

While Robertson preaches his disguised hatred in the United States, Christians who are suffering in Palestine, the Holy Land, never attract his support.

As far as Robertson is concerned, Palestinian Christians are no different from the Jews, except in terms of how they may be exploited. There is no benefit to Robertson and his Christian Evangelical Ayatollahs in defending the rights of Holy Land Christians. That’s why they sacrifice them on the altar of their own selfish fundamentalist cause.

The Jews, on the other hand, offer Robertson and the other Grand Muftis of the Christian fundamentalist movement a political opportunity to feed their supporters.

Christian Fundamentalists need the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in order to build their flock of blind sheep. They do not want a Middle East peace. Everything they do is designed to prevent peace, including pressuring American administrations to pursue one-sided foreign policies that aggravate rather than resolve the Middle East conflict.

Although the Christian Evangelists claim to pray for Judgment Day, they are the ones who should fear it most.

Like all tyrants, demagogues and dictators, Christian fundamentalists do not practice what they preach. They don’t believe God will really come down to judge mankind.

But they do know that the fear of that Judgment Day allows them to easily control their followers and, more importantly, to fill their pockets with money and accumulate power.

Regardless of which religious book they carry, the Torah, the Bible or the Qur’an, fundamentalists of all three religions threaten the future peace.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American columnist and former national president of the Palestinian American Congress. A Christian, Hanania can be reached at


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The future without Ariel Sharon Jan. 4, 2006

A future without Ariel Sharon
Arab American Media Syndicate, Jan. 4, 2006
By Ray Hanania

Whether or not Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon survives his most recent stroke may not matter to the future of Palestinian-Israeli relations.

Someone else will probably take over the reigns of Israeli politics and they might not be able to continue with Sharon's vision.

Sharon’s demise from politics, and possible death, would be very inopportune not just for Israelis, but for Palestinians, too.

The secular Palestinian leadership today face two battles. The first is the endless conflict with Israel and their inability to force concessions from Israel to result in an acceptable compromise Palestinian State that includes a contiguous West Bank land mass and sovereignty in East Jerusalem at its heart.

But the second is more serious as secular Palestinian leaders find themselves in a greater struggle today against the growing Islamic militant movement.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is not as strong nor is he as popular as his predecessor, the late President Yasser Arafat. Although disliked by Israelis, Arafat had the power to restrain Hamas and prevent the religious movement from overpowering his own Fatah organization.

In his final years, Arafat’s powers weakened. A Fatah militant splinter group, the al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, joined rival Hamas in embracing religious fundamentalism and suicide bombings against Israel.

Palestinians will not show as much sympathy for Sharon’s personal tragedies as they did for Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin a decade ago. But Sharon’s unilateral moves may have offered secular Palestinians their only immediate way out of mounting political troubles.

Sharon planned to impose his own vision of a peace plan, unilaterally. Though not to the liking of the Palestinians, they could have lived with it. Sharon's peace would have allowed Abbas to refocus on restoring secular authority in the face of the growing popularity of Hamas.

Sharon is the odd couple partner to peace. A military man all his life, to Palestinians, his legacy is stained with much blood dating back to his days as a border unit commander in the 1950s. A longtime hardliner and a Godfather of the Israeli settler movement.

But in recent years, Sharon seemed to mellow. Maybe it was old age. Sharon saw a chance to define his legacy as a man of peace. Or, maybe Sharon came to accept the popular notion of Israeli military colleagues that there is no military solution to the conflict.

Any and all of those reasons may have prompted him to change.

Sharon helped hurry the collapse of bilateral peace negotiations with the Palestinians in 2000 standing under the shadow of the al-Aqsa Mosque and prompting Palestinians into a second, more religiously defined Intifada.

As an alternative to peace, Sharon build the Wall, a concrete, razor-wire and fence barrier built on occupied Palestinian lands in the West Bank. Although at first, Israelis insisted the it was temporary, most now accept that Sharon’s Wall will define the boundaries separating Israel from a Palestinian State, a state most Israelis accept as inevitable.

With Arafat out of the way, and no equivalent charismatic Palestinian successor who shared the power Arafat once enjoyed, Sharon was free to take even more dramatic steps. Sharon withdrew Israeli soldiers, dismantled 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip and also four smaller settlements in the Northern West Bank. Sharon made it clear he would close more settlements and withdraw from much of the West Bank, too.

Although Sharon’s definition of a Palestinian State is far short of what Ehud Barak reportedly offered Arafat in the final days of the peace process, it would have given Abbas and other secular Palestinians the opportunity to shift their focus away from Israel and toward their real threat, Hamas.

For many years, Hamas has always been the wild card in Palestinian-Israeli relations.

Whenever Palestinians and Israelis appeared to achieve a peace agreement that might lead to more peace, Hamas stepped in with violence and in 1994, suicide bombings. As the bombings increased, Israeli public opinion against the Palestinians hardened.

Arafat could not stop Hamas, but he could keep Palestinians from rallying around the terrorist organization's ranks. During most of the ARafat years, Hamas influence was restricted to certain areas of Gaza. That quickly changed following Arafat's death and Hamas popularity has grown not only on the street but also at the election booth.

Many Palestinians will cheer Sharon’s demise, in much the same way that Israelis rejoiced in Arafat’s death. But in the end, Israelis may find themselves in the same situation as Palestinian’s after Arafat’s death.

It is possible that no other Israeli successor will enjoy the same power or popularity that Sharon enjoyed, and that may empower his foes to block further withdrawals.

Abbas faces a more difficult struggle with Hamas that will further paralyze his administration and further weaken support for compromise with Israel.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American columnist and author. He can be reached at


The tragedy of the New Year and the Arab-Israeli conflict

New Year always promises more grief, not good news
Arab American Media Syndicate Jan. 2, 2006
By Ray Hanania

Some people see the New Year as an opportunity to start again. But I think it is the worst time of the year for most people.

First, there is a clear recurring pattern that takes shape.

At the end of the year, we are pushed by businesses and by the media to spend money. Lots of money. On gifts and on cleverly marketed "end-of-year sales."

On top of all that, most people tend to celebrate the end of the year holidays by eating. Americans, especially. We gorge ourselves with food. We consume food at a record pace. And it’s all junk food, too. More junk food is eaten at the end of the year than at the beginning.

And then, the New Year’s Eve arrives. Happy New Year! Auld Lang Syne (Old Long Ago). Celebrations. Hope. Cheer. So, we make New Year’s resolutions, only to break them in the aftermath of the New Year’s binge.

Most New Year’s resolutions are broken. For good reason. Most people promise to do things that common sense normally begs us to do all year, but we don’t. We make them to feel good. Not that we expect to fulfill them.

Sometime in the middle of January, all that good cheer and optimism comes back to haunt us. It hits us like a brick, or maybe like a stone, depoending on where you live.

Hangovers. Indigestion. Weight gain. Record setting personal debt. Most New Year’s resolutions are about losing weight and saving money.

January is also one of the coldest months of the year for many. Cold only adds to our misery.

Diets and debts make people angry. But the New Year piles on all kinds of other, unresolved challenges. In reality, at the beginning of the New Year, people are angrier, meaner, grumpier and out to punish someone. Anyone.

And nowhere are those unresolved challenges more imposing than in the Middle East, between Palestinians and Israelis are always looking to blame someone else for their troubles.

Take the Palestinians, please!

Why would the Palestinians hold elections in January?

American’s hold their primary or political party elections at the end of February (local offices) and in April (national offices.) But the big American elections are always in the Fall, in November. That’s because some genius political consultant recognized a long time ago that people are happier BEFORE the holidays start, not after.

I know Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wants a good excuse to delay the January 25 elections. The terrorist organization Hamas, which is feeding on extremist Israeli policies, is threatening to gain power as each new election is held. Abbas’ own political group, Fatah, is divided between the greed of the older generation and the greed of the younger generation.

There are a lot of big Mercedes at stake, and contracts and jobs that fat-cat Fatah activists could give to their relatives if they win office.

Abbas doesn’t get very good public relations advice. He has a lot of freelance spokespeople who go around the country telling us why things don’t work, but they never offer solutions on how they can make things better. My favorites are former "Legal Advisers" Diana Bhutto and Michael Tarazi.

Well, instead of delaying the elections in order to hold on to power by blaming Hamas, Abbas should just blame the negative New Year trend. Have elections in the summer when people are happier – which is a relative word, but still in a better mood than they would be in January.

Angry voters vote against things. Happy voters vote for things.

And then there is, as the American’s say, "the 300 pound gorilla" of Israeli politics, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Clearly, it was a big, happy end-of-the-year meal that moved Sharon to act out his melodramatic political adventures.

He broke from the Likud Party and launched a new one called Kadima. The names of the party don’t really matter. They could have been named "Your Marbles" or "My Marbles." But I don’t blame Sharon for leaving Likud.

Who wants to be partners Benjamin Netanyahu, the only Israeli leader who is grumpy all year round, not just at the beginning of the New Year?

Good move, Ari. But you should have done it after the New Year, not before. Israelis are people, too. They are going to be angry, and one mistake on your part and they’ll jump all over you.
Sharon has better PR people. They know how to spin good and bad news to make it all better. Of course, they always look great against the always terrible public relations failures of the Palestinians.

Arabs hate Sharon for many reasons. But I think Sharon’s biggest problem is his lifelong difficulty with managing his weight. He eats too much.

People who eat a lot usually have personal problems or are haunted by ghosts and memories of bad things.

Sure enough, just as he was stuffing himself this Hanukkah, he had a stroke. Israeli doctors found a small hole in Sharon’s heart and they ordered Sharon on a diet. (There was a rumor going around that Netanyahu was sending Sharon eight fat Turkeys for each day of Hanukkah.)

Like a diet’s really going to make a difference for Sharon. Sharon hasn’t been the best partner for peace with the Palestinians and it’s not going to get better. People on diets are the grumpiest people around.

Of course, the positive side of Sharon’s problems is that Israeli doctors discovered that Sharon really does have a heart.

But Palestinians will just say that’s more Zionist propaganda.

Happy secular New Year.