Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Yalla Peace: Is this what Israel has to offer?

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Yalla Peace: Is this what Israel has to offer?

Lieberman’s ideas fall right into the hands of Palestinian extremists.

It seems the controversies and pain in Palestinian- Israeli relations never end. It’s enough to make people even more despondent about the possibility of peace and turn toward extremism, not as a solution but rather as a means of either defending one’s sense of being right or to justify the unjustifiable.

Israel is in that position today in part because it allows the conflict to worsen. There’s no real progress.

Little by little, though, Israel is becoming isolated in the world. And worse, more and more Americans are starting to recognize that it is as much a part of the problem as the Palestinians.

So what can Israelis do? Well, they can turn to people like Avigdor Lieberman, a politician often shrugged off as representing far right-wing extremism. But he’s not just any politician. He is the foreign minister, though far from the stature of a man like Abba Eban, the former South African-born statesman who became Israel’s most eloquent spokesperson. And Lieberman is also deputy prime minister under Binyamin Netanyahu. As wild as they are, his ideas cannot just be brushed aside.

Last week, Lieberman, unveiled his blueprint for peace in an op-ed in The Jerusalem Post. He chose this Englishlanguage publication as a clear sign he is trying to speak to the American public – and a clearer sign that he realizes that attitudes toward Israel are changing fast, with which I agree.

The failure of the peace process is falling on Israel’s shoulders. Netanyahu won’t fully freeze settlement expansion, continues to insist that Jerusalem cannot be shared, and uses disturbing policies meant to restrict non-Jewish life there.

In the face of these policies, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been left with little choice but to reject negotiations, including the ridiculous process of negotiations at a distance called proximity talks. Lieberman, with the backing of some of the Israeli public, represents a frightening future for those who believe two states and compromise are possible.

In the Lieberman blueprint, instead of swapping land for peace, Israel would draw new borders, kind of trying to redo the 1947 UN partition plan which divided Mandatory Palestine into two criss-crossing states whose borders were based mainly on where most of the Jewish population was located. Lieberman’s idea is basically a repeat of the idea that some suggest caused the problem in the first place.

Lieberman also says he wants most if not all of Israel’s Arab citizens to be drawn out of Israel so that the “Jewish state” can really be all Jewish. Israelis fear that the non-Jewish population might one day exceed the Jewish population and while the fear is exaggerated, Lieberman’s idea falls right into the hands of the Palestinian extremists who are calling for the creation of one state in which Jews, Christians and Muslims – well, basically Israelis and Palestinians, since there are so few Christian Palestinians left – would simply come together and live in peace.

THINGS MUST really be bad for Lieberman to take his ideas into the English forum. Yet this will only serve to push more and more Americans to recognize that the conflict is not being resolved and Israelis and the Palestinians are headed toward an even more cataclysmic future, one that Americans will probably have to pay for.

There is a choice, though. Israelis could push their government to do the right thing. Instead of Lieberman’s blueprint, Israelis could rethink the proposals Ehud Barak supposedly offered during the failed non-face-toface peace talks with Yasser Arafat. The “best offer” was far from great and all it lacked was just a little more creative compassion to work. Share Jerusalem. More importantly, Israelis could overcome the obstacle that made Barak’s offer impossible for Arafat to accept by recognizing and addressing fairly the rights of the Palestinian refugees.

But that option is missing one ingredient. A leader with courage. Someone like, well, the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. In 1977, Sadat did something so dramatic that he singlehandedly changed the dynamics of the Middle East conflict.

Is there a Sadat in Israel today? Or are leaders like Netanyahu and Lieberman all Israel has to offer? A courageous leader must surface, someone who can do the unthinkable to preserve Israel and make peace a reality.

A new era of cooperation could eliminate all of the conflict and one day we all may look back at today and wonder how this insanity all came to be.

The writer is an award- winning columnist and Chicago radio talk show host. www.YallaPeace.com

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Jerusalem Post Column, Yalla Peace: Palestinians need to look forward, not backward

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Palestinians need to look forward, not backward

The construction of what is called the first ‘Palestinian settlement’ in the West Bank – Rawabi – is exactly the sort of thing we should be doing more of to build Palestine.

Qatar is unlike many of the other Arab countries that support the Palestinians.

Instead of donating lip-service and writing checks to be used in conflict, it has invested heavily in a project with a Palestinian construction company to build a new city in the West Bank called Rawabi.

The Palestinians should be focused on doing more of this; building Palestine, and switching gears from the confrontation-style politics of Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran and a lot of other losers who love to exploit Palestinian suffering.

Even Turkey might consider putting a cork in its rhetoric.

The confrontation politics of the past was a zero-sum game that achieved very little. In terms of Palestinian interests, it’s a step backward, not forward, to keep fighting with Israel. Instead of confronting Israel at every corner, Palestinians should spend at least some of their efforts building their country and strengthening not only its economy but national pride.

Building Palestinian cities in the West Bank is just one way to do this.

If Hamas had any real leaders instead of the modern-day bombastic Nassers it has now, they’d spend more time trying to lure Arab world development into the Gaza Strip to build rather than spending all their time with their confrontational go-nowhere rhetoric that helped empower Israel’s stranglehold on the Gaza Strip.

We really do need to start building more cities in Palestine, mainly for the day when the refugees will be able to walk out of their camps. We need to give them a quality of life alternative to the sad existence sustained by the charity of the outside world.

Not that the outside world doesn’t owe Palestinians a lot. It does.

Rawabi is a brilliant vision of what Palestinian life can be after confrontation with Israel. Palestine can be a better country. It can be the economic hub of the Middle East.

Palestine, in peace, can offer the region far more than as a constant antagonist.

Of course, that means the activists need to stop exploiting Palestinian suffering for their own needs, too.

But mainly, Palestinians need to stop listening to the no-future activists who promise only confrontation.

Rather than flotillas, Palestine needs more Rawabis, places where Palestinian pride can defeat Israeli occupation. Rawabi would be the first modern, planned Palestinian city – a step that officials say will help build an independent state – located about 30 kilometers north of Jerusalem. It’s modeled on the typical US suburb.

THE BIGGEST problem is Israel. Israel has been dragging its feet on giving approval for an access road. The Israelis keep saying how much they want peace and how much they want Palestinians to focus on rebuilding Palestine, but while Israel “talks the talk,” it doesn’t “walks the walk.”

The $700 million Rawabi project is funded by the Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Co. and the Ramallahbased Massar International.

Mortgage loans would be managed by the US Overseas Private Investment Corp., an investment arm of the US government.

The company began pouring foundations this year and anticipates that the first families will be able to move in by 2013.

But without an access road, residents would have to do the “Palestinian-Israeli shuffle” used to navigate Israel’s checkpoints and road access restrictions, traveling through narrow winding roads, including on two miles of West Bank land controlled by Israel. Rawabi is located in Area A, which is controlled by the Palestinians. The road access it needs is in Area C, controlled by the Israeli military, and on the ground, by settlers who continue to protest, angry that foreign dollars for settlement construction in the West Bank are going to Palestinians.

Palestinians will continue to have to put up with the warped views of Israeli writers like Yoaz Hendel, who recently wrote in the op-ed “Anti- Jewish apartheid” for Ynet, rather inaccurately, “We [Israelis] got used to the world referring to the war against Palestinian terrorism as apartheid, we got so used to being guilty, to the point of failing to notice that the construction apartheid is happening to be directed against us. The Arabs are allowed to buy homes anywhere, while the Jews are not. The Arabs are allowed to build, expand and engage in familyreunification.

The Jews are forbidden.”

No Yoaz, Palestinians are not permitted to live or build anywhere.

Take a trip to my land, for example, next to Gilo: 34 dunams that Israel has frozen so non-Jews cannot build there; land located in the West Bank annexed by Israel on the Israeli side of the wall. Yet Yoaz says it is hypocritical for Palestinians to criticize the settlers, who build Jewish-only settlements while the Palestinians build cities like Rawabi, which presumably is for Palestinians only.

Well, Yoaz, the fact is that the settlers are not building homes in Israel. They are building them in the West Bank. The true comparison would be if Rawabi were being built next to Haifa, for Palestinians only.

Of course, that’s a small detail that right-wing Israelis love to ignore.

But if Palestinians are going to move forward, we’ll need to ignore the ranting and self-righteous lamentations from both the Israeli and Arab sides.

Build more Rawabis. And in the process of building Palestine, we must find time to negotiate a genuine peace agreement.

The writer is an award-winning columnist and Chicago radio talk show host. www.YallaPeace.com

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Yalla Peace: Out with the old (system)

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Jerusalem Post: Yalla Peace: Out with the old (system)

To survive, Palestinians needs an election system that will result in true representation, rather than the failed one that has sputtered on and off.

Parliamentary systems do not really work in the Arab world. It definitely doesn’t work in Palestine, where coalitions are hard to establish and people vote not on the basis of issues but on ethnicity, religion, tribes and clans.

To survive, Palestinians need a real election system that will result in true representation by the people and for the people, rather than the failed system that has sputtered on and off since 2003.

There is nothing successful about any of the elections in Palestine, from the 2005 municipal and presidential elections to the 2006 legislative elections. International observers like former president Jimmy Carter can claim they were fair, but they are talking about the casting of the votes, not about the process of the election itself.

In fact, the history of Palestinian elections is one mess followed by another, with a minority of voters controlling the government. The 2005 municipal elections were supposed to be completed over several election dates. Voters were to select from two ballots, one a list of parties, the other a list of individual candidates. The election cycle was never completed.

Mahmoud Abbas was elected president in that same process on January 9, 2005, with 62 percent of the vote. But despite the majority, the system was unfair. State run media coverage was denied to his challengers.

After Abbas’s election, Hamas continued to act as a shadow government, engaging in foreign policy and suicide missions against Israel to further destroy the ailing peace process.

Built on the failed municipal elections, the legislative elections went ahead anyway on January 25, 2006.

A real election results when the majority of the voters chooses its leadership. That’s not what happened. Hamas won the election but never won a majority of the votes.

Hamas won 76 of the 132 parliamentary seats with Fatah winning only 43 seats, later increasing to 45. The remaining seats were won by smaller splinter groups which were less coalitions and more parties set up by individuals who had no real grassroots support.

The voting system was confusing. People voted on two ballots, again to select a “party” and then to select individuals. It was intentionally confusing, I think, because the powers that be wanted to undermine Hamas and strengthen Fatah. That backfired.

Hamas won a majority of parliament’s seats, but again, it only won 44 percent of the votes cast on the party lists. More than 50,000 of the 1.1 million votes cast were thrown out. Hamas candidates also only won 41% of the votes on the individual lists, while Fatah candidates won 37%.

Instead of embracing the peace process that brought the elections, jubilant Hamas leaders immediately declared their intention to undermine the peace process. That should not have been surprising as Hamas, and the left-wing rejectionist groups like the Jabha and extremist activists in the West, spent most of the prior 13 years using suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks to block peace.

PRIOR TO the election and the expansion of the parliament from 88 to 132 seats, Fatah held a solid majority, 68 of the original 88 seats. What went wrong? Well, Fatah had the votes. But while Hamas offered no choices, Fatah offered too many choices. That divided its base. Long time Fatah leaders were engaged in an internal battle with young rebels who sought to change the leadership of the party. That should have been decided outside of the election, not during the election.

Rather than challenge the corrupt election system, the ruling Palestinian leadership, including Ahmed Qurei, who was appointed prime minister in 2003, too quickly accepted its fate.

What Palestine needs is a Western-style democratic system where elections are held in two distinct rounds of voting. The first vote represents the process by which party supporters decide who will be their candidates. In the West, that is called a “primary” election.

The winners of the primaries then become the candidates who run for office in the final round, called the general election. Only when a candidate wins more than 50% of the votes cast in a general election is that candidate declared the winner.

Because this election process was flawed and there was no clear majority, Palestine was destined for turmoil. Abbas was supposed to run for reelection in 2009 but that never happened because of the Hamas “victory.” In response, the PLO suspended elections and extended Abbas’s term in office. Israel responded by imprisoning many in the Hamas government. Rather than weaken Hamas, Israel’s policies empowered it even more.

Recently, elections have been again delayed, but without offering a real alternative. That only makes matters worse. Instead of simply delaying the elections, Abbas should reconstitute the election system. Throw out the parliamentary system. Replace it with a primary-general election process. Require that every office holder be elected by a majority of votes cast. Replace the office of prime minister with a vice president and keep the power in the hands of the president.

In the event that there are more than two parties in an election and more than two candidates, then if no one gets more than 50% of the vote, then the two highest vote-getters would run-off with the winner taking the majority.

Without a new election system, there can be no democracy in Palestine. The turmoil of the failed elections in 2005 and 2006 will continue to undermine Palestinian democracy and prevent the nation from emerging as a whole.

The collapse of secular government in Palestine is not only Israel’s biggest concern, it will also be a nightmare for the Palestinians.

The writer is an award-winning Palestinian columnist. He can be reached at www.YallaPeace.com and rghanania@gmail.com

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Wanted: Israeli strategic long-term thinking

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Wanted: Israeli strategic long-term thinking

At the rate it’s going, Israel will eventually help Hamas
become one of the most formidable political forces in the region.

Israel’s botched handling of the seizure of the Mavi Marmara seeking to break the Gaza blockade isn’t the first time a government in Israel has messed up. The Israelis actually have a long and consistent record of missing opportunities to avoid conflict.

Just look at the record of bad decisions.

In the 1970s, to avoid peace talks with the PLO and Yasser Arafat, Israel’s leaders developed a scheme to create an Islamic alternative. They provided support to the Islamic Association, headed by Sheik Ahmed Yassin, whom the Israelis killed in a targeted assassination in 2004.

That scheme allowed Yassin and his Gaza-based organization to launch Hamas in 1989 at the start of the first intifada. Although Israel did not “create” Hamas as some claim, Israel’s mess ups helped midwife Hamas.

Big mistake.

When Yasser Arafat’s peace partner, Yitzhak Rabin, was murdered by an extremist Jew, instead of using the tragedy to undermine Israeli extremism, the government spiraled toward a policy of blaming the Palestinians for all peace failures. Voters responded by electing leaders who opposed Rabin’s peace vision, wrongly believing that a “tough” leader – I call it the Menachem Begin factor – would bring peace.

Instead of reinforcing peace, tough policies once again reinforced extremism and further weakened peace.

WHEN THE Israelis finally decided to consider returning lands seized in 1967, instead of making the right choice for peace, Israel’s “tough” leaders made the politically expedient choice, withdrawing their troops – and citizens – from Gaza in 2005 unilaterally.

Again, Israel’s policies strengthened Hamas and made it look like a hero to a people besieged by military occupation and frustrated by the start-and-stop failures of peace.

This was a mistake that crowned Hamas as the movement to defeat Israel’s 1967 occupation policies.

And just as these failed policies reinforced a slow and steady movement of Palestinians toward religious extremism and Hamas, it also created a growing intransigence among Israeli voters who, instead of voting for new, fresh or creative leadership, always voted instead to chose the “tough” leader. The one they hoped would beat down Palestinian nationalism and allow them to believe they could make peace with no substantive concessions on land.

When President Barack Obama spoke about the need to recognize the needs of “both sides” in a speech one year ago designed to reinforce moderation in the Arab and Muslim world, Israelis, seemingly unfamiliar with balanced arbiters, took the comments personally and did everything they could to undermine his policies using their political allies who control both houses of the US Congress.

And when Obama sought to kick-start the peace process by bringing Palestinians and Israelis from the battlefield to the negotiating table, Israel’s government (some of the same who were involved in the 1970s decision to support Yassin’s Islamic Association) couldn’t even stand up to the public pressure to freeze settlement expansion without damaging the “special relationship” with the US.

And now there is the disastrous naval response to the bunch of “activists” who might have sailed into distant memory but are now being hailed around the world as leaders of Middle East civil rights, deflecting attention from Hamas, highlighting the nature of Israel’s blockade against 1.5 million civilians and shattering the already precarious relations with its only real ally in the Middle East, Turkey.

If these policy decisions were intentionally designed to undermine peace and Israel’s standing in the world, I would call the tactics brilliant. But the truth is each and every failure is the result of government policy gone wrong, reinforced by an Israeli public that lives in denial.

At this rate, Israel will eventually help Hamas become one of the most dominant and formidable political forces in the region, the other being Hizbullah.

Of course, Israeli voters might wake up from their hallucinations about their future based on an iron-fist policy and withdraw completely from the West Bank to, for the first time, do something to support the only alternative to Hamas, the secular and anemic Palestinian Authority.

But then, that would require some strategic long-term thinking and that’s not something Israel has a good record of.

The writer is an award-winning Palestinian-American columnist. www.YallaPeace.com

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The lynching of American Arab journalist Helen Thomas

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The lynching of American Arab journalist Helen Thomas
By Ray Hanania

Helen Thomas has survived attacks from every president of the United States, from Eisenhower to Obama, but alas, the champion of Middle East truth could not stand up to this country’s fanatically pro-Israeli media and movement.

It was an amazing display of what Israel and its power players consider important in this world.

They didn’t hesitate to destroy Thomas’ outstanding career in journalism over a few exaggerated comments she made – Abe Foxman the bigoted head of the Anti-Defamation League celebrated in total rapture when he heard the news that Thomas had resigned.

I mean, she’ll turn 90 years old in August.

Yet the same legion of verbal stone-throwers who pilloried Thomas remained defiant in the face of criticism of Israel’s military murder of nine civilians aboard several boats in international waters that were trying to bring food and medicine to the 1.5 million besieged Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s defenders like Elliott Abrams have tossed in the word “Lynch mob” to define criticism of Israel over the Gaza flotilla massacre. But the truth is the phrase is more appropriate for what has happened to Helen Thomas. It is supporters of Israel who are doing the lynching, this time stringing up an 89 year old little old lady on a tree of hypocrisy under which Israel can do no wrong and on the basis of words of criticism of Israel that have been wildly distorted and taken out of context.

And Helen Thomas’ comments were clearly taken out of context and distorted into an ugly mass of anti-Semitism.

What perfect timing, 11 days after the fact in the eye of a storm of criticism over Israel’s killing of nine civilians including one American whose death drew hardly a whimper of shock from other Americans or the mainstream news media. Not even as much as a whimper of indignation from the American Congress or media that screams when someone criticizes Israel as they line up to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions from AIPAC related PACs,

Truth is on the side of Helen Thomas, and here is what she said. The “interview” took place on May 27 at a Jewish Heritage Celebration at the White House – I wonder how many Palestinian Heritage Celebrations the White House has hosted over the years?

Thomas was approached by an active anti-Palestinian Rabbi and blogger who asked, “Any comment on Israel? We’re asking everyone today.”

The blogger didn’t ask, “What do you think of Jews?” as most news media falsely reported. The question was specifically about “Israel,” a sovereign nation that apparently can do no wrong.

Thomas responded forcefully but with a laugh: “Get the hell out of Palestine.”

Was that the comment of someone saying the “Jews” should go back to where they came from as was reported falsely and repeatedly by the mainstream and pro-Israel media? No. She never used that word.

Helen Thomas said what many believe, that Israel should get the hell out of Palestine, and that means the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Yes, the West Bank that Israel occupies and the Gaza Strip that Israel imprisons.

The comment from Thomas elicits a laugh from the Rabbi, although the media ignored his laughter and instead perniciously characterizes Thomas’ response as “cackling.” The Rabbi then jokingly or sarcastically follows up with a leading comment and question:

“Oooh! Any better comments on Israel?” The blogger laughs and so does another woman whose voice is heard in the background.

Helen Thomas then says, “Remember, these people are occupied. And it’s their land. Not Germany. Not Poland.”

“So where should they go,” the Rabbi, who knows exactly where he is leading the witness asks.

“Go home,” Thomas replies.

“Where’s home?” The Rabbi asks.

“Poland. Germany.”

Knowing he has a good story at this point, the Rabbi changes the context from “Israel” to “Jews.” He says, “So you’re saying the Jews should go home to Poland and Germany?”

Quite a change from what she said. But Thomas, who is walking out of a White House reception past a gaggle of reporters and bloggers, casually brushes off the insertion of a word she did not use, and repeats what she said to the original question.

“Go home to Poland. Germany and America and everywhere else.”

Who is Helen Thomas talking about?  Strip away the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hatred that exists in the mainstream American media, and the bullying policies that critics of Israel must face, and any fair person would say she was speaking about the settlers who live in the lands occupied by Israel in 1967, like the Gaza Strip, which was the context in which the discussion began.

But that’s not what Israel and their pro-Israel activists enjoy.

Americans are not allowed to have an open debate about Israel in this country. If you do, watch out. The lynch mob is waiting.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian columnist and Chicago radio talk show host. He can be reached at www.RadioChicagoland.com.)

Friday, June 04, 2010

US Attorney vows to protect American Arabs as indecision continues on critical anti-Arab hate crime

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US Attorney vows to protect American Arabs as indecision continues on critical anti-Arab hate crime
By Ray Hanania

U.S. Attorney Eric Holder told the opening meeting of the 30th Annual American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington D.C. Friday that “the prosecution of hate crimes is a top priority” of the Obama administration.

Yet for nearly one year, the Justice Department has not acted to intervene in one of the most heinous hate crimes against a Palestinian American tourist, Husien Shehada, shot and killed last year on South Beach by a Miami police officer with a history of problems.

Police had responded on June 14, 2009 to a 911 call from a caller who said he saw a suspect carrying an AK 47 under his shirt. But when Miami officer Adam Tavss confronted Shehada, no weapon was produced and he had his hands raised in the air and was being compliant. Tavss shot Shehada three times in chest, after, according to his attorney, Shehada had pleaded with the officer several times.

Tavss was suspended but was returned to duty days later after he was “cleared” by an internal probe. Hours after returning to duty, Tavss was involved in another shooting in which a suspected was reported to have hijacked a taxi cab at gunpoint.  Tavss is suspected as the possible shooter but police have never identified which officer fired the bullet that killed the African American cab driver.

Tavss has had a history of brutality complaints that were dismissed by police but he was eventually fired when police discovered he was running a marijuana grow in a home.

The Shehada’s filed a civil suit against the Miami Police and Officer Tavss. The police have refused to release their records on the case, and the attorney for the Shehada family, John Contini, a criminal lawyer based in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, said he was hopeful that Holder’s office would intervene.

That request was repeated by Contini on Friday after Holder delivered his remarks and then departed the ADC luncheon at the Marriott Wardman Hotel at the start of the weekend convention. But Contini, who was honored by ADC at the luncheon, handed over his materials to one of Holder’s deputies who was seated next to him.

Holder made no mention of the case but Contini offered details of what he called a “frightening event.”

Contini accused Miami officials of a cover-up and called on the U.S. Attorney to intervene.

“When this case was first brought to me I have to admit that I reacted with the same kind of racism and bigotry than many Americans react with when they hear an Arab or Muslim name like Husien,” Contini confessed. “I am ashamed of that but after looking at the case I am more ashamed of what was done to Husien Shehada, who was on vacation in South Beach with his brother, and what the City of Miami is doing today.”

With American Arabs angered by the recent Israeli assault on a flotilla of ships carrying food and aid to the 1.5 million besieged residents of the Gaza Strip, and with President Obama consumed by the international uproar and call for an investigation in to Israel’s assault which resulted in the killing of 9 activists including one America, Holder focused instead on the fight against profiling and hate crimes.

“The Justice Department’s commitment to civil rights has not been stronger,” Holder insisted.  “Racial profiling is wrong. It can leave a lasting scar on communities and individuals. And it is quite simply, bad policing whatever city, whatever state.”

Holder revealed that he had been the victim of racial profiling when he was in college, calling it a humiliating experience.

Holder said that heart wrenching stories of misguided racial profiling continue. “The Justice Department will not stand idly by as the discrimination by the few unfairly tarnishes the outstanding work being done by so many. Nor will we stand idly by as isolated law enforcement departments engage in discriminatory practices of any kind. Our nation is better than that.”

Contini said he was moved by Holder’s speech but he said that like American Arabs, he is also waiting to see the administration put their muscle behind their promises.

“We haven’t seen anything yet but I am hopeful,” Contini said.

“The era of us versus them that some have experienced must end. Together we can make sure that era does end. … Regardless of our faith and regardless of our background, we are all Americans,” Holder said.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and Chicago radio talk show host. He can be reached at www.RadioChicagoland.com.)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Yalla Peace: Gaza flotilla and Israeli raid, Stupid, stupid, stupid

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Yalla Peace: Gaza flotilla and Israeli raid, Stupid, stupid, stupid

Rather than bring relief to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, all the flotilla brought was death, violence, and int'l condemnation of Israel.

The activists leading the flotilla carrying medicine, food and building supplies to the suffering civilians in the Gaza Strip got exactly what they wanted. The IDF, stained by the indictment of the Goldstone Report, obliged them without hesitation.

Both sides are at fault in this confrontation. The activists are against peace, and want Israel to turn the clock back to 1948, while Israel wants to pretend the Palestinians don’t exist.

The flotilla was a bad idea from the start – not that supplies shouldn’t be brought in, but because the organizers knew full well that the purpose was to embarrass Israel politically. They knew that Israel might attack the convoy, and that’s why they chose to attempt to break the blockade rather than even try to negotiate.

But that’s always been the problem. People like that don’t want negotiations. When Palestinians and Israelis were negotiating, they were opposing the Oslo Accords, doing everything they could to stop them. And they stood by while Hamas, a terrorist organization which is also partly to blame for the suffering of the citizens of the Gaza Strip, used suicide bombings and brainwashed teenagers to kill themselves and to take innocent Israeli civilians with them.

As it stands, nine civilians aboard the flotilla were killed, although that number is not definite.

Israel’s military stormed the ship and for Israelis to claim they didn’t expect violence under those circumstances is ridiculous.

What could and should have been done?

First, the civilians should have negotiated with Israel rather than staging this dramatic PR drive. But Hamas refuses to do so, and the 1.5 million Palestinian civilians living in the Gaza Strip are as much a prisoner of Hamas’s distorted religious oppression as they are of Israel’s blockade.

Negotiation, not confrontation, is the answer. Discussions with Israel would have worked because Israel will never bend to the failed pressures of the Palestinian extremists. The activists who openly denounce Israeli military excesses are silent when it comes to Hamas excesses.

IT IS this hypocrisy that creates such tragedies. The activists have always been willing to have civilians die to make their case against Israel because the Arab world has been a huge failure from the start. The Arab League is a bad joke. It couldn’t argue its way out of a paper bag, but it sure knows how to act after the fact.

Meanwhile, innocent people die, including many of those who joined the flotilla believing, wrongly, that confronting Israel at sea would be the right strategy to break the blockade. But we know history, and confrontations with Israel always end up badly for the Arabs, and even worse for the Palestinians.

The extremists point to the fact that Turkey, Israel’s largest Muslim ally, is breaking off relations with Israel, but the truth is that this shift began long ago.

Rather than bring relief to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the flotilla brought more death and violence. It achieved the international condemnation of Israel it sought, remaining silent when Hamas terrorists attack and murder Israelis.

The Israelis, too, should be ashamed of their policies, which have abandoned moral principles and instead exploit Palestinian extremism. This Israeli practice of using Palestinian extremism to justify excessive brutality is shameful.

Israel claims it wants peace, but the government seems to prefer confrontations, and the oppression of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Let’s face it folks, the people of Europe can scream all they want about Israel’s actions, but until the United States steps up to become a true arbiter of peace, this conflict will continue to rage.

And the activists who knowingly play into the hands of Israel’s military responses are doing nothing to achieve peace.

These activists do not want peace based on compromise, and it is clear this Israeli government does not want peace based on compromise either. Both find it far easier to continue the carnage and spin their stories.

The writer is an award-winning Palestinian columnist. He can be reached at