Thursday, November 18, 2010

Helen Thomas is a hero slandered because of her fierce independence

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Helen Thomas is a hero. For more than 57 years, she has stood up to all forms of discrimination. First as a woman journalist in a man's world. Second as a fiercely objective journalist who questioned every President From Eisenhower to Obama with the same principles of justice, objectivity and balance. And Third, she is a hero because she has stood up to the onslaught of ugly name-calling from extremists in the American Jewish Community who are not happy kicking Palestinians out of Palestine, they want to kick them out of America, too.

Tonight, Thomas will receive among many honors the Dr. M.T. Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. The award was established in 1999 to honor the work of journalists who have stood up to hatred, fear mongering, defamation and slander because of their work. It is presented to journalists who have shown courage in speaking and writing the truth in the face of overwhelming public anger.

It is so easy for many mainstream American journalists to remain silent, rather than to expose the hypocrisies in American society, especially after the terrorism of Sept. 11, 2001. It is easy because the hatred and racism against Arabs and Muslims in America has reached an unprecedented height. Arabs and Muslims are easy prey for racists and bigots because the American public is so uneducated about truth and accuracy and they are fed a constant stream of lies from the mainstream American media.

And those Arabs and Muslims who dare to challenge the lies in the coverage of the rights of the Palestinian people are even easier to target because on top of the bigots and racists who attack Arabs and Muslims, American Jews often also join in the assaults against morality and ethics.

You can read the blog called Elder of Ziyon, an often racistly anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hate site to see this hypocrisy at work. (Click here to read their most recent hateful post.)

On the one hand, the writer argues that Helen Thomas did not say that Jews should get out of the occupied territory, making the precision of the words their strongest case. And then they hypocritically violate principle, morality and even truth, arguing that Helen Thomas said that Jews should get out of Israel. The fact is Helen Thomas NEVER used the word "Jews." She was asked by a racist rabbi what Israelis should do and she said "Get the hell out of Palestine."

The most outrageous example of bigotry and racist hate comes from Morton Klein, the head of the Zionist Organization of America. His history of racism and bigotry is shameful. Klein could care less about the truth. He is more concerned with protecting a foreign country rather than defending Americans from bigotry and racism. Klein prefers to defend Israel and he hates Helen Thomas for the very reason she deserves to be honored tonight by the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC, the National Arab American Journalists Association (

More than any other journalist, Helen Thomas was not afraid to challenge the hypocrisies and lies about Palestinians and Arabs and Muslims. She often asked the tough questions of Presidents exposing the hypocrisies of American Foreign policy that sacrificed truth and ethics for political bias towards one foreign country called Israel. And her colleagues, who rarely reported on her courageous challenges, shouted her down with their ugly silence and unprofessional and unjournalistic conduct.

NAAJA salutes Helen Thomas and American Arabs who refuse to be shouted down by bigots, demagogues and hatemongers like Morton Klein and others all because they have DARED to challenge the political polices of a foreign government, Israel.

-- Ray Hanania

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Yalla Peace: Seven deadly sins that prevent peace

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Yalla Peace: Seven deadly sins that prevent peace

What is it that motivates us to unite in prayer for rain but not to unite in prayer for real peace?

A major obstacle preventing Palestinian and Israeli peace is that our leaders do not genuinely speak of peace and have a mind-set that is based in anger.

They are so wrapped up in their negativity that they are incapable of coming together for peace and compromise, although they cover up their negativity by telling themselves that they do support peace, when they really do not.

I have always believed Israelis and Palestinians need a psychiatrist more than they need a nonpartisan negotiator like the US to bring them together. The truth of our conflict comes out in our actions more than in our words. We should all be laying back on couches as the psychiatrist brings out our deepest fears.

I follow Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon on Twitter. Most of the time his posts remind me of how hopeless Palestinian and Israeli leaders really are. He speaks about peace, but too often his words reflect the opposite.

Recently, on his Twitter page, he wrote: “Praying for rain unites Jews, Muslims and Christians.” He didn’t mean it as some major revelation about the historical relations between Palestinians and Israelis. It wasn’t a policy statement, nor a determination for peace. It was a subliminal gesture on his part that revealed what our problem really is.

DEEP DOWN we – Palestinians and Israelis – want everyone to come together. It makes us feel good. But we don’t want to pay the price for peace, which is compromise, and that leaves us with conflict. Rain is not conflict. But rain is one of those troublesome necessities of life. We need rain but we also fear rain, which can easily become thunderstorms, hurricanes and floods.

Rain can symbolize both a natural growth and a fierce natural destruction.

How come I never read Ayalon write on his Twitter page, “Respect and generosity unite Jews, Muslims and Christians.” Or “real peace where Israelis and Palestinians compromise and recognize each other unites Jews, Muslims and Christians.”

Ayalon’s Twitter post is so revealing because it represents exactly what is wrong with the relations between Israelis and Palestinians.

We look at the natural order of the world and spend all our time trying to change things that cannot be changed. We spend all our efforts rejecting the very answers and solutions that can bring change.

We can’t do anything about the weather, but we can do much to stop the violence. We can stop the killings. We can stop the hatred. We can stop the building of settlements. We can stop the firing of rockets. We can stop the assaults on civilians. We can stop the attacks on soldiers.

We can’t start or stop the rain.

So why do we pine for that which we can’t have, when what we can have sits right there under our noses? What is it that motivates us to unite in prayer for rain but not to unite in prayer for real peace? There are seven answers to that question, the psychiatrist might explain. Pining for rain is so much easier than pining for peace, at least according to the seven deadly sins that plague humanity – wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony.

Wrath: The eternal flame that brings Palestinians and Israelis so closely together. We often try to inflict more pain than what has been brought on ourselves.

Greed: The refusal by Israelis to surrender settlements and Palestinians to surrender a demand for the right of return.

Sloth: Peace requires real work and we have tired from failing over the years.

Pride: Wanting to look good to our people rather than doing the right thing and making them angry.

Lust: Israeli rejectionists see the West Bank as the wife of another man, and Palestinian rejectionists covet failed peace as their desired goal.

Envy: We hate what the other has.

Gluttony: We feed ourselves rhetoric that makes us fat with a false sense of having achieved something. We consume ourselves with a false belief that we are better than the other, and close our eyes to our own roles in the tragedy we all help to create.

I am sure that when Danny Ayalon wrote his Twitter post, he wasn’t thinking of all this. But I wish he did. The only thing we should allow to unite Jews, Muslims and Christians is praying for peace.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Yalla Peace: Can Jews live in a Palestinian state?

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Yalla Peace: Can Jews live in a Palestinian state?

Palestinians will come to accept the Jews living in ‘their’ country.

That we even have to ask the question “can Jews live in a Palestinian state” tells you how bad relations between Israelis and Palestinians have become. It explains what the real problem is – bad attitude, exaggerated fear.

Of course Jews can live in a Palestinian state. I would argue that they would be better treated than the Arab citizens of Israel who did not flee or were not forced out by the Hagana and Irgun in 1948.

But it comes up now in the context of a possible, though reluctant, effort to achieve a peace accord.

Why not allow some of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank to remain but as a part of a Palestinian state, with the settlers living under Palestinian rule? Could it be worse than Palestinians living under Israeli rule?

The only issue is one of land, of course. Israelis who object to compromise and therefore reject peace argue that the conflict is not about land but about Palestinian and Arab refusal to recognize Israel. The Arabs have recognized Israel. The real question is, have Israelis recognized Palestine?

Do Palestinians have a right to govern themselves in historic Palestine? And please don’t throw in that racist argument (yes, it is racist) that Jordan is Palestine. No one called Jordan Palestine, except European Jews. And have Jews recognized Palestine enough that some might want to live there as “Jewish citizens of Palestine”? Some Jewish settlements can be annexed into Israel in the context of a final peace, with an exchange of lands: Israel trades one dunam of Israeli land for every dunam of settlements in the West Bank retained, including settlements around Jerusalem like Gilo.

Jewish settlements not traded to Israel could and should remain in Palestine. And they deserve the protection and equality that everyone should strive to achieve, not just in Palestine but in Israel.

A POST-CONFLICT Israel will eventually change. It won’t be run by extremists using fear mongering to pump up the fight. Palestinians will join Israelis to impose justice and the rule of law, and they will work together to fight crime and terrorism. And the terrorism won’t just be coming from the small handful of remaining Palestinian extremists. I hope and believe a Palestinian state will also overcome the same obstacles that will confront a final peace.

The issue of who owned the land will have to be addressed. Settlements built on land expropriated from Palestinians will have to be resolved in the form of compensation and other trade-offs.

I know many Palestinians will object to all of this. Of course they would. They are like Israelis, whipped up into a frenzy by political leaders who fear monger, too. But peace will be like a soothing balm on a wound. As the pain goes away, almost all the anger and anger-driven hate will go with it.

Israelis will come to accept the non-Jews, the Palestinian Arabs, who now live in their country. And eventually, Palestinians will come to accept the Jews living in their country.

What about the issue of Jews immigrating to Palestine? Palestine presumably would be open to settlement by anyone, including Jews, as long as they live under Palestinian laws. Would they be treated the same as Israel treats its Arab citizens? Maybe that is why some Israelis fear living in Palestine.

Palestine, though, should not become Israel. It should not become a state based on one religion – Palestinians should repeal the law declaring Islam the official religion of Palestine. That law isolates non-Muslims and insults Christian Palestinians and Christians throughout the Arab world. (How could Palestinians complain about Israel being a Jewish state when Palestine would become a Muslim state?) Palestine can offer a right of return to every Palestinian in the diaspora, especially to those refugees living in camps.

Every Palestinian not living in Palestine or Israel is essentially a refugee in my mind. The success of assimilation does not deny refugee status.

It would be no different than what Israel does – allowing anyone Jewish to come to the State of Israel while requiring non-Jews to apply for immigration. Palestine could do the same.

One day, we will have peace. I just wonder how Palestinians and Israelis will spend their time when they don’t have to wake up in the morning and deal with all this conflict, fear, debate and anger?

The writer is an award winning columnist and Chicago radio talk show host.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Robert O'Connor and his 3 AM blog can shove it up his wazoo : )

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This blog author Robert O'Connor is way off base both in his ideas and his facts. (But he later contacted me and adjusted his comments and I have adjusted mine below.)

More than 7,000 people crammed the Petrillo Band Shell at Millennium Park for the Rally to Restore Sanity, organized by Angie McMahon. It was amazing how many people attended the event which featured an array and variety of entertainers, and a satellite feed from the the Washington D.C. parent rally organized by Jon Stewart which drew more than 215,000 people, far larger than the event organized by professional hater Glenn Beck.

O'Connor attacked me, mainly because he says I am Muslim. I'm not. I'm actually Christian Palestinian from Bethlehem and Jerusalem -- Jesus is my cousin O'Connor. But I don't mind being mistaken for a Muslim because it adds one more moderate voice to the growing voices of moderate Muslims standing up tot he fanatics who are trying to takeover the Middle East and attack America.

I was originally booked as a pro bono performer, which I was proud to accept and to perform. But the emcee, my comedy friend and long time media colleague Aaron Freeman had an emergency. So he asked me to finish off the show, which I enthusiastically did.

I introduced the lineup as they were booked by Angie McMahon and also did my our segment of comedy, which was tough to do since I had to emcee and then basically introduce myself. Which was okay, though.

My first few jokes in my set went over big.

"Anyone here expecting a UPS package from Yemen?"

Yes, I know the terrorist M-fers sent bombs using UPS to targets int he US, including American Jews -- my wife is an American Jew by the way. But to let the terrorists believe they have frightened us is wrong. And by making fun of their threats, we are demeaning the. Believe me. If it is one that the terrorist fanatics hate the most -- haters like Ikhras and KabobFest -- it is to be made fun of. They haaaaaate it! And they squirm like the worms they are.

And one of my lead jokes was to ask the audience if they wanted to say Rally to Restore Sanity in Arabic. And then I undulated loudly asking them to repeat it (luuuuuuu luuuuuu luuuuuu luuuuuu luuuuuuu!). And they undulated themselves and it was loudest undulation ever in Chicago and in Millennium Park. They laughed long and hard when it was done.

Of course, O'Connor did not. He was one of the 10 people who complained. Some were upset saying they came to Millennium Park not to show solidarity but to watch the jumbo-tron TV satellite feed from Washington D.C. If they wanted to watch TV -- selfishly, I might add -- they could have stayed home. Unless, of course, these goofs didn't have a TV set or watch cable.

The Rally to Restore Sanity sent a message out loud and clear that we will not tolerate fanaticism on either side and that we can find the middle ground. Tea Party activists are goofs from the far right, subversives trying to disrupt society and sanity.

-- Ray Hanania

(Updated Aug. 26, 2011 after Robert O'Connor insisted he was mis-characterized, is not a Tea Party member nor a supporter of Glenn Beck. He also edited his own criticism of me being Muslim.)

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Yalla Peace: Haneen Zoabi, Unfazed and unafraid

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Yalla Peace: Haneen Zoabi, Unfazed and unafraid

The case of Haneen Zoabi
exposes flaws in Israeli democracy.

Israel claims to be the only democracy in the Middle East, but sometimes it doesn’t really act like it. A case in point is the growing animosity in Israel toward Haneen Zoabi, an Arab member of Knesset from Balad who insists on testing Israel’s democracy.

Zoabi was among those on the Mavi Marmara – part of the flotilla which attempted to break the Gaza blockade in May. She is resolute in speaking about what she calls discriminatory policies against Arab citizens. I caught up with Zoabi during one of her stops in a tour of the US where she made the case that Israel talks the talk when it comes to democracy but fails to walk the walk.

“I am not afraid of what the Israelis are trying to do to me,” Zoabi told me at a Chicago convention of Palestinian Americans.

“The attacks by right-wing members of Knesset and politicians do not bother me. I am not afraid to stand up to them. I am strong.”

Zoabi is defiant, and her views can’t easily be brushed aside.

The first woman elected on an Arab slate to the Knesset in March 2009, and the third Arab woman elected to the Knesset altogether, Zoabi comes from a long line of Arab Israelis from Nazareth who have engaged in politics.

She is related to Seif el-Din e- Zoubi, a former mayor of Nazareth who served in the Knesset between 1949 and 1959, and from 1965 until 1979, and to Abed el-Aziz el-Zoubi, a deputy health minister and the first Arab member of an Israeli government.

But none of her relatives faced the anger and hostility that has been directed against her over the past year. Her support for the flotilla ignited a wave of harsh criticism. Jewish Knesset members have called for her to be prosecuted and stripped of the immunity that Knesset members enjoy.

Zoabi brushed aside the rising criticism as “a reflection of the new realities in Israel” that have pushed the Jewish state from the center to the extreme Right.

“Actually, this bothers the [Jewish] Israelis more than it bothers me. The criticism and anti-Arab hatred has become more severe, growing in intensity since the second intifada. It escalated even more after the Lebanon war,” Zoabi said.

She said the backlash against Arabs citizens challenging Israeli policies started with Azmi Bishara, a Knesset member who was very critical. Following the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Bishara was accused of high treason and charges were brought against him following allegations that he aided the enemy during wartime, was in contact with a foreign agent and involved in money-laundering activities. After being stripped of his immunity, Bishara fled Israel and resigned from the Knesset in 2007 via the Israeli Embassy in Cairo.

“The deterioration between Jewish Israelis and Arab Israelis began with Bishara,” Zoabi said. “But it has reached a tipping point.”

CRITICISM IS a hallmark of true democracies.

The more Israel tries to silence Arab critics, the more it exposes the limits of its democracy.

“Israelis have always been racist against Arab citizens. It is growing,” Zoabi argued. “But I don’t see that as a threat to me as a Palestinian. It is a threat to the normalcy of life of the Israelis themselves. At one time, the racism was rational, a part of the Jewish character of the state. Today, that racism is more and more irrational.”

The only satisfaction that Israelis might get from all this is that Arabs in America are politically dysfunctional.

Although they can draw large crowds to conferences marked by angry speeches, like the one held in a suburb of Chicago this past weekend, the events get little or no coverage in the mainstream media. Americans are not hearing Palestinian complaints. Yet.

Palestinians in America do most of their talking to themselves. But one day that will change and Americans will look more closely at Israel’s policies toward its Arab citizens. Zoabi symbolizes a crack that continues to grow in the wall of Israel’s claim to the “only democracy in the Middle East.”

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