Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Yalla Peace: Shut out the fanatics

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Yalla Peace: Shut out the fanatics

The Arabs’ failure to lead has allowed a small
cabal of Palestinian extremists to hijack the Palestinian cause.

As soon as the first-ever conference of Arab expatriates hosted in Cairo earlier this month by the League of Arab Nations closed, the fanatics dropped from their damp dark caves and started to scream that it was a sham.

The conference, backed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, is calling on Palestinians and Arabs who are expatriates living in the West but more importantly in the United States, to organize.

The conference concluded with many goals including creating an “organizational framework for Arab expatriates” while fostering “a dialogue of civilizations, cultures and religions.”

Pro-Israeli media and pundits immediately criticized the conference, complaining that too much of it was focused on the Palestinian issue and that much of it was based on confronting Israeli extremism rather than pursuing dialogue.

The conference clearly endorsed the Arab Peace Initiative outlined in 2002, one that Israel continues to run from because it requires tough compromises.

But more importantly, the Palestinians and the Arab League want to rip control of the Palestinian cause from the hands of fanatics and extremists in the United States whose sole mission has been to block peace and to reinforce the power of Hamas, the terrorist religious organization.

Immediately, Arab and Palestinian fanatics started launching public attacks against the conference and it is a growing theme they are selling to the Palestinian diaspora which sympathizes with the fanatic anger but support the moderate strategies. It sounds contradictory but for most moderate Palestinians, Israel has given them nothing to cheer about at all and everything to jeer about.

Almost all of Israel’s actions since the Oslo Accords have been geared towards maintaining the status quo while granting some power to the Palestinians, except the disengagement from Gaza in 2005. Israel wants to keep all of Jerusalem, all of the settlements, wants Palestinians to recognize it as a Jewish state.

IT IS about time that the Arab League nations finally did something. Their failure to lead has created a void which has allowed a small cabal of Palestinian extremists in the United States and Europe to hijack the Palestinian cause.

And they are no better than Israelis, speaking from both sides of their mouths, too. A good example is the movement to boycott products sold by Israelis that are manufactured or grown in the occupied West Bank. The movement is spearheaded by a group called Jewish Voice for Peace.

They say they target products made in the West Bank but many of their leaders are working hand-in-hand with Palestinian-American extremists who are also targeting products made in Israel.

These Palestinian extremists are anti-Semitic and driven by hatred. They say one thing but always mean something else.

Israelis don’t help much, as I have already pointed out. Instead of drawing a proper line on things like anti-Semitism, Israel’s supporters like the Anti-Defamation League and the Zionist Organization of America headquartered in New York, call everything critical of Israel anti-Semitic.

What Israelis don’t realize is that their broad stroke, knee-jerk attacks of anti-Semitism, against even the harshest critics of Israel, like the venerable Helen Thomas, only weaken the moderate Palestinian voices.

In a way, Israeli actions often strengthen the Palestinian extremists and maybe that is intentional. Many Israelis don’t want to give up anything. They don’t want peace. And the Palestinian extremists help them get away with this unacceptable status quo.

As long as the Palestinian extremists have the upper hand, this Israeli strategy will work.

But the Expatriate Conference in Cairo can change that, especially if they follow through with concrete actions to strengthen the voices of Palestinian and Arab moderates in the West and particularly in the United States.

More importantly, they need to reach out to Palestinian moderates, slam down the extremist voices and speak consistently about peace based on the 2002 plan. Israelis, believe it or not, are no different than Arabs.

And if they believe peace is genuine, they just might support it.

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

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Yalla Peace: WikiLeaks reminds us of reality

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Yalla Peace: WikiLeaks reminds us of reality

Everything we have always suspected

about the Arab world is true.

The revelations by WikiLeaks regarding the behindthe- scenes views and contacts between Israelis and Arabs are really much of a shocker. In fact, almost everything I have read only underscores what I always believed. The Arab world is ruled by dictators who don’t really care about their people or Palestine.

These dictators are concerned about all the things that kings and tyrants spend their time on: power, money and fun.

Israeli leaders have been holding secret meetings with the Arab governments since the 1947-49 war, from meetings with King Abdullah of Jordan, who was assassinated in 1951, to the wealthy dictator of Qatar, Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.

None of this can give us comfort, though. In fact, WikiLeaks really confirms our worst fears. Everything we have always suspected about the Arab world is true.

Publicly, Arab leaders’ incendiary rhetoric against Israel preaches resistance and “steadfastness” to the Palestinians.

But privately, they set aside the venom and share tea and crumpets with the Israelis. They speak from both sides of their sheesha pipes, on the one hand blasting Israel for the public, on the other privately showing that they don’t believe a word they are telling said public Fascinating.

A real shocker might have been to read that an Arab leader told the Israelis in private what he says so often in public. But that would take courage – not a characteristic of Arab leaders.

Bombast and phoniness have been the way Arab dictators, monarchs, kings, queens (not in a generic sense) and tyrants conduct themselves in public, turning into spineless creatures of selfish pleasure in private.

WikiLeaks further “disclosed” that the Arabs fear Iran as much or perhaps more than Israel. Wow. Isn’t that why Saddam Hussein, when he was an American-funded dictator, led the failed war against Iran for 10 years? There didn’t need to be a document reporting that very few Arab leaders spend time schmoozing with Iran’s little dictator.

To the Arabs, a nuclear-armed Iran is more frightening than a nuclear-armed Israel.

In some ways, Arab governments are much like American administrations. Both will tolerate dictatorship as long as the dictators are their friends. In these cases, Arabs have high tolerance for themselves and each other.

WIKILEAKS ALSO shows the Arabs are not beyond their paranoia. Many are convinced that WikiLeaks is a Zionist plot to strengthen the Israeli drive to destroy Iran’s ayatollah-run nuclear-wielding government. You can read it in many of the columns now being published in the Arab media, especially those not under government control.

Of course, the theory is far more comforting to accept than the truth that Iran is a dictatorship that brutalizes its people.

Clearly, the WikiLeaks documents show that Arab world leaders are all talk and little action.

I was also really hoping for something more exciting from WikiLeaks, like the confirmation of many of the rumors I have heard over the years.

For example, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who you would think would love to curl his fingers around a juicy clump of lamb and rice mensiff, instead spoons chunks of matza and soup with the finesse of a British teetotaler.

Or, maybe that Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman isn’t really racist, but thinks that acting like he has a special bone to pick with Arabs makes him a tougherlooking government official.

Most disappointing is that in a massive leak of documents like this, there is usually some reference to a sexual or naughty nature.

You mean to tell me that none of the Arab dictators who met with Kadima leader Tzipi Livni offered to make her a part of their harems that they pretend no longer exist? I like her. I’d make her my fourth wife.

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

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Yalla Peace: Hanukka and Holidays at the Hanania household

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Yalla Peace: Hanukka and Holidays at the Hanania household

In recent years, as Hanukka and Christmas overlapped,
the holiday season became a minefield of decoration-related decisions.

Over the past few years, Hanukka, Christmas and the Id al-Adha all seemed to coincide. That made Arabs, Jews and Israelis happy. They saw it as a sign of better things to come. People were singing “Kumbaya.”

They were mixing words and phrases from each religion to create new “words of peace,” like “holiday treats for peace.” And they were offering trades to kickstart the stalled peace process: felafel for matza.

Arabs and Jews even tried writing Middle East peace songs together, until each side discovered that wasn’t easy either. Promises made in some of the choruses had been changed. Important words had been replaced. Some of the lyrics required side notes to explain what the original intent of the song was.

Pretty soon, everyone was singing a different tune. Like Middle East peace, we all know what the melody is but we just can’t get the words right.

MAKING PEOPLE believe in miracles may have been good for everyone else, but it wasn’t good in the Israeli-occupied Hanania household, where marriage has achieved what negotiations and even proximity talks have failed to do in the Middle East. It may have coincided for everyone else. But for my family, the holidays collided.

That Hanukka and Christmas both overlapped was a big problem. My wife, Alison, and I found ourselves in a cast iron battle over whose settlements – I mean decorations – would get the best locations in and around our house.

We fought over the front room coffee table. Do we put a menora or a crèche (Nativity scene)? Who gets to hang something on the front door? A Star of David or a picture of Jesus wrapped in a Palestinian flag? Both?

I discovered that Hanukka lights are more Jewish than Christian lights. The lights on her string decorations had shapes of dreidels, menorot, Stars of David and images of Binyamin Netanyahu.

Mine were little bulbs called “Italian lights.” What have the Italians ever done for peace anyway? She got to do something new every day with our son Aaron. Lighting one extra candle every night for eight days. I got to turn on a switch.

The lawn was a battleground too. I wanted to put up a big Santa Claus. You know, that chubby guy with the long, white beard that needs to be dyed, wearing an effeminate looking red suit with white fur. What does he really have to do with Christmas, I wonder? Although Jesus had a beard too, but it wasn’t bushy white.

She had a huge display of Jerusalem with a big sign quoting Ariel Sharon “indivisible capital for all eternity” that she said she wanted to keep there all year long. She got it free – after a small donation of $1,500 – from the Jewish United Fund.

Believe me, by the time we got through arguing over what went where, who got what and who started the Gaza war, we were beat, so tired we could barely enjoy the meal, the one moment when Arabs have an advantage over Israelis.

After all, Arabs may know how to build settlements and walls, barriers and murals, but Israelis can’t cook. They end up making our food and while we Arabs complain that they stole our culinary style, our humous and our Syrian – yes, Syrian – bread, the fact is deep down we prefer to have them serve us something.

THANK GOODNESS all that “signs from heaven” stuff has stopped. This year, Hanukka comes first and Christmas comes after.

She puts her stuff up and then I get to take it down and put up my stuff.

I then get to celebrate secular New Year and, afterward Orthodox New Year. My stuff goes up last and never gets taken down.

No “Kumbaya.” No pretending there are going to be any miracles of peace. No arguing over whose food is best or who owns what land.

One Christmas, Alison even stopped painting a green line through the house to designate what part was hers and what part was mine. She always said she would be fair in our marriage and we each get “half.” She gets 78 percent and I get 22.

But then I realized that her not painting the green line in our house was just an Israeli trick to make me forget where the 1949 armistice marriage agreement really was.

And I demanded that she paint it, but she still refuses till this day.

So this year, no fights over bells ringing or who gets to “deck” the Halls – the Halls, our neighbors, always hated it when we decked them when they came by, although the Halls are Jewish so I didn’t mind. No sighs pretending like there is going to be peace.

Just a lot of mistletoe, zaide’s sandwiches of corned beef, pastrami and chopped liver, and real happiness knowing we each get our turn. And I go last.

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