Friday, January 27, 2012

Opinions the HP Doesn't Publish: Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is a Palestinian American who is also a Huffington Post blogger. Like Bradley Burston, he writes what he thinks, not what the "side" he's subscribed to wants him to write. But the Huffington Post picks and chooses which of his essays they publish, so it's no surprise they didn't publish this latest one, titled Palestinians' Worst Enemies Are Themselves.

If the Israelis wanted to defeat the Palestinians, Israel would immediately recognize a Palestinian State in Gaza, the West Bank and even east Jerusalem rather than embrace policies that push Palestinians to unite. If they did that, all the Israelis would have to do is sit back and watch as the Palestinians tear themselves apart.

Yes, the tragedy of the Palestinians isn’t that they are victims of injustice at the hands of the Israelis. It is their own tendency to destroy themselves from within.

The most powerful factor keeping Palestinians together as a people is the anger they share in response to injustices by Israel. But that’s a pathetic reason for unity. Worse, anger easily turns into hatred and hatred easily turns into violence, terrorism and killings. And violence undermines even the most just of causes.

Palestinians hate Israelis but they hate themselves even more.

Palestinian activists spend as much time bashing their own people as they do bashing Israel. The truth is that for the Palestinians, bashing Israel results in nothing but more defeats and losses. Bashing other Palestinians makes them feel better, and serves to distract their community from their inherent leadership failures.

Yes, it’s true. The Palestinian leadership is a failure, and the activists who lead the hatred, for example against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate Palestinian like myself, and against anyone who dares to challenge their fanaticism, are the primary cause.

Let’s define failure. In nearly 100 years of battling Jewish immigrants and then the Israeli people, the Palestinians have failed to establish sovereignty over one inch of historic Palestine.

THE DIFFERENCES between Israelis and Jews on one side and the Palestinians and the Arab World on the other is striking.

For example, Israelis and Jews recognize that the American public is the single most important public constituency in the world. The Arab World marginalizes the American public, brushing them off as “ignorant” and “uneducated.”

That may be. But there’s a reason the most powerful lobbying group in the world, AIPAC, operates out of Washington, DC, not London, Paris or the Hague.

And recognizing the importance of the American public means recognition of the significance of American politics. Some of the wealthiest people funding the presidential candidates in the United States are not Arabs who have billions at their disposal, but Jews.

Newt Gingrich this week pulled to the front of the Republican field of candidates seeking to unseat Democrat President Barack Obama in November’s presidential election.

Gingrich did that with the backing of one of the wealthiest people in the world, Sheldon Adelson.

Adelson is the publisher of an Israeli newspaper, Israel Hayom, and the owner of lucrative casinos in Las Vegas. He put up more than $5 million to fund a “Super Pac” that has been bashing Mitt Romney and that is helping Gingrich.

Although Arabs hate Gingrich because he called the Palestinians an “invented people,” the fact is that Gingrich has very moderate views on Israel and Palestine. In interviews with my journalist colleague Ali Younes, who covered the South Carolina Republican primaries, Gingrich explained that he would recognize and support a Palestinian state if Hamas and the Palestinians recognized Israel and renounced violence.

Forget about the politics of Gingrich’s words. Mainstream Palestinians renounced violence years ago and continue to live in the limbo of occupation, while Hamas goes back and forth, one day pretending to be moderate and the next vowing retaliation for brutal Israeli air strikes.

But as a veteran journalist and now columnist, I know presidential candidates will say anything to win elections. In other words, that Gingrich called Palestinians an “invented people” is meaningless in terms of what he might do to bring about compromise if elected president.

The bigger question, though, is where is the Palestinian or Arab version of Sheldon Adelson who is willing to put up much of his wealth to support the interests of his people? Arabs do not own newspapers, television stations or put any real money into the Palestinian lobbying. Pro-Israel groups have donated more than $51 million to candidates, according to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. In contrast, Arabs have only donated $61,000.

The Arabs, though some may be talented, have a lot of loud-mouthed activists who scream and spew hatred. There’s the great jazz musician whose hatred of Israel borders on anti-Semitism. There’s the talented writer at the Electronic Intifada whose words are driven by hatred of Jews.

These hate-driven activists have compromised mainstream Arabs, putting them in a headlock of oppression. Moderate Arabs are discouraged from expressing their views or espousing moderation in the face of the bullying and threats from the fanatics who spend more time and energy beating up their own people than turning legal claims against Israel into meaningful reality.

I was sitting with a group of Arab journalist friends recently at al-Manar restaurant outside of Chicago in Bridgeview, which is the hub of the local Palestinian Muslim community.

What struck me as odd was the restaurant was empty, save for our group. It was lunchtime on a Sunday. Down the street, Arabs were standing in line at two American restaurants owned by Greek Americans.

The real secret is that the Israelis don’t have to work hard at defeating the Palestinians. All they have to do is let Palestinians undermine themselves.

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