Thursday, September 20, 2007

No opportunity to respond to the racists and irrational writers on the Northwest Side

I write a column in the Arlington Heights Daily Herald once each month on the first Monday thatr analyzes issues facing Americans as a result of Sept. 11, 2001, trying to better understand the Middle East conflict. The Daily Herald is one of the ONLY newspapers in the United States that runs a column on a regular basis that is written by an Arab American on Middle East issues. There is no other regularly written column -- there are many published in response to events.

But the response to the columns is not only discouraging, it exposes what I believe is a fundamental flaw in American society -- the intolerance of divergent and diverse voices and specifically the growing hatred and racism against Arab Americans and Muslim Americans.

What I get in response to my column is often a smattering of vicious hatred and racism from letter writers. I don't mind the fact that Muslims (who are mostly non-Arab) criticize me because I questions their failure to stand up and speak out against extremism in the Islamic community and the growing Islamic driven terrorism, but I do fault readers of the Daily Herald who are non-Arab and non-Muslim who are consumed by vicious racism.

These hateful letters are easily viewable online, although my own column in the Daily Herald is not viewable online, at least not now that the web page has been redesigned. Maybe it will be viewable in the future.

But here are some letters published in the Daily Herald recently followed by my responses to what I see as ugly, hateful vicious personal attacks by individuals who are racist and bigots and who ignore the substance of my columns and instead focus on the streotypes of my community. The columns they are responding too are published at the end, after the letters and responses:


Hanania wrong about 9/11 lessons (Published 9/19, and 9/20 2007)
By conjecture, innuendo and assumption, along with a dose of Monday morning quarterbacking, Ray Hanania tries to say that "we" have not learned much since 9/11. We have learned something about Hanania. By using the phrases "sounded Arabic enough," "Officials seem intentionally unclear," "citizen terrorism vigilante" and "personal argument that was most likely driven by racism," he displays his ability to accuse others of shortcomings he harbors within himself.
Don Parker

[Hanania Responds. The column was about how Americans complained about six Iraqis who were working for the United States military to train our American soldiers to fight in Iraq. They were targeted with hatred when they boarded an airplane and the plane was postponed and they were "investigated" because a woman overheard them speaking Arabic -- even though the woman could not speak Arabic -- so how did she know it was Arabic? The point is that Americans like her, and this writer, never learned anything from Sept. 11, except their own vicious hatred of Arabs and Muslims. Don Parker owes me an apology for his stupid and insulting comments.]

Hanania gets it wrong, again, published 8/31/2007

Ray Hanania's recent column, headlined "U.S. must be fair to achieve peace in Middle East, " confuses two separate issues and repeats many of the false claims he made in his April 2 column.

One must also take into consideration the similar item he wrote in the Jerusalem Post that same day headlined "Keeping Israel safe from Qatar".

He frames his column by stating that President Bush has proposed increasing aid to Israel and "has also proposed giving $20 billion to six Gulf Arab states including Saudi Arabia, our chief Arab ally in the war on terrorism."

He has it backward. Bush proposed the advanced arms to the Arab states, and the aid to Israel was proposed to offset the increased threat these sales posed to Israel. Israel wouldn't need any of these increased arms if we weren't giving some of our most advanced arms to countries officially at war with Israel.

Hanania, in his Jerusalem Post column, mocks the ability of the Gulf states to attack Israel from the Arabian Gulf. Israel may not be worried about Qatar directly attacking, but these arms could fall into the hands of Hamas or Hezbollah.

Hanania also has apparently never looked at a map or he would see that Saudi Arabia is barely five miles from Israel at its closest point, with air bases along that border. The advanced ships could be used to blockade the Israeli port of Eilat.

These weapons aren't just a danger to Israel. Look at the recent disclosure that 190,000 assault rifles that we supplied to the Iraqi army are now in insurgent hands being used to kill U.S. troops.

The militaries of these states are never going to be strong enough to defend against a concerted attack by Iran or Iraq without U.S. assistance. Look at how fast Kuwait, with all its American weapons, fell in 1990 to Iraq. The Saudi military is intentionally fragmented to protect against a military coup against the royal family. Al-Qaida is reported to already have infiltrated the Saudi military. These regimes are not totally stable, including Egypt, which could be taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood. In a few years U.S. troops could be battling against these very advanced arms.

Which leads to the point against the arms deal regarding the Saudis specifically. With allies like these who needs enemies? The Wall Street Journal and New York Times report that between 40 and 50 percent of foreign fighters and suicide bombers in Iraq are from Saudi Arabia. The Saudis refuse to stem the border flow of these terrorists. State-sponsored Wahabi imams preach terror acts in Iraq.

Finally, I want to respond to Hanania's claim that "terrorism does not have an ethnic face."

Tell me, Mr. Hanania, how many Christian or Jewish suicide bombers have there been in the last year? The last five years? The last 10 years? They have been almost exclusively Muslim extremists. That is not American bigotry on the matter: that is plain fact.

Steven Peck

[HANANIA RESPONDS: Steven Peck is also driven, in my opinion, by ignorance of facts and by racism against Arabs and that is apparent in his last line. His letter is nearly the length of my own column, and therefore deserves a response. The fact is that 99 percent of serial killers are white men, does that make White people serial killers? Was Tim McVeigh a Muslim? Was Andrew Cunanan a Muslim? There have been numerous instances of American soldiers who have been convicted (although unished with a slap on their hands) for murdering innocent civilians in cold blood, including the case of the 7 Marines who gang raped an Iraqi girl and then murdered her and her family to hide the rape. They were White, too. As for suicide bombers, is there a difference between a suicide bomber and a person who takes an innocent life using a weapon and then runs and hides? Yet somehow, Peck wants us to believe that everything Arab and Muslims is bad when the reality is that racists like Peck drive this country's fanaticism and undermine our ability to fight the terrorists. The facts of the column which weighed the ridiculous arguments against provide arms to our clear allies, the Saudis and the Gulf State nations. Saudi Arabia has stood by America in the War on Terrorism, helped hold down the price of oil and is a frontline state aganst rising Islamicist fanaticism, yet people like Peck, maybe ignorant of world affairs, close their eyes to the facts and they, not I, get it wrong. What is really pathetic is that while I argue for fairness and justice, Peck argues that Americans should NOT BE FAIR in the Middle East.]

The columns:

Sept. 2007 Column
Six years after 9/11 and we remember and we discriminate
By Ray Hanania

Maybe it’s the lies that led this nation into Iraq that are behind the apparent confusion some Americans have about how to respond to the terrorism threat.

Are we fighting the war in Iraq to "save" the Iraqi people, or are we there to fight terrorism?
Nowhere is that more apparent than at our airports.

American Airlines Flight 590 was about to depart San Diego on a redeye flight for Chicago when a woman on board called police complaining of a terrorist threat after hearing six other passengers, all men, speaking "Arabic."

Forget the fundamental problem here, for a moment. If she could speak Arabic, she would have known what they were saying and not called police. So, how did she know they were Arabs?
Sounded "Arabic enough," apparently. A vague complaint is enough to force a pilot to delay a plane’s departure and put six innocent men under police scrutiny, again.

Turns out the "terrorism suspects" were six Iraqis working for Defense Training Systems, a military contractor. They had been training American Marines at Camp Pendleton.

It also seems one person with two children on the plane got into an argument with one or more of the Iraqi men. Maybe the same woman who complained?

Officials seem intentionally unclear in their public statements. And they should be. Incidents like this where innocent citizens who happen to be speaking Arabic, or something similar, are filing lawsuits and winning, after long, difficult battles.

Local police question the men, who had been screened, processed, questioned and had their bags check when they boarded the plane, along with everyone else including the "citizen terrorism vigilante."

Was the complaint prompted by fear of terrorism? Or fear driven by a personal argument that was most likely prompted by racism?

Get in an argument with an Arab, even one serving our military, and you can always play the "terrorism trump card." Call the police and the lives of the Iraqis are disrupted. They are embarrassed and humiliated.

One of the Iraqis said he was angry. Here he was, an American himself of Iraqi heritage, helping the American people protect their American soldiers in Iraq, and this is how he is treated?

I hope he doesn’t believe the United States sent their soldiers into Iraq to protect the Iraqi people from the savagery of the late dictator Saddam Hussein?

Clearly, as was demonstrated this week on American Airlines Flight 590, some Americans could care less whether Arabs are helping us or hurting us.

It reminds me of the quagmire that one Crusader commander faced in the siege of Beziers, a French town of Muslims and two groups of Christians, Catholics and Catholics of a condemned sect, called Cathars. Unsure of how to distinguish between the "good" Catholics and the bad Catholics in the siege, the Crusader general told his men, "Kill them all, God will know His own."

That may have been the solution for Crusaders. It certainly is not a good policy to prevent terrorism in today’s day and age.

If we Americans still can’t figure out which Arabs are "good" and which Arabs are "bad," then our problems are sure to worsen.

We Americans have not really learned anything since Sept. 11, 2001, have we?


August 2007 Column
America must be fair to achieve MidEast peace
By Ray Hanania

Apparently, it doesn’t matter to some that Saudi Arabia and several "moderate" Arab countries like Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and others have stood by the United States in fighting "terrorism."

All that matters to some congressmen, who happen to be of Jewish heritage, is Israel.

President Bush has proposed increasing foreign aid to Israel by 25 percent, giving the Jewish State $30 billion over the next decade. Bush has also proposed giving $20 billion to six Gulf Arab states including Saudi Arabia, our chief Arab ally in the War on terrorism.

Iraq is in turmoil and the Arab nations have stood with the United States against the interference of two nations, Arab Syria and non-Arab Iran. Nearly 100 American soldiers are dying there every month.

Bush has declared Iran a major threat. Should we wait until Iran invades and occupies Saudi Arabia or the other Gulf Arab states to react?

But a coalition of congressmen, led by Jewish American Congressman Tom Lantos, denounced the funding plan because he and his allies in Congress support Israel above American interests.

And Americans continue to wonder why Arabs in the Middle East "hate them," are angry at them, or distrust America?

The reality is American foreign policy is based on double standards, hypocrisy and even lies. It assumes Arabs must be too stupid to recognize these contradictions in American foreign policy.
Arabs and Israelis are again at a crossroads. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has once again tried to jump-start the Middle East process, exploring a comprehensive peace proposal offered by the Arab countries through the Arab League.

They are willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist (again – they’ve done it several times to no avail), and to negotiate the return of land occupied by Israel in the 1967 war four decades ago.

On the table is the difficult issue of the Palestinian Right of Return, which Arab countries and most Palestinians will compromise, if only Israel would show a willingness to give the victims of the 1948 and 1967 wars a modicum of respect and justice.

International laws gives refugees the absolute right to return to homes and lands they owned prior to the creation of Israel. Given today’s realities, however, Palestinians are willing to compromise if Israel acknowledged that right. They would settle outside Israel in Arab lands and the proposed Palestinian State.

Israel has indicated it will explore all these issues. After nearly a decade, the two sides might return to the peace table.

Instead of contributing to this effort to move the region towards peace, a handful of extremist, fanatic supporters of Israel led by Lantos wants to prove to the Arab World, once again, that the United States can’t be respected and that Americans are not just.

When will Lantos and other members of his pro-Israel coalition standup for what’s best for the Middle East and for the United States instead of always making Israel their number one priority?

As Americans, we have to stop separating terrorists on the basis of race, ethnicity or nationality. Terrorism does not have an ethnic face. We need to support policies that are driven by justice and fairness, not partisan politics and selfish agendas.

To win the War on terrorism, and bring peace to Palestinians and Israelis, we must reinforce trust in the Arab World by being just and fair.

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