The extremist Arabs always attack first and ask questions later, June 9, 2011

The extremist Arabs always attack first and ask questions later
By Ray Hanania — Extremist Arabs, whether in the Middle East or the West, have a tendency of attacking first and then asking questions later. Maybe. We’re a community driven by anger and emotion as evidenced by the haphazard manner of Arab community activism.

This weekend, the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) will host its annual convention. There is a long list of speakers and performers including Malek Jandali, a Syrian American who was born Germany. Jandali has been pushing a recent song he wrote that is critical of the Syrian Government.

ADC dropped Jandali, and right away the Arab Peanut Gallery (APG) of shoot-from-the-hip critics started to accuse ADC of supporting the repression of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. ADC explained that it is not their purpose to promote inter-Arab attacks — I mean, ADC is first and foremost not a political organization, but rather the single group that defends the rights of American Arabs who are targets of bigotry and discrimination. No other group defends Arabs across the board — Christian, Muslim or otherwise. (Here is ADC’s statement.)

I’m a national board member of ADC and I know what it’s like to be attacked by the APG. My wife and son are Jewish and because of that fact groups like KabobFest and Ikhras have been viciously attacking me with all kinds of lies and insults.

But knowing that they are worthless panderers who appeal to small circles of Arab activists who talk the life of protest but rarely stand at the front of the revolution themselves, their views are inconsequential to the challenges we face. These extremists are the darlings of the pro-Israel crowd. Sounds unusual? Not really. The pro-Israel groups don’t want to deal with the moderate or reasoned voices in the Arab community who can challenge Israel’s policies with some impact. They prefer the Arab extremists because they know the extremists are cliches, ineffective and totally marginalized by the powers that impact Palestine’s future.

Israel loves the Arab fanatics. No one makes Israel’s case more effectively.

Frankly, if it were up to me, I’d probably drop about 10 of the other speakers for fomenting divisions in the American Arab community and replace them with a few more voices who represent the mainstream moderate American Arab community, who are the majority, rather than the loud-mouthed voices of extremism, who are the minority.

But it’s not up to me. I didn’t participate in the programs as I have with other national organizations. That’s okay. Maybe next year.

Still, it’s fascinating how Jandali has become the focus of the extremist American Arabs. If they didn’t have anything to complain about, these small groups of extremists wouldn’t have anything to do. They do nothing positive, but are great are burning down. A better adjective than extremists might be arsonists. They are skilled at tearing things down and have no talent to build anything up.

I’m conflicted over the controversy involving Syria. On the one hand, the government of Bashar al-Assad has been brutal towards the protestors. On the other hand, I don’t know who these protestors really are. Most American Arabs feel the way I do about Syria. They are conflicted. Why fan the flames of one side over the other, just to make Israel and the rightwing U.S. Congress happy?

Syria has been one of the most faithful to the concept of freedom when it comes to Christian Arabs — I’m Christian, another reason why the APG critics attack me. The fanatics love Christian Arabs as long as they pay homage to their vicious activism and their hatred against Jews; but God forbid that one of those Christians might express an opinion they dislike.

There are ways to push the Syrian regime to embrace Democratic reforms, although that should be a goal not only for all the Arab countries but many of America’s allies, too. Why is the government of Syria held to a different standard than the other 15 Arab countries that are not being targeted by the United States? Sure, there was Egypt, but the U.S. never got involved until it was too late to save dictator Husni Mubarak. Israel was afraid of change in Egypt, as they are of change in Jordan. Mubarak has been replaced, but not by a Democratic movement but by a military junta backed by the United States.

Then there is Libya and Iraq, where the United States basically violated international laws and invaded and attacked both countries, unprovoked and without any basis in the rule of law.

But there are 15 other Arab countries that the United States is protecting, because 1) they are far and away from the confrontation status with Israel and 2) they do lots of business with the United States and some, indirectly with Israel.

Taking out Syria bothers me for a lot of reasons. It doesn’t help guarantee Democracy to the Syrian people. All it does is make the country unstable so that Israel can get what it wants.

Just look at the hypocrisy in the mainstream American media where the child was brutally killed by Syrian mukhabarat (secret police) and is being exploited by protestors as their icon of revolution.

No one in the mainstream media complained when Mohammed alDura was murdered by the Israelis in cold blood. In fact, Israel and the mainstream American and Western media blamed alDurra’s murder on the Arabs. Yes, when a killing hurts Israel, it is blamed on the Arabs. When a killing helps Israel, as in the case of the protests in Syria, the media comes out strong to blame the Arabs.

Whether Jandali does or doesn’t perform at the ADC conference means nothing to me and probably the majority of American Arabs who are silenced in fear by the activism of a small group of fanatics who brow beat and threaten anyone who challenges their extremist agenda.

But it does raise an issue about the disturbing trend in the American Arab community where it is easier to bash other Arabs than it is to standup to Israel. Maybe that’s what happens to victims, because Arabs and especially Palestinians are victims of more than a century of oppression. Victims find it is easier to beat up on themselves rather than to stand up to the real oppressors.

So if I had to chose between destroying Syria to make the Israelis happy, or bringing Democracy to Syria, I have to ask, having lived in the corrupted form of Democracy practiced in the United States, why would we want American-controlled Democracy to takeover Syria?

In a fair world, Malik Jandali should have been allowed to perform his song at ADC. Why not? But, how about doing a song that speaks to the failures of the Arab extremists?

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and media consultant. He can be reached at

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(Radio Baladi podcast with listeners on ADC, Jandali and Syria.)

Categories: General Topics

5 replies

  1. I’m sorry Ray, but just because people may have a different idea of what is acceptable by a anti-discrimination group, doesn’t make them extremists. It just means they disagree. And if it’s about principles, then people will tend to judge you. That’s how principles work. Do you think that just because the majority of the Syrian population is Muslim, that this is a sectarian dispute? I think you need to take a step back and look at the decades of torture and abuse. And ask your Christian Syrian friends what the government said to them in 1982 in Hama when they held their hands up and waived their white flags. I have countless stories of what happened next. This isn’t about sects. It’s about standing up for HUMAN rights against a brutal cast of thugs. A mafia who routinely oppresses human rights. Take a step back and check your conscious. We need to come together as Arabs, not Christian Arabs, not Alawi Arabs, not Sunni or Shiite Arabs. It’s time to stand up for our human rights, and not be bullied. This move by the ADC reeks of top-down censorship. We know this game. Don’t try to paint it with another brush. It may seem small to you, but it is not to others. So we can agree to disagree, but don’t be surprised when people judge you for your stance.

  2. Well I think you missed the point of the column Bassel … ADC fights discrimination against Arabs in America. I agree that the Syrian regime is brutal and should be replaced. But

    1 – What’s the difference between Syria and the other 21 Arab countries?
    2 – Why should Malik Jandali perform his song as a representative of ADC (as entertainment) and why doesn’t Jandali engage in the debate that was offered to him?
    3 – the extremists are extremists not because they disagree but because of their hatred of Christians, Jews, Secular Muslims and anyone who disagrees with them, and their rejection of applying the same principle to everyone. They want to apply principle only when it is convenient for them, but not when it contradicts their rejection of peace or their personal attacks and their rejection of open debate

    I don’t think Jandali should be censored and he should perform his song, but I also think ADC has a case to argue that allowing him to perform at their event would misrepresent the oirganization and make it sound like ADC is protesting against the Syrian Government.

    Why is it not also protesting against Jordan, or Saudi Arabia or Qatar, or the UAE? We can’t pretend that some tolerate Democracy when they do not, yet hold another to a higher standard.

    Ray Hanania

  3. I’m aware of ADCs mission. It’s actually pretty simple Ray, ADC is discriminating against Mr Jandali simply because his song is perceived by some to be pro-conflict. If he were Jordanian, would he be allowed to sing? I’m sorry for your perception of Syrian extremists. I couldn’t disagree with you more. To be honest, I’m finding it hard to find consistency in your article or comments . Pointing to other countries in order to deflect from what’s going on is a good “winning an argument” technique at the playground, but it doesn’t cut it when talking about things as important as human rights. I actually can’t comprehend how anyone could be on the other side of this. But that’s another topic for another day, in another forum. ADC shouldn’t side on either side of this, but this is NOT about taking sides or censoring. Why did ADC even ask him to play, if they perceived this to be a hot button issue?

  4. Firstly, I fail to see how the song is “critical of the Syrian Government”. Unless you consider asking “When will I see you free” as criticism. The pianist is a US citizen born in Germany to Syrian parents. He studied and lived in Syria, Russia, and the US. Syria is nowhere mentioned in the song, although it is understood that -in the current context- Syria is implied, but that is a hardly offensive question. Which part exactly triggers this ‘division’ and ‘criticism’ that is causing the ADC trouble with the song?

    Secondly,I’ve observed this attitude of support for Assad among Syrian Christians in the US. What I don’t understand is where did anyone get the idea that it is thanks to Assad that Syria is a secular country? Did the Syrian people EVER in its entire history exhibit any prejudice or violence towards Christians? Wasn’t Faris Al Khoury, a Christian, Syria’s first foreign minister and the one who represented it when Syria co-founded the United Nations? Isn’t Michel Kilo, a Christian human rights activits, in jail for years under the Assad regime?

    Now, let’s just suppose for the sake of argument that this whole movement is driven by the Muslim brotherhood. Have you ever heard the Muslim brotherhood attack Christians or churches or advocate for discrimination against Christians? This whole “they will kill you if we are not the rulers” claim by the Assad (and Baathists in general) is preposterous and unjustified.

    A great article by Dr. Louay Safi explains exactly why the ADC credibility is on the line here. You can read it here:

    Do not ask me to stand shoulder to shoulder with a criminal just to preserve the appearance of “unity” in the community. I want nothing to do with that person. And if you organization advocates racial equity on the account of moral principles and human rights, then don’t expect much support from those of us who consider themselves human beings first before religion, ethnicity or political affiliation.

  5. @Bassel … I don’t think it is ADC “discriminating” against Malik Jandali to invite him to perform entertainment and then ask him to focus his entertainment on music not a political statement. They offered him a chance to join a panel and discuss his political views, but the entertainment section of the program is not the same as the open forums where many speakers can discuss issues openly (from many views) but not be perceived as speaking on behalf of ADC as Jandali’s performance would be perceived.

    Again, if it were up to me, I would have allowed him to perform because I don’t see the same meaning in his words, but everyone knows his song is a protest against the Syrian Government.

    Yes, let’s protest the Syrian Government, but why stop there? And, my bigger point in the column is that while I dislike the policies of the Syrian Government I dislike the policies of the Israeli government more and feel that the US led attacks against Syria have nothing to do with civil rights in Syria but rather anti-Arab politics to undermine any criticism of their government. Why isn’t the US Government and the US Media reporting with the same enthusiasm about Israel’s killing of Palestinian civilians?

    That’s the issue that concerns me

    And a side note about Ali Abunimeh: He is a liar and is part of the extremist movement that seeks to block peace. He can’t make an argument without exaggerating someone else’s comments. I’d wipe him all over the board if he had the courage to debate but he doesn’t. I can’t match that fake “intellectual colonialist accent” of his that he affactes in his speeches, but I can stand up to his extremist bull.

    ray hanania

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