No to fanaticism on either side

No to fanaticism on either side
Ray Hanania
Saudi Gazette July 15, 2012

The movement to free Palestine from Israel’s oppressive, brutal occupation has been hijacked by a coalition consisting of the small collective of secular rejectionists and the growing movement of Islamic extremists.

The majority of the Arab public fears this group and tolerates their actions. They have been driven to apathy by the historic failure of the Arab world to right the 1948 wrong by creating a Palestinian state to protect the interests of Muslims and Christians.

No movement has been a greater failure than the movement to re-establish Palestinian rights and to block Israel’s discriminatory policies which openly discriminate against civilians on the basis of their religion.

Christian Palestinians are the hardest hit by virtue of their vanishing presence in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christianity.

Palestinian activist rhetoric has become extreme. It is driven often by emotion rather than strategic thinking. Even if one could argue that Israel is an apartheid-like society, the distinctions between true apartheid based on racial discrimination of whites versus blacks and religious discrimination based on Jews versus non-Jews is too stark to justify the use of the term. Israel is guilty of religious discrimination, not apartheid. But the phrase “religious discrimination” doesn’t charge up the activists’ emotions as much as “apartheid” does.

The activists hope the term apartheid will resurrect the successful protests that transformed Israel-like South Africa and Rhodesia into free and democratic nations. So why do extremist activists exaggerate? Because it is a means of veiling their failure as activists. Their activism hasn’t resulted in the freedom of one inch of Palestinian land.

The only real success came through Yasser Arafat who led the Palestinian people out of obscurity and forced the world to recognize the injustice that was committed against them in 1948 by the United Nations and the complicit Western nations and that has been reinforced and expanded by Israel in the years since.

It’s one reason why Arafat is as viciously disparaged by some Palestinian activists as by Israelis.

The record of the activists is abysmal. If they were in charge of any organization, they would have been fired long ago. They are incapable of coping with their failure, thus the tendency to exaggerate, distort and replace pragmatic discussion and public debate with intolerance and even the indirect support of violence.

While some activists denounce violence and terrorism, many quietly close their eyes to it believing that violence is the only way to create the change they want, the destruction of the peace movement, elimination of Israel and a return in time like in an H. G. Wells science fiction novel to the year 1947 when the Arab world failed to prevent the UN from ordering the partition of Solomon’s baby. The UN, with the backing of the United States, cut the baby in half, destroying it forever for both sides.

Since its creation, Israel has never enjoyed genuine peace. Even in the era of peace that began when Arafat extended an olive branch and later recognition of Israel or when Egypt’s Anwar Sadat surrendered to the might of the Israeli military and US foreign aid bribes, resulting in empty peace accords, Israel has never achieved its goal of peace.

Israel has exploited the extremism in the Arab world, wanting it as much as many Arabs have wanted violence as a pressure tactic. In truth, violence is the only thing that makes Israelis respond and change. Peace has only given Israel the opportunity to steal more Christian and Muslim land by creating exclusive Jewish-only settlements.

The settlement movement is the fruit of Israeli racism, a racism Israelis continue to deny in the face of reality.

What needs to be done is to replace the fanaticism and unreasonableness of the failed activist movement with activists who can embrace more strategic and effective practices, more reasoned and persuasive logic and rhetoric that turns supporters on, not off. It’s the only way to confront Israel’s discriminatory practices and the success of its efforts to cleanse Christians and Muslims from the land it occupies.

And it is “religious cleansing”. Israel takes land from Palestinian Christians and Muslims, prohibits Christians and Muslims from ever reacquiring their own land, and then settles Jews on that land.

This racist settlement movement breeds violent extremists among the Israelis. The settlers are the most vicious and well-armed terrorists in the Middle East. They kill Christians and Muslims with near impunity and little consequence.

They have the backing of the majority of Israelis. Even the moderates rationalize the settler ideology and fanaticism that drives them.
Until we divest from the extremists, on both sides, there will be no peace in Palestine or Israel.

Tragically, the extremists are the only real option being presented to the people. Not even peaceful compromise is being offered as a realistic choice.

— Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist and radio talk show host. Reach him at

Categories: Middle East Topics

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