One of the tactics Zionists and their supporters often employ is to make a partially accurate assertion about a reality or condition, blow it out of proportion and then exploit both the minor truth it may contain and the exaggerated extrapolations in order to deceive, mislead, and deflect attention from the racism and violence of the Zionist state. Ray Hanania, the failed comedian, Jerusalem Post (JP) columnist, and newest ADC board of directors member who does not speak Arabic, is now claiming to speak for and defend Christians Arabs and other Christians across the entire “Muslim world.”
Not only does Ray not speak Arabic, but his views of Arab society, which are strikingly consistent with American television images, boilerplate Orientalist clichés and Western media stereotypes, suggest he has never experienced a significant period of time living in the Arab world. I doubt he has spent more than a few weeks in a couple of Arab countries, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he has one of those vacation photos favored by tourists with him sitting on top of a camel with a kuffiyeh on his head in his old family albums. In his latest musing Ray is coming to the defense of the “persecuted” Christians in what he calls the “Muslim world.” With a self-assured tone the Arab-American clown states, “The fact is that Christians continue to be persecuted in Muslim countries and the only defense we get is the argument of silence against “airing the dirty laundry” in public.” Anti-Muslim bigots often make sweeping generalizations about that mythical, monolithic bloc of 1.5 billion people without any consideration of geography, nationality, language, culture, ideology, or the political systems and orientation of the over 50 different states that encompass that reduced collective called the “Muslim world.” Hanania is a product of an American political culture characterized by very little knowledge of different peoples, cultures, geography and International politics, and one shouldn’t expect Ray The Comedian to be any better informed than Joe The Plumber about the Arabs or the “Muslim” world simply because his parents or grandparents came from an Arab country. Ikhras has already pointed out a strong sectarian streak in his JP writings, and blathering on Palestine so we are not surprised by his latest attempt to play the sectarian card in the service of Zionism.
It’s not possible to respond to a sweeping assertion like “Christians continue to be persecuted in Muslim countries…” Unless Ray wants to take some time off from his silly “humor writing” and write a report about religious freedom and persecution on a given country or regime, there is nothing to respond to. Ray does mention the murder of 10 Westerners in Northern Afghanistan by either “robbers” or “terrorists”, but such a crime carried out by Muslims hardly justifies such broad generalizations and indictments. Limiting Ray’s assertions to the Arab world he mistakenly presumes to know slightly more about, we can say for certain his claims are demonstrably false. By and large Christian Arabs themselves don’t claim to be persecuted. This isn’t about Christians being persecuted in any one Muslim-majority country, and Ray hasn’t discovered anything new when he points to Muslim extremists and murderers. They exist among all groups.
What this is really about is the fueling of anti-Muslim hysteria and the promotion of an image of the Arabs and Muslims consistent with the Zionist narrative of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Why else would Ray write “Christians face as much turmoil equally oppressed with Muslims under Israel’s brutal occupation as they do in Muslim and Arab countries.” Even if this false claim was true, why would any discussion of the Christians’ plight in the Arab world or in Muslim-majority countries require comparisons to the conditions of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation? Why is Israel the only state with which Ray draws any comparisons? The reason is clear. Ray wants to downplay the oppression and displacement (which he supports with calls to abandon the Palestinian right of return) of the indigenous population of Palestine which is qualitatively different in scope and duration than any other legitimate grievance others in the region may have. Ray knows what he’s doing. That’s why he attempts a preemptive defense when he writes “I don’t care if, as some fanatics argue, that discussing this “gives comfort” to the Israelis. The fact is that discussing it might also give comfort to many Christian Arabs who are not only fleeing Israeli oppression but also the sad reality of the Arab World, the Middle East and the Muslim World…” These old Zionist tactics failed even when they were employed by people far more cunning than this cheap sectarian agitator.
Bloomberg on his solidarity trip to express support for Israel's onslaught on Gaza Jan/2009
More evidence that Ray’s sectarian outburst is intended to be understood within the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict is found in his emphasis on Jewish support for the “Ground Zero” Mosque in New York. As our readers will know we at Ikhras really don’t’ care if this Mosque is built, and we consider it an example of Muslim-Americans’ skewed priorities, but nevertheless, we do notice Ray emphasizing Jewish support for this project. He writes “among the people leading the charge were Jewish Americans. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg were among those who expressed support for the mosque and urged religious tolerance.” Anyone familiar with American political and social history knows that many Jews are defenders of civil rights and we certainly know more about America than Ray knows about the Arab and “Muslim” worlds. However, we ask the question why the emphasis on Jewish-Americans as opposed to Protestants, Catholics, Baptists, Hindus, or Buddhists? Many advocates of civil rights and supporters of the project are found among all those groups. Again, the answer is Ray wants to promote the Zionist narrative of the conflict in Palestine and downplay the crimes of Israel, and he thinks he can do so by highlighting Pro-Israeli Jews’ support for the building of an Islamic Center.
This is why Ray describes Bloomberg as a supporter of “religious tolerance.” In other words, Ray wants the readers to believe that one can be a supporter of Israel and tolerance at the same time. Bloomberg is a fanatical supporter of Israel who traveled there during Israel’s onslaught on Gaza in 2008 to express support for its massacres of Palestinian civilians. As Israel was raining white phosphorous on the helpless civilians in Gaza Bloomberg said “We have to stop this carnage, and the way to stop it is to have Hamas stop trying to kill innocents…,And if they won’t stop, then the Israelis have no choice but to use all the resources at their command to protect their citizens. We would do exactly the same thing in New York City.” The “carnage” Bloomberg was referring to were homemade Hamas rockets, which had killed no more than half a dozen people, and not the massacring of hundreds of Palestinian children by Israel. When asked about a “proportional response”, he quickly dismissed such a notion and insisted on Israel’s right to use all its resources “quickly and decisively” in pursuing terrorists. That anyone who supports such crimes in Gaza can be described as “leading the charge” against the betrayal of “religious freedom and equality” or an advocate of “religious tolerance” is obscene, but the purpose of this description is obvious. Ray who supports normalization with Israel wants to promote the Israeli narrative, downplay the crimes of Israel, and perpetuate the deadly lie that support for Zionism is a legitimate and respected point of view.
Ray The Comedian
Maybe if Ray understood Arabic he can actually speak to Christian Arabs who comprise the oldest Christians communities in the world. With the exception of Lebanon, an artificial entity carved out of Syria by the French Colonial power in order to create a Christian dominated state in which Muslims were marginalized politically and economically, and which experienced a brutal civil war which sometimes took the form of Christian-Muslim violence, relations among Christian and Muslim Arabs have been rather harmonious. He should meet with Christian Iraqis and ask them about their lives prior to the US invasion and destruction of Iraq. It was the US occupation of Iraq and its deliberate policy of stirring sectarian strife that lead to the slaughter of Muslims along with Christians and the bombings of Mosques along with Churches. Or maybe he can go to Syria, and visit Ma’aloula northeast of Damascus and speak to members of a Christian community that still speaks the language of Jesus, and ask them about their living conditions. They can explain it to him in Arabic or Aramaic, and I know he can find an English speaking interpreter in the city. Ray can also go to the Palestine he keeps blathering about and speak to Christians and ask them if they are persecuted by Muslims or if they and Muslims both are persecuted for being Arab by the same Zionist regime and occupation he wants to legitimize and accept as permanent. In fact, Ray should go to the Gaza Strip, ruled by the Hamas resistance organization he routinely describes as extremists, radicals, and terrorists and speak to the Palestinian Christians which share that large open-air prison with their fellow Palestinian Muslims. Even in Egypt, where the largest Christian community in the Arab world lives, Coptic Christians legitimately complain about the unfair and discriminatory policies of the US backed dictatorship, but don’t claim to be persecuted.
There is one theocratic state in the Arab world that should be singled out for condemnation based on its religious bigotry, intolerance, and support of religious extremism, but interestingly Ray admires and supports the Saudi regime, and has promoted something called “moderate Saudi Arab leadership…” Hanania will have another opportunity to express his admiration for that Saudi beacon of religious tolerance the next time the ADC honors a representative of the Saudi regime at one of its banquets or galas, and I confess I still don’t know the difference.
More Proof Ray Doesn’t Speak Arabic
After writing “All my life, I was told that I should never use the phrase “Muslims and Christians.” Instead, I was told, we should always say “Arabs and Muslims.” I don’t like it one bit. The silence demeans Christian Arabs and marginalizes them even more than we already are…” Ray should finally admit his ignorance of the Arabic language and Arab society. First, its true Arabs generally don’t use the phrase “Muslims and Christians”, but that’s because unlike Ray the comedian they don’t view themselves through the false prism and constructs of the American political culture. It doesn’t demean Christian Arabs nor does it marginalize them. On the contrary, it emphasizes the common identity that transcends religious affiliation within the natural and shared social fabric of Arab society. Ray is also oblivious to why he was told to use “Arabs and Muslims” which is precisely because the two are not interchangeable, a misunderstanding Ray himself has complained about. If Ray understood Arabic and was able to follow the public discourse within the Arab world he would also not call upon Muslims to “publicly” condemn acts of terror, but the notion that not enough “good Muslims” have condemned “bad Muslims” has become a common theme among the ignorant bigots in the US who wouldn’t understand whether an Arabic-speaking Muslim is advocating terrorism or discussing Qataif recipes in anticipation of Ramadan.
Attempts by Zionists to stir sectarian strife among Arabs are not new, but they are usually more sophisticated than Ray’s amateurish ploy. According to Hillel Cohen’s Army of Shadows: Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism, 1917-1948, in 1920 Chaim Weizman asked the intelligence office of the Zionist movement to come up with a plan to counter Arab opposition to Zionism. The plan they presented to Weizman included “Provocation of dissension between Christians and Muslims.” Since then Zionists have often attempted to create dissension and division among the Palestinians, but Weizman failed to sow the seeds of sectarianism in 1920, Israel continued to fail over decades of colonialism and occupation, and it is still failing today in Gaza and Chicago.
In addition to helping Israeli propaganda efforts, Ray also plays the sectarian card in dealing with criticism of his own political views. He now claims “Publicly, my Arab and Muslim critics insist that my religion is not an issue, but many Christians know that is a lie. It’s one reason why I was targeted then and why I am being targeted now, as one of the new members of the National Board of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.” We at Ikhras have never mentioned Ray’s religious background and we couldn’t’ care less. What we have focused on is his support of Zionism, his vapid writings, and his contribution to the efforts of the anti-Palestinian camp here in the US, which we, and the vast majority of Arabs, find contemptible. We have also mocked his lame comedy routines, but that’s just for fun.
As we stated in the beginning the Muslim inhabited countries of the world can’t be reduced to a single, monolithic bloc, and it is neither possible nor necessary to respond to sweeping generalizations and indictments motivated by bigotry, prejudice, and various political agendas. The Arab world itself is very diverse, and Christians within the various Arab countries may have different experiences living in various degrees of comfort and well-being. It is true that the Christian presence is decreasing. With lower birthrates and smaller numbers to begin with, immigration has made their numbers dwindle, but they are not “fleeing” Muslim persecution. They are immigrating for the same reasons Muslims immigrate, for more opportunity and a better future that does not exist under the corrupt, illegitimate, and dictatorial regimes in the Arab world. In Palestine, it is the brutal Israeli occupation that is driving out Christians. Legitimate grievances of any community should not be downplayed and need to be addressed as part of the struggle for democracy, human rights, and a more just society, but whatever social ills Christians and Muslims may be experiencing must also not be exploited in furtherance of sinister political machinations or anti-Muslim propaganda. Fortunately, the efforts of those who continue exploiting this issue will not be very effective until they make people like Ray The Comedian Ikhras and find someone more skillful than this cheap and transparent amateur to promote and advance their political agenda.