Recently, we at IKHRAS congratuled Ray Hanania on his appointment to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s (ADC) National Board, and came out in support of the ADC’s decision to confirm him. We also stated why we support his appointment and provided a list of compatibility factors as complete and thorough as MATCH.COM. In response we received a note from Hanania which stated the following:
“The biggest problem in the Arab World and the American Arab community is the lack of tolerance for differing opinions. There is no debate about the issues, it is always about personality. You don’t like my view, you attack me. That attitude and culture of intolerance has helped to weaken the ability of Palestinians to fight for their rights.”
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Of course our first article did indeed address the issues; in fact we numbered them, and pointed out that Hanania’s positions are very compatible with the ADC, thus, our approval of the marriage. Since we left Hanania unsatisfied we decided to take an even closer look, and, in doing so, reaffirmed his views are worthy not of debate, but of rebuke. We think IKHRAS readers will agree.
For those who don’t know Hanania, he is a journalist and comedian, and it’s not always certain which role he is playing at any given moment. He has a regular column in the Jerusalem Post, the right-wing Zionist rag which also regularly features Daniel Pipes’ hateful rants, their pictures often appearing together in the Op-Eds section as they are now. As we will see Hanania has been well on his way to “normalization”, not only with Zionism, but with its most extreme elements. His stand-up comedy routines which I forced myself to watch (a difficult, and at moments, even nauseating task) were very unfunny. The choice of subject matter for his material (airplanes, terrorism, profiling and humous) was as predictable as his telegraphed punch lines, and when combined with his terrible timing makes for very lame performances. I rewarded myself for my endurance and recuperated with a couple of performances by Duraid Laham and George Carlin who reminded me just how funny, insightful and provocative political satire and stand-up comedy can be.
Hanania’s choice of topics for his presumably more serious commentaries is also limited. Naturally, the Arab-Zionist conflict tops the list, but after reading his collection in the Jerusalem Post what we found was largely endless blathering about a distinctly mainstream American (authorized) version of the conflict in Palestine. Before we get to Palestine for which there is an abundance of material, we did find a couple of interesting and very telling articles about other parts of the Arab world worth mentioning.
The Comedy Tour Goes To DARFUR
Let us begin with a small detour to Darfur before addressing Hanania’s favorite topic. In Darfur, Sudan, a humanitarian disaster precipitated by a civil war overlapped with foreign greed, meddling and interests, and was then seized upon and exploited in a campaign of demonization against Arabs. Interestingly, the same Khartoum regime singled out for vilification was described by Western governments and media as “Muslim” when it was locked in a civil war in Southern Sudan, but given that Darfur is inhabited by Muslims it was necessary to redefine the regime as Arab, a change unnoticed by Hanania who chimed in on Sudan in this article. Clearly lacking any basic knowledge of Sudan or the reality on the ground in Darfur, Hanania adopts the narrative and propaganda of the well-funded, star-studded “Save Darfur Coalition”, and lectures the “racist” Arabs saying “The first people who should be standing up to tell the Sudanese government to stop oppressing innocent people and to disband the Janjaweed are the Arabs, Muslims, and especially the Palestinians.” Hanania also repeats the old epithet about the crazy Arabs and their crazy conspiracy theories. He accuses Sudan of blaming it “all on the Jews” and offers a single short quote for a Sudanese official for which he did not give a clear citation, and then builds on it by stating “Sudan’s response sits well with many who would love to distract attention from the atrocities by claiming the negative publicity is being generated by a Jewish conspiracy.” Arab analysts and observers have rightly pointed out pro-Israel lobbying groups made Darfur one of the main targets of their “moral outrage”, a deeply cynical and blatant hypocrisy difficult to ignore given the non-stop violence of Israel in the service of a racist ideology and system. This has to make us wonder what Hanania could contribute to the heretofore failed efforts of the ADC at combating negative Arab stereotypes.
In this same article Hanania appears not to speak Arabic very well, if at all. In a sweeping generalization about Arab racism, he writes “there is a cultural hesitancy over Darfur driven by racism; the victims, who are mostly Muslim, are “Abeds” – the Arabic word for “slave,” which, when used in this context, is equivalent to “nigger” in English.” Hanania is correct the word “Abd” in Arabic does literally mean slave and it is the Arabic equivalent of the English “nigger”, which sounds as ugly in Arabic as it does in English. However, Arabic, being the Semitic language that it is, does not ad the English letter “s” at the end of a word to form the plural form of the noun. The plural of Abd” would be “Abeed”, and the English equivalent of Hanania’s “Abeds” would be “fishes” or “mouses.” It would be really interesting to know if Hanania speaks Arabic. Given his position on Palestine, which we will shortly look at, it appears he has never understood one single written or spoken word by any Palestinian refugee or resistance fighter. He has used the word “Insha allah” and referred to “tabouleh, felafel and humous”, Arabic gems which when employed (and for some reason they appear as a set) usually indicate the Arab-American speaker or writer has immediately exhausted his Arabic vocabulary. James Zogby also enjoys the Levantine, Arab salad dish and mentioned “taawbooleee” in the course of expressing his pride in his Arab heritage during a recent congressional hearing on, what else, terrorism.
“Moderate Saudi Leadership”? Bad Satire or Bad Taste?
Unlike us here at IKHRAS, there is atleast one Arab government Hanania is willing to defend. He apparently admires and supports the Saudi regime which, not coincidentally, happens to be the US-designated representative of the Arab people and Muslims worldwide, and a pliant conduit for American power. This oppressive, medieval, reactionary tyranny, whose cruelties and obscurantism find no sanction in Islamic Jurisprudence or tradition, which was brought to power in the Arabian peninsula by Western colonialism, and undergirded by American power, is described by Hanania as “one of our strongest allies” in the “war on terror” and “the war on oil prices” and he has promoted something called “moderate Saudi Arab leadership…” What exactly is “moderate” about any aspect of the Saudi regime? Can Saudi moderation be defined as 50 lashes for lovers instead of a 100? Or maybe six heads decapitated by sword in chop-chop square instead of a dozen? Or could it be that the moderate Saudis have passed a law mandating a 5-year phased in reduction of the diameter of any cable used to “legally” whip women? Is there any moderation in their treatment of Shia Muslims? And how moderate is their exploitation and abuse of foreign workers and maids who labor under conditions often, and fairly, described as a modern form of slavery? The only element required for the designation of “Moderate Arab” by the US foreign policy establishment (and Hanania’s Pavlovian adoption of the term) is that all so critical moderation towards the Zionist regime in Palestine and American imperialism and domination in the region. That anyone would characterize the Saudi regime as “moderate” is unsettling, and when such a characterization comes from a hypocrite feigning concern about an “attitude and culture of intolerance”, the irony should be obvious even to one with his poor satirical skills. This admiration for that Saudi beacon of tolerance and pluralism will be of great benefit to Hanania at the ADC which has always enjoyed coddling ambassadors of Pro-US tyrannies, semi-literate Arab royalty and oil-Sheikhs at their banquets or galas, and I confess I don’t know the difference.
Campaign Platforms and More Poor Comedy
Hanania has quite a bit to say about the 100-year war on Palestine. After forcing myself to read Ray’s views on Palestine I would characterize them as mainstream Likudnick, falling somewhere between Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu on the Zionist political spectrum. You be the judge.
When discussing Zionism’s century of butchery, ethnic cleansing, and colonialism in Palestine, Hanania likes to “blame both sides” as if there is any moral equivalence between the violence of the colonizer and the resistance to colonialism. He thinks this makes him sound reasonable and even-handed. This moral equivalence canard and constant criticism of both sides (very mild when it comes to Israel) appears to be a regular theme in his writings, and an approach seemingly intended to be suggestive of his rational, realistic, and tolerant outlook, in contrast with the emotions, hate, and irrationality of the stereotypical Arab from which he is determined to distance himself.
He also appears to believe marrying a Jewish woman (something he often mentions in his writings and “comedy” routines) qualifies him to lecture Arabs about tolerance, co-existence, and mutual respect. “My wife and I argue”, he says, “but we don’t yell and scream.” How wonderful it must feel basking in your own civility in Mid-West America. I suppose it’s not too hard to do when you’re not locked up under siege in the open-air prison Gaza has become, or haven’t been living in a squalid refugee camp for decades. It must be easier to maintain your civility when you’re leisurely lying around safe and secure in your living room celebrating holidays with your family without fear of soldiers coming to bulldoze your home, or having white phosphorous dropped on your children and neighborhood. Yes I’m sure that makes it much easier to maintain a cool temperament and casually write about your dinner preparations at a time when the Israeli occupation army counts the calories (much the same as Veterinarians might do for animals at a zoo) entering the besieged Gaza strip. In this same article the Arab-American comedian again mentions “Humous” and “Falafel” and even throws in “Insha’allah” at the end. What did I say?
Hanania’s failure in pursuing a stand-up comedy career, which he will be trying to revive when he takes his seat on the ADC National Board, did not deter him one bit. He continued his attempts at humor by announcing his candidacy for President of Palestine! No where are his reprehensible views better illustrated than in his campaign “platform.” Launching his campaign for President of Palestine (which may have upset Saeb Erakat, a comedian in his own right) he says: “I think what Palestine and Israel need is a candidate who is unequivocal on a vision for peace. So here’s my platform. I support two states, one Israel and one Palestine. As far as I am concerned, I can recognize Israel’s “Jewish” character and Israelis should recognize Palestine’s “non-Jewish” character. I oppose violence of any kind from and by anyone. I reject Hamas’s participation in any Palestinian government without first agreeing to surrender all arms and to accept two states as a “final” peace agreement…Palestinian refugees would give up their demand to return to pre-1948 homes and lands lost during the conflict with Israel…I ALSO think Israelis should find it in their hearts to show compassion and offer their apologies to Palestinians for the conflict. I support creation of a similar fund to compensate those Jews from Arab lands who lost their homes and lands, too, when they fled…It’s my vision, but I also think it is a vision shared by a majority of Palestinians…”
Hanania’s vision for a solution is identical to what Sharon, Netanyahu, and the other ideological descendants of Vladimir Jabotinsky hope the Palestinians will accept. He politely calls on the Zionist colonizers to “find it in their hearts to show compassion and offer their apologies” in exchange for which the Palestinians would abandon their right of return and accept and legitimize a permanent existence in three or four Bantustans under Israeli domination and control which they will generously be permitted to refer to as a state. Wasn’t it Sharon who said they can even call it an empire? He calls on the Palestinian resistance organization Hamas, which like Israeli propagandists he routinely refers to as a “terrorist” group, to “surrender all arms.” Hanania has even claimed “most Palestinians… fear the violent threats from groups like Hamas and other extremists (who would just as soon murder another Palestinian as they would any Jew)”, and that Israel was “provoked” in 1967. Forget the stupidity about provoking Israel in 1967, but notice the preposterous notion of separating a broad based Palestinian resistance group, and the largest democratically elected political party from the Palestinian people themselves, and the disgraceful conflating of resistance to Israeli occupation with violent anti-Semitism. Condemning Palestinian resistance to the colonization and occupation of their homeland, and attacking their demand of the right of return, the very definition of the Palestinian liberation movement (which began in 1948, not 1967) is a constant element in Hanania’s political ramblings. In the same article, Hanania again calls on the Palestinians to “accept their own failures” and abandon the “unrealistic” demand of their inalienable right of return which the Palestinian’s stubborn insistence upon seems to annoy our comedian as much as it does their Israeli occupiers. He even throws in a favored Zionist distracter by shamelessly invoking the false analogy between the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the emigration of Jews from the Arab world.
Hanania’s “platform” (which if not for the Palestinian’s daily suffering and continuing Nakba would have been the stand-up comic’s best chance of getting a chuckle out of me) accepts the legitimacy and permanence of the Zionist entity in Palestine, and its manifestation in a Jewish, exclusivist state at time when Zionists themselves are recognizing the inevitable collapse of their project. What is truly astounding is that Hanania, with his crackpot realism, really believes those of us who reject Zionism, colonialism, ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and occupation, are the “extremists.” The apparent sincerity of a Palestinian-American’s belief (even one driven by self-interest) in this skewed definition of extremism is a testament to just how completely and overwhelmingly the fictional, Pro-Israel narrative has come to dominate any discussion of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the US.
When he’s not attacking Palestinians and ostensibly criticizing an openly fascistic thug like Avigdor Lieberman, he does so not for the morally repugnant views and genocidal utterances other Israelis restrict to less public forums, but because “his ideas fall right into the hands of Palestinian extremists.” And just a few weeks ago when Israel, in a barbarous act of piracy, attacked the Freedom Flotilla trying to break the siege of Gaza in the International waters of the Mediterranean sea, Hanania once again pulled out the blame both sides formula and wrote “Both sides are at fault in this confrontation…” He described the humanitarian activists including the nine brave Turks slaughtered on the high seas as being “against peace…” He blamed them for choosing confrontation instead of negotiation and dismissed their efforts to help the besieged people of Gaza as a “dramatic PR drive.” It wasn’t Israel, but the organizers of the flotilla that “brought more death and violence.” Ignoring the fact the Turkish peace activists were killed defending the Mavi Marmara ship from a military assault, Hanania viewed the incident as another opportunity to refer to Palestinian resistance groups as “terrorists” and managed to insert something about the killing of “innocent Israeli civilians” without offering a single kind word of condolence to the families of the murdered peace activists.
And if you’re not yet sickened by this Hanania character, he has even called on Palestinians to stop using the word Nakba and to replace it with something, get this, “less offensive” to their occupier. He also criticizes the use of the word “apartheid” to describe the racist Zionist regime, and blames the Palestinian Arabs in occupied Palestine-48 for Israel’s discriminatory practices in that region of their homeland saying “A big part of the problem is the Arab citizens themselves. They don’t help matters much. Arabs claim to want to be citizens, but they act like foreigners.” On the contrary Ray, the Palestinian Arabs, the indigenous population of Palestine never asked to be Israeli citizens. Their second-class Israeli citizenship was imposed upon them, and they hardly act like foreigners. They live steadfastly on this land with the self-assurance that comes with being the original and true owners of Palestine exuding courage, dignity and the silent confidence that this homeland will be liberated making the occupiers and colonizers feel like the insecure, foreign land-thieves they are.
Hanania’s positions are not simply foolish and naive, but also unconscionable. They are detached from the Palestinian reality and struggle for liberation, and clearly tailored for an American audience within the context of the Zionist narrative that dominates any discussion of Palestine in this country. This is typical of many Arab-American commentators seeking acceptance and approval from the establishment, but Hanania has gone further than most with his efforts to undermine the Palestinians people’s struggle for freedom. His readiness to accept the permanence of a racist, colonial project and calls for abandoning the right of return constitute an abandonment of any legal consideration and represent a moral failure, not to mention a lack of pragmatism. His attacks on Palestinian resistance groups and International solidarity activists are shameless. The reader also detects a strong anti-Muslim streak and a sectarianism in his writings alien to Palestinian society. Hanania is entitled to his barely distinguishable political views and comedy routines, but he needs to be reminded the Palestinian people are not interested in his American inspired, Zionist approved formula for a “solution”, and the dispossessed Palestinian refugees did not authorize this journalist/comedian to make concessions on their behalf from the comfort of his American living-room nor do they need to be lectured about realism and civility. We can go on, but we won’t. We have seen enough.
Hanania accused us of not debating the issues and having a “lack of tolerance.” Maybe he’s right. At some point it becomes useless to debate certain people and views. Hanania falls into this group. We have no tolerance for Zionism and its apologists regardless of their personal background. The views he expresses are contemptible, and giving them any serious consideration would be a disservice to the Palestinian people.
Hanania’s comedic bankruptcy, vapid writings, and his stance on the struggle for Palestinian freedom and justice confirms, as we said in our first piece, his suitability for a position with the ADC. As he prepares to take the stage on the National Board with the other jokesters of that lousy and failed organization we wish him better success in this second chance at a career in comedy. We usually ask such people to IKHRAS, but we won’t ask Ray to do so. We are looking forward to his gig at the ADC, and we’re still hopeful he may yet get a laugh out of us.