JStreet reaches out to American Arabs to join in supporting Two-States
By Ray Hanania
JStreet, increasingly the leading organization promoting peace based on two-states, has launched a campaign to encourage American Jews and American Arabs to actively support the Two-State solution for Israel and Palestine.
As criticism of the Two-State Solution increases from extremist groups in both the Arab and Jewish communities, JStreet officials have launched a petition drive to show Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama that the concept continues to have strong support.
The JStreet campaign explains, “For the first time in 5 years, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are sitting down together. They’re working behind closed doors to craft the agreement central to our shared vision: two states for two peoples. While the details may be complex and the choices ahead difficult, the issues are clear, and it’s time for those who support a two-state resolution to this conflict to stand up and say so. Learn about the key issues–Borders, Security, Refugees and Jerusalem–and join the Great Constituency for Peace. Join the 2 Campaign now.”
JStreet, which was founded in April 2008, has rapidly become the voice of Moderate American Jews who defend Israel and also support peace based on compromise. They are quite a contrast to AIPAC (American-Israel Public Affairs Committee) which has actively opposed peace and rejected Palestinian Statehood. And JStreet has not shied away from reaching out to the marginalized moderate American Arab community for support.
The activism by JStreet has given American Arabs who support peace based on compromise someplace to go. Only one major American Arab organization exists that actively supports the two-state solution, the American Task Force on Palestine headed by Ziad Asali.
Other groups that have built up a presence in American politics in Washington D.C. have tended to push for their own agendas, resulting in mixed messages that have left the American Arab peace movement in disarray and very ineffective.
Many American Arab moderate activists have become targets of the extremists, and are reluctant to speak out publicly. They are often denied participation in national conferences that increasingly showcase the religious aspects of the conflict and less the secular activism that was once very successful in advancing the Palestinian cause.
“I’m not Jewish but I am Palestinians and I support what JStreet is trying to do,” explained one Palestinian activist in Houston who asked not to be identified for the story.
“I don’t agree with everything they stand for, but I do agree that we need to bring this conflict to a close. And there is a leadership void in the American Arab community that has been pulled apart by rivalries and by extremists. Having a sovereign state will allow Palestinians to define themselves and focus on our own needs.”
Many other American Arab and Palestinian activists who support compromise based on Two-States agree, note that internal squabbling, the “victimization mentality” of the Arab community, and the lack of a strong national voice has left American Arabs with little or no representation.
“Many of the conferences sponsored by American Arab organizations showcase the rejectionists and the One-Staters who somehow believe that Israel will simply give up being its own state and change to become a Democracy by allowing all of the refugees to return to their lands and homes,” another activists based in New York noted.
“That’s not going to happen. But even though the activists know it won’t happen, it gives them a base to build themselves and their movement exploiting the American Arab public which is beset with frustration over the lack of peace so far and the continued conflict and oppression of Palestinians in occupation. They’re using the suffering to continue the conflict. Those who support two-states are trying to bring the suffering to an end so Palestinians can move forward with a sovereign identity which they have been denied for so many generations.”
Many of these pro-peace activists are quickly targeted by extremists in the American Arab community who hope to silence these views. It’s one reason why so few activists who support two-states want to be identified publicly. JStreet’s annual conferences are often the only place where moderate American Arabs have been able to find a voice in support of peace and compromise.
The push by JStreet to support the Two-State Solution gives these moderates in the American Arab community a place to go where they will actually see something achieved. JStreet can help make up for the lack of grass-roots activism that is absent from most American Arab organizations.
“JStreet is there. They’re not asking me to become a Zionist. They are just asking us to support the Two State Solution and add our voices to the growing push to end this conflict,” another activists in Chicago said. “That’s something I think American Arabs should do.”
Rejectionists and proponents of the One-State Solution would counter that Israel should allow the 4.5 million Palestinian refugees – most descendants of the 780,000 Palestinians evicted from their lands and homes when Israel was created in 1948 – to return and become Israeli citizens, something Israelis reject as a move that would undermine their state.
Moderates point out that refusing to compromise has left the Palestinians in a lurch with no state, no hope and a continuing oppressive occupation that is slowly consuming their land. Many Palestinians are fleeing the conflict, leaving not only the West Bank but also Israel where some have “citizenship.”
Already, the population of Christian Palestinians has dwindled from what was once 12 percent of the population to as little as 2 percent.
“One day, there will be no Christian Arabs left in the Holy Land which is the origin of the Christian religion. That would be a shame,” a Christian Palestinian activists said.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate and the Managing Editor of the Arab Daily News www.TheArabDailyNews.com.)
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Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.
"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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