Palestinians failing in telling their story

Palestinians failing in telling their story
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Palestinians failing in telling their story

Where is the Palestinian “Exodus”? Palestinians have failed to tell their story to counter the lies propagated by lies spread by Israel. The Israelis have built up myths catered to appeal Audiences in America, where the power rests to determine who will dominate the Middle East. Arabs have underestimated the influence of the population in the United States, a major error that has cost them a nation. Sadly, most Palestinians don’t even recognize their failure and instead focus on emotion and that hate it creates

Published in the Arab News Newspaper June 15, 2017

By Ray Hanania

The 50th anniversary of Israel’s military invasion of Arab East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank pretty has pretty much passed the way of the anniversaries have passed in America and the Arab World.

Palestinian activists, Arab and Muslim organizations in America issued passioned, well-meaning statements denouncing Israel and urging people not to forget.

In the Arab and Muslim World, it passed with barely a rumble.

The people and the leadership in the Arab community have changed. What’s not changed is how we tell our story. We’re basically doing the same things today that we did in 1948 and in 1967, with less physical resistance and less violence, of course.

But we don’t really need violence. What we need is to do a better job of telling our story.

Poster for the movie Exodus, which defined American support for Israel. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Poster for the movie Exodus, which defined American support for Israel. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Palestinians continue to protest and organize and hold conferences where the speak to the “choir.” Sometimes, the activism is effective, such as with the BDS movement. BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) has made gains, but it’s still not enough to bring about real change.

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It hasn’t brought about substantive change. Israel continues to expand slowly and steadily erasing the Palestinian identity.

What we should be doing is what Israel began doing since 1948. Israel knows how to tell its story to mass audiences, effectively and in a compelling narrative. The story Israel tells is not accurate, of course. It is built on lies, exaggerations and the demonization of Palestinians and anyone who criticizes them.

We need to do a better job of telling our story.

I was in a major Chicago library the other day in the Middle East section where I found dozens of books by Israelis and Jews who shared their experiences in “building” a state in the shadow of the Holocaust in a compelling writing style.

The two sides were together, but the literature of the two sides is vastly different, not just in the facts that each tell but in the style in which they tell it. The Israeli story wasn’t weighed down with footnotes or even facts. They were not written the way most Arabs books are written, as factual but boring academic dissertations.

Yes, sadly, the truth can be boring and “boring” is not read.

The pro-Israel books offered compelling stories of what it is like to be them. They neutralize the Palestinian narrative. The Israelis succeed in “connecting” with their audiences, in this case American readers, far better than the Palestinians and Arabs have been able to do.

Only a very few Palestinian and Arab writers have told their stories in a personal way that might connect with American readers.

It isn’t just the print industry that is the problem. It’s everywhere. The gap between how Israelis present their story and how Palestinians and Arabs present their story is immense. It exists in the movies, the theater and on television not just in the popular TV sitcoms but also in the fundamental “brain” shows like those on the History Channel.

The truth is that after 70 years the real story of Palestine has not been told in a powerful, compelling or effective way for audiences to embrace. Yet the Palestinian story is very powerful, the kind that makes for great books and great movies.

I’ve written about the power of the fictional story Leon Uris wrote about the birth of Israel, called “Exodus.” Uris was commissioned by Israel to create a compelling narrative, a myth that was both believable and that would bring American audiences to the edge of tears and compassion.

Yet, where is the Palestinian “Exodus?”

Is it because we don’t have the money? We have the stories. The nightmare in Gaza alone could tug at the heartstrings of Americans, yet it doesn’t because it hasn’t been produced.

The difference in the effectiveness of the Israeli narrative and the Palestinian narrative is not a gap based on substance or facts. It is a gap based on “delivery.” And by delivery I mean the manner in which a story is told.

The Palestinian and Arab narrative is handicapped by ineffective communications that lack some fundamental basics when speaking to Western audiences, especially Americans. What are those fundamental basics?

• It’s not what you say, but how you say it.

• You don’t win the debate by winning the argument. You win the debate by winning the audience.

• The more you look, act, dress and sound like the audience you are addressing, the more the audience will embrace your narrative. It is a fact of human nature.

• Most importantly, don’t stand in the way of your own story. Let the story tell itself. Your anger, your emotion and even your passion can be a roadblock for audiences not an asset. Put your passion into crafting the story, not in telling the story.

Compelling narrative comes from the delivery of the story, not from the narrative itself. What I mean by “delivery” is not how you hand it to someone, but the substance of what you are saying. You have to tell the story in a way that your audience wants to hear it, not in the way you want to tell it.

Don’t talk to yourself.

If the audience is not “listening” or is not receptive to your story, then it won’t be heard.

Is there not someone out there who knows how to tell the Palestinian story the way the audience needs to hear it?

Nearly 70 years since the Nakba and 50 years since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war shame, I am still wondering.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American columnist and author. Email him at

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Managing Writer at The Arab Daily News
RAY HANANIA — Columnist

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, the, and at He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper,, 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, Hanania's columns also appeare in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

Click here to send Ray Hanania and email.

His Facebook Page is

Visit this link to read Ray's column archive at the ArabNews,com
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12 comments on “Palestinians failing in telling their story
  1. Whose fault do you think that is? How many Palestinians write about their stories in an effective way .. YOU write better than most Palestinians I know and YOU tell their story better, but that doesn’t mean the story is being told … it has to be done in a specific way that most of our community just doesn’t understand and doesn’t want to understand … they’d rather cling to egos, reject self-criticism and analysis (evaluation) and instead of seeing their faults, they pretend they don’t exist

    • No the problem is we haven’t told out stories … Just a couple of efforts in a divided community that loves suffering more than hope

      • If you read “KEEP HOPE ALIVE” you may just change your mind because Dr Diab exemplified HOPE beyond the suffering that ALL refugees forced from their home under threat of death know. Dr Diab did NOT wallow in his pain he was pro-active!

        Dr Diab was a secular Muslim and one of THE BEST at following what Jesus taught- in fact I use to tell him he was a better Christian than any self-professing Christian I have known because he DID what Jesus commanded: Forgive and LOVE ones enemies.

  2. Hey Ray the Palestinian EXODUS has been told in an American way thanks to Dr. Khaled Diab, a 1948 Palestinian Muslim refugee who made his way to the USA and realized the American Dream. The events of 11 Sept. 2001 birthed within him a now defunct non-profit: The Olive Trees for Peace Foundation. We raised awareness and funds for over 40,000 fruit bearing trees rooted on both sides of The Wall before we disbanded.

    Dr. Diab blessed me by telling me his memories which I wrote for an American audience here:

    PS: One of the chapters won honorable mention in a Nakba art and literature contest by the US Campaign to END Israel’s Occupation of Palestine.

  3. Moyakitsya says:

    Here is the problem–Palestinians are living the truth, Zionists are living a lie. The liars need to keep upgrading, polishing, publishing their “narrative” because in order for a lie to be accepted, it has to be continuously repeated in a myriad of ingenious manners, presented in the media, covering all forms of communication from serious historical works to Hollywood entertainment.

    The Zionists, although much fewer in number than Arabs, are so closely united that it would take an act of God to dissolve their perfect alliance. Although there are many fabulously wealthy Arabs, they do not all care about the Palestinians, whereas the Zionists devote massive amounts of their wealth to support Israel. The roadblocks to communication are staggering for the Palestinians. Until there is some sort of cohesiveness among the Arab world with regard to the tragic status of the Palestinians, the hopes of achieving justice are sadly slim.

    • But don’t you think that Palestinians need to tell their story better and more effectively. We’re not a poor community. We have many very wealthy leaders and industries in our community, and we have huge talent. But I think we get carried away with anger and emotion instead of setting it aside and being strategic.

      • Moyakitsya says:

        I certainly do. My point is that the Zionist narrative is so powerful that it might be overwhelming. So many of my acquaintances just throw up their hands in despair, saying that there is not a chance to beat the Zionist dominance of the media and government. A few years ago, I was in a group of media activists led by Sherri Muzher. Sadly, nothing much was accomplished due to internecine disagreements. The group soon was dissolved without any success in promoting the message. The emotions need to be subdued for the sake of effectiveness. I would say that the Palestinians should study the Zionist methods without resorting to hasbara chicanery. I especially agree with your comment on looking like the audience. Note that the media representatives all speak good English, like Michael Oren (Bornstein) and Mark Regev (Freiberg) and wear sharp suits. Of course, Mr Netanyahu (Mileikowsky) is as American as a Philly cheese steak sandwich. If all spokespersons for Palestine used your methods, dear Ray Hanania, the media battle would be won. My respect.

        • Thank you … I definitely believe you raise some real serious points … we have to just keep trying because WE have the POWERFUL STORY … we just need to work harder to get it out to the public, especially to the American people

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