Arabs should support J Street
Arabs, Palestinians and Muslims need to be strategic in fighting for Palestinian rights. That means we have to reject broad stroke rejections, and distinguish among coalitions not on the basis of religion but on the basis of belief. We can’t reject support from Jews or Israelis who share in our support of justice. We need to build coalitions to build a Palestine State. We need to support groups like J Street, the New Israel Fund and Americans for Peace Now, among many other Jewish activism groups
By Ray Hanania
I believe it is very important for the Arab community to support J Street, the progressive Jewish American lobby that encourages peace based on compromise, recognizes the rights of both Palestinians and Israelis, and endorses the only solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, the Two-State Solution.
Many Arabs, Palestinians and Muslims believe that they need to oppose all Jewish groups, not distinguishing between those that support Palestinian rights and those, like AIPAC, that advocate against Palestinian rights. They call this normalization and base their views ons singling out “Jews” in the opposition.
Advocacy of “Normalization” is a mistake in the fight for Palestine Justice and independence. It’s like the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanction) movement which varies between boycotting everything Israel and boycotting the illegal Israeli settlement operations in the Occupied West Bank and Occupied Jerusalem. The truth is that Israel’s government empowers the settlements, the argument that those who support a total boycott of the settlements, occupation and also Israel make. Yet, we need to distinguish our activism between the two so as not to damage potential advocates of our just cause.
J Street is one odd those advocates. You don’t have to agree with J Street 100 percent either. Nothing is 100 percent. Not politics, not peace and the very nature of the word “compromise” also is based on the reality that nothing can be 100 percent. Compromise is reason. The 100 percent movement is not reason.
So I hope that many Arabs, Palestinians and Muslims will take a moment to assess the true path to achieving Palestinian freedom and independence. That is not down the route of extremism, rejections or demanding 100 percent. It is through compromise, respect and recognizing that our enemy is not the Jewish people. Our enemy is extremism among those who hate Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims. Don’t be like the people who hate us and use that hate to fuel the occupation. Be the solution to the occupation by rejecting hate and embracing compromise.
We can succeed by being strategic and by practicing what we preach. We support justice for Palestinians but we also support justice as a concept. Freedom isn’t the goal of one people. It is a broad movement that rises above ethnicity, nationality and religion.
We need to support groups like J Street, the New Israel Fund and Americans for Peace Now, among many other Jewish activism groups
Support moderation. Support Palestine. Be smart. Be effective. Be strategic. Support J Street and other Jewish groups that embrace justice and safety for both sides.
Here is an appeal from J Street I hope you will take the time to read and also support.
J Street message this Holiday Season:
Will Bailey — the character I played on The West Wing — would not have been a J Street supporter.
On most issues, Will was progressive — a courageous defender of human rights, in fact. But when the Middle East conflict came up on the show, he revealed a deep-seated bias against the Palestinians.
It was as if he felt his support for Israel should be measured by the enmity he displayed toward the Palestinians. Will was incapable of seeing shades of grey in a situation that is too frequently presented as being black and white.
Unfortunately, there are many people like Will Bailey — lovers of Israel who are too near-sighted to consider another people’s perspective. That’s why I’m so glad J Street exists. It’s an organization that recognizes you can support Israel and yet vociferously disagree with the policies of the Israeli government. J Street makes it possible to advocate for Israel while opposing the occupation and standing up for the rights of Palestinians.
Will Bailey wouldn’t have been a J Street supporter. But I am.
I’ve followed J Street’s work for years, but I haven’t gotten actively involved until now. Frankly, it’s been easier to avoid an organization that is often misunderstood and falsely vilified by some in our community. But these days the zero-sum mentality that conflates being pro-Israel with being anti-Palestinian has taken up residency in the White House. And it’s time to make tough choices.
Since being elected, Trump’s anti-Palestinian measures have only been matched in number by Ambassador David Friedman’s concessions to the settlement movement. At a certain point this year they ran out of Palestinian aid to cut, so they began to slash funding for coexistence programs. I’m talking about soccer games between Israeli and Palestinian girls — the kind of connections which are vital if there’s ever to be hope for peace in the region.
No, I’m not a policy expert; I’m just an actor. But I cannot comprehend how the Trump administration’s policies help Israeli security or move the two sides any closer to peace. Perhaps it’s time to redefine what it means to be truly “pro-Israel.”
That’s what J Street is doing and I’m proud to be a part of it.
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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, Middle East Monitor in London, the 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 appeare in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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