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A Palestinian Refusenik's Open Letter:
To the Jewish People

Ray Hanania

A few years ago, my wife and I travelled to Israel and to the Palestinian territories awed by the progress that had brought our two peoples together. I am Palestinian Christian and my wife and son are Jewish.

For so many years, we shared so much, but the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, pushed by extremism on both sides, caused us both great pain. It was agonizing. But that brief moment in 2000 seemed to restore our faith that Palestinians and Jews have so much in common and if the conflict could be resolved, we could someday be powerful partners to make this a better world for everyone.

Things don't always work out. For all kinds of reasons, we both have been pushed back into our corners, surrounded by emotional words of hate and an absence of reason.

As a columnist, I try to define a moderate Palestinian voice, criticizing both sides when both sides do wrong. Still, even a balanced argument angers many, Israelis, Jews, Palestinians and Arabs. I just refuse to believe that we can't get along. I refuse to believe that the voices of reason that can stand up in this conflict won't.

In these times of hate, it is so easy to be an extremist and to hate. I have fallen into that trap several times, and when reason prevails, I realize my own errors, too. But that is the disease of the Middle East conflict. It taints even the best intentioned peoples until there is not one person left standing, Jew or Palestinian, who hasn't wrongly said something bad about the other side.

It takes real courage to stand up in the face of fanaticism and denounce hate. I speak out frequently against suicide bombings, rising anti-Semitism in the Arab world, religious extremism, Holocaust revisionism, and those who insist that Israeli violence is justification for Palestinian violence.

I condemn the recent suicide bombings. It is a disgusting mutilation of the real conscience that is the Palestinian people. But please don't brush off the brutality that is upon the Palestinian people, either.

I continue to push to define voices of peace in the Palestinian community. You can only do so by reasoned discussion that is fair in criticism, fair in accepting blame and fair in its intent.

If we look to find a reason to hate each other, we will always succeed individually, and then fail together. But if we constantly strive to find reasons to come together, to seek hope and to achieve fairness for both sides, not even the worst kind of hate can stop us.

In May, I will lead a small group of Jewish American and Palestinian comedians and perform a concert tour to encourage hope and to help Palestinians and Israelis resist the power of hate. We want to remind both sides that we are human and that enjoying life is some much more important to fight for than reinforcing political differences and seeking vengeance.

I wish we had more Jewish comedians and more Palestinian comedians to join us, but the effort is difficult. I wish Jackie Mason*, rather than battling me, would see this effort and use his powers to bring about peace, too. I don't agree with his views, but I also don't believe that peace comes from people who agree on important issues.

The peace we need is one that comes from our two peoples who can't seem to agree. But can't our disagreement remain in the confines of words and feelings, rather than in the violence that consumes both sides? I think it can.

I wish we lived in a different world. I wish there were more people who would join in seeking a different world, and who, in striving to make me a better person, will also strive to make themselves better, too.

I wish to say Shalom. I wish to hear Salam, too.

*Jackie Mason is a Jewish American comedian.

Ray Hanania is a syndicated Palestinian American columnist. He is the winner of the Society of Professional Journalists Lisagor Award for Column Writing.

Source: http://www.hanania.com, January 14, 2004

Cooperation needed:
From Pullout to Peace
In light of recent speculation concerning Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and maybe some West Bank settlements, this Jordan Times editorial highlights the need for coordinated efforts with regional and international actors. The editorial also points out that, “Israel must start putting its own rhetoric aside and make some political calculations. What is good for the Palestinians is good for Israel. The better life is for Palestinians, the more secure Israelis will be.” (Source: The Jordan Times, March 14, 2004)

Gaza First:
But Not Gaza Only!
Rosenberg, Director of Policy Analysis for Israel Policy Forum and former editor of AIPAC’s Near East Report, discusses the worsening Israel-Palestinian conflict and the decision by Israeli PM Sharon to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. According to Rosenberg, “This [move] could be very good news. But only if Sharon’s proposed unilateral moves are coordinated with the Palestinians. No warring party has ever made peace by itself.” (Source: Israel Policy Forum, March 5, 2004)

Rehow Sumsum:
Sesame Street Divided
Lauren Gelfond reports on the latest reincarnation of Middle East Sesame Stories - three separate Palestinian, Jordanian, and Israeli versions inspired from the U.S. production “Sesame Street”. In these versions produced during the current Intifada, ‘characters no longer meet “the other” in the street or at all. But they -- human, animated, or Muppet -- must observe a mandate of tolerance’. (Source: Jerusalem Post Magazine, March 5, 2004)

Common Ground News Service February 20, 2004
CGNews promotes constructive perspectives and dialogue about current Middle East issues.

From the Common Ground News Service
hagalil.com 22-02-2004



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