Wednesday, September 08, 2004

VDH - Answering an Arab-American

I am an Arab-American born in the U.S. I cannot understand why anyone would be hostile toward the Palestinian right to freedom when these are the very ideals on which this country was built. I regret the targeting of civilians on both sides, yet many pro-Israeli individuals regret only the targeting of Israeli civilians. What is your opinion on the solution? Do the Palestinians have a right to freedom from the illegal Israeli occupation? Are the Israelis to blame for anything, or is it just the Arabs?

Hanson: I don’t want to get into 50 years of acrimonious history in this short (?) answer, and feel most Americans like myself support some sort of autonomous Palestinian state with perhaps 95% of the territory of the West Bank. But remember any outstanding difference between the two sides might be adjudicated—if there were two roughly equal parties at the table.

There are not. On the one side, you have a free press, open society, gender equality, and democratic government with a vocal opposition; on the other, you have one rigged election/one time, lawlessness, Arafat’s censorship, and thuggery in lieu of politics—not unlike Saddam’s Iraq, Khadafy’s Libya, or Assad’s Syria.

Don’t tell me this is “radicalization” because of this or that gripe; rather, ask why is there not a single Arab democracy in the Middle East? Colonialism or Cold War realpolitik was the excuse for 40 years, but its shelf life is over, and we need to hear some new reason that forbids 300 million from voting.

No, when we look around the world and see terrorists killing in Russia, Israel, Madrid, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and on and on, we see a generic pattern that transcends the politics of the day. Of course not every Muslim is a terrorist, but we are getting to the point that every fascist terrorist is nearly always a Muslim it seems. Why so?

The answer is that instead of blaming Israel, the United States, or the man in the moon for Arab problems—sit down, take a deep breadth and ask yourself, ‘Why is there no democracy, no equality of the sexes, no religious tolerance, no free press, no loyal opposition in a Syria, Yemen, Libya, etc.’—or why do Arabs not vote freely except in the United States, France, or in the case of those one million Arabs who live in Israel of all places?

Look at China or South America who have very little oil or natural resources, and yet are restructuring their societies to meet new challenges rather than blaming the British for the Opium Wars or trashing the United States for the United Fruit Company. I am very worried about the Islamic world’s obliviousness about the radical shift in world opinion. The globe no longer has any patience at all with suicide bombers, car explosives, beheadings, and all the other nonsense that is now offered daily on our screens for the various causes of Chechnyan independence, Arafat’s autonomy, a return to Baathism, a theocratic state in Afghanistan, or a return of Spain to the Moors, and on and on.

We are simply tired of it. If the Palestinians had open and fair elections, a free press, nonviolent politics, and peaceful civil protests, then a great deal of their grievances would be addressed. But until then I am afraid that the average citizen of the world turns on the TV set, looks at some teen-ager burning some flag and shooting off a machine gun, or watches one of those barbaric last farewells of suicide bombers, and then simply flips the channel, and sighs, “enough of that nonsense.”

The Arab leadership should ask itself, why are 4 billion Anglo-Americans, Chinese, Indians, Japanese, Russians, black Africans, and Latin Americans coming to the consensus that something is very very wrong in the Islamic world and it has nothing to do with outside parties—but everything to do with a failure to address self-induced misery that involved everything from patriarchy and tribalism to religious intolerance and autocracy. I’m again sorry, but after the last two weeks of daily killing, I have no patience with the same old, same old “Israel is to blame.”

In the time you wrote that question, more poor unarmed Black Africans were butchered by Arabs in the Sudan than all the Palestinian militants killed in the last month by the Israelis—but the Arab-American community is absolutely silent to the tens of thousand murdered in Darfur by Arab Muslims who identify themselves as such as a reason for their pursuit of genocide.