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Ray Hanania
Ray Hanania
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Yalla Peace: Shut Out the Fanatics

Comment

As soon as the first-ever conference of Arab expatriates hosted in Cairo earlier this month by the League of Arab Nations closed, the fanatics dropped from their damp dark caves and started to scream that it was a sham.

The conference, backed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, is calling on Palestinians and Arabs who are expatriates living in the West, but more importantly in the United States, to organize.

The conference concluded with many goals, including creating an "organizational framework for Arab expatriates," while fostering "a dialogue of civilizations, cultures and religions."

Pro-Israeli media and pundits immediately criticized the conference, complaining that too much of it was focused on the Palestinian issue and that much of it was based on confronting Israeli extremism rather than pursuing dialogue.

The conference clearly endorsed the Arab Peace Initiative outlined in 2002, one that Israel continues to run from because it requires tough compromises.

But more importantly, the Palestinians and the Arab League want to rip control of the Palestinian cause from the hands of fanatics and extremists in the United States whose sole mission has been to block peace and to reinforce the power of Hamas, the terrorist religious organization.

Immediately, Arab and Palestinian fanatics started launching public attacks against the conference, and it is a growing theme they are selling to the Palestinian diaspora that sympathizes with the fanatic anger but support the moderate strategies. It sounds contradictory, but for most moderate Palestinians, Israel has given them nothing to cheer about at all and everything to jeer about.

Almost all of Israel's actions since the Oslo Accords have been geared toward maintaining the status quo while granting some power to the Palestinians, except the disengagement from Gaza in 2005. Israel wants to keep all of Jerusalem and all of the settlements, and wants Palestinians to recognize it as a Jewish state.

It is about time that the Arab League nations finally did something. Their failure to lead has created a void that has allowed a small cabal of Palestinian extremists in the United States and Europe to hijack the Palestinian cause.

And they are no better than Israelis, speaking from both sides of their mouths, too. A good example is the movement to boycott products sold by Israelis that are manufactured or grown in the occupied West Bank. The movement is spearheaded by a group called Jewish Voice for Peace.

They say they target products made in the West Bank, but many of their leaders are working hand-in-hand with Palestinian-American extremists who are also targeting products made in Israel.

These Palestinian extremists are anti-Semitic and driven by hatred. They say one thing but always mean something else.

Israelis don't help much, as I have already pointed out. Instead of drawing a proper line on things like anti-Semitism, Israel's supporters, like the Anti-Defamation League and the Zionist Organization of America, headquartered in New York, call everything critical of Israel anti-Semitic.

What Israelis don't realize is that their broad-stroke, knee-jerk attacks on anti-Semitism, against even the harshest critics of Israel, like the venerable Helen Thomas, only weaken the moderate Palestinian voices.

In a way, Israeli actions often strengthen the Palestinian extremists, and maybe that is intentional. Many Israelis don't want to give up anything. They don't want peace. And the Palestinian extremists help them get away with this unacceptable status quo.

As long as the Palestinian extremists have the upper hand, this Israeli strategy will work.

But the Expatriate Conference in Cairo can change that, especially if they follow through with concrete actions to strengthen the voices of Palestinian and Arab moderates in the West and particularly in the United States.

More importantly, they need to reach out to Palestinian moderates, slam down the extremist voices and speak consistently about peace based on the 2002 plan. Israelis, believe it or not, are no different than Arabs.

And if they believe peace is genuine, they just might support it.

To find out more about Ray Hanania, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.

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