Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

The courage to speak out

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Ray Hanania, a former head of the Palestinian American Congress and recent member of the national board of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, has recently written about the discrimination that he has suffered throughout his involvement in Arab public affairs due to being an Arab Christian married to a Jew.

I can speak from personal experience, being one of the No. 1 Palestinians on the extremists' hit-list. They hate me for the same reason they hate the rest.

I support two states, oppose violence, denounce Hamas as a terror group, and am married to a Jew. I also performed standup comedy with Israelis. But the biggest crime is that I speak out against their extremist cancer.

Hanania describes how Arab leaders - of organisations as well as countries - have a tendency to create a cult of personality around themselves and to reserve their criticism only for those who are not counted amongst their supporters.

When I called one of my critics a hypocrite for condemning Syria and Israel but not Jordan (because his relatives are close to the royal family) he responded by stirring his cult followers into a vicious campaign of hate.

They don't attack the issues. They attack the person. My "Jewish" wife became the topic among his Twitter following. Hypocrisy is everywhere in my community.

... Are Arabs supposed to accept these hypocrisies and double standards without challenge? No. That's why I insist on speaking out against them.

Hanania's willingness to speak out and criticise the flaws in his own community is certainly to be commended. One of the most fundamentally important traits of a democratic society is strong introspection and a general willingness to hold each other to account and the ability to do so without retribution. Hopefully, we will see more of these kinds of corageous, independent voices emerging in the Arab world.