Arab Americans Should Not Settle For The Lesser Of Two Evils – OpEd


Wouldn’t it be nice to hear Palestinian and Israeli activists and leaders call out the extremists on both sides, instead of acting like the defenders of one side only.

I was on a radio show in Chicago recently and, while I condemned Hamas for the horrific violence of Oct. 7, I also condemned the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Instead of joining me, the two pro-Israel guests immediately went into “defend Israel mode,” insisting that the problem is that Hamas uses “human shields” and Israel has no choice but to kill Palestinians.

I tried to get them to criticize Israel’s government, but they refused. In fact, read many of the op-eds in Western newspapers and you will see activists on both sides closing their eyes to the atrocities committed by their side, while aggressively and often exaggerating the atrocities committed by the other.

One of the questions I was asked related to the #AbandonBiden movement, which has successfully convinced many Arab and Muslim Americans to vote against President Joe Biden’s reelection in the Democratic primaries. They asked if Arabs “see” that, by rejecting Biden, they will “get” former President Donald Trump, “who moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem?”

I was asked: “Biden is the lesser of two evils to you, right?” But why do Arab Americans have to pick the lesser of two evils when we vote? In doing that, we end up with “evil” either way.

Why do we not have leaders who are in the center, who see the hate, the extremism and the violence of both sides — Israel’s government and Hamas extremists?

Wouldn’t that be a novel idea: picking someone who speaks the truth, not one-sided political propaganda. Someone who believes that both Hamas and the Netanyahu government are equally guilty of atrocities, war crimes and the killing of women, children and the elderly?

Because that is the truth that neither side wants to admit: their side is just as wrong as those they are criticizing.

I was asked what Biden could do to regain the support of the Arabs and Muslims who voted against him in the Democratic primaries, including in six swing states. I said that I had been reading the opinion columns being pushed by the mainstream American news media, which is partisan and today leans to the far left. They were defending Israel, defending Biden and blaming everything on one side. I tried to say that, maybe, these columnists should speak out about their own activists and leaders, who condemn one side, the Palestinians and Hamas, and say nothing about the crimes of the side they support.

In other words, the president cannot regain the backing of those who support the #AbandonBiden movement simply by pandering to them politically.

Biden empowered Hamas to attack Israel by refusing to condemn the Israeli assaults that took place in the two years prior to Oct. 7, during which time he was the so-called leader of the free world. He also needs to roll back his support of the Israeli government’s actions in more than a rhetorical manner: by cutting American funding and arms supplies to Tel Aviv. Biden must stop allowing one side to continue its carnage.

Do both and maybe that will suggest to Arab and Muslim Americans that Biden cares about peace, not politics. That he opposes violence of all kinds, not just violence against political allies who support him or that he favors. That he applies principles and morality to the actions of both sides and judges them harshly, condemning them both at the same press conference without worrying about the political repercussions.

Arabs and Muslims in America are no different to the rest of the American public. They want reason. They want moderation in policies and a leadership that is smart and driven by the principles that make America the true democracy it can be.

All someone needs to do is step away from the extremist sidelines and into the center. And speak the truth. Speak the truth about the Israeli government’s violence and its rejection of peace over the past two decades under Netanyahu and his late mentor Ariel Sharon. Horrific leaders. Netanyahu set the tone for the environment of haters in Israel who oppose the creation of a Palestinian state, with that hate-driven rejection of peace spurring the expansion of extremism among Palestinians.

Speak the truth about Hamas and other Palestinian extremists who have opposed the peace process since Day 1, when Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin signed the Oslo I Accord in Washington in 1993 — a moving moment that I witnessed personally.

All these people who loudly scream, both in their rhetoric and their writings, that the other side is evil and that their side is the victim are only encouraging the growing carnage and conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. They are not offering reason or common sense and they are not embracing the principles of morality or peace.

The lesser of two evils is not a real option. Those who embrace it and advocate it over acknowledging the truth, no matter whether they are Palestinian or Israeli, Arab or Jew, are only being evil themselves.

For a future of peace for Palestinians and Israelis, the war is against the lesser of two evils, not each other.

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian-American former journalist and political columnist. Email him at [email protected].

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