Saturday, July 26, 2008

Tearing Down Barack Obama's Walls and other Comic Strips

Click Comic Strip to view larger image
Ray Hanania's World Comic Strips
July 26, 2008
View more of Ray's Comic Strips

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Arab groups urge Israel to ease restrictions of Gaza Students to pursue higher education


Letter to Secretary Rice Urges Further Championship of Gaza Students' Hopes

WASHINGTON, D.C. - July 15, 2008 - The Foundation for Middle East Peace, the Arab American Institute, and five other American organizations who support a two state peace between Israel and Palestine have asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to urge Israel to permit hundreds of students in Gaza who have been admitted to foreign universities to exit Gaza. These students are confined to Gaza because of Israel's closure policy.

The other co-signers of the letter are Americans for Peace Now, American Task Force on Palestine, Churches for Middle East Peace, the Israel Policy Forum, and Brit Tzedek v'Shalom.

The letter, dated July 15, 2008 thanks Secretary Rice for her earlier intervention with Israel to enable Gazans with Fulbright and other U.S. scholarships to travel to the U.S. to study. The cosigners hope that the U.S. continues to champion the cause of these students in their pursuit of higher education abroad, won by merit and hard work.

The Foundation for Middle East and the co-signers of the letter to Secretary Rice believe that education for young people is a critical investment for peace between Israel and Palestine.

The text of the letter follows:

July 15, 2008

The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street N.W
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Secretary Rice,

As American organizations committed to a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we applaud your efforts to persuade Israel to allow the seven Fulbright scholars who have been confined to Gaza to travel to the United States. We are also grateful for the efforts of our embassy in Israel to enable Gazan awardees of other American scholarships to leave Gaza and to facilitate U.S. visas for them. Your intervention and public comments on the importance of opportunities for both Israelis and Palestinians to study abroad demonstrate American leadership and are very welcome.

Unfortunately, the problem of students and academics who are trapped in Gaza is much larger than the seven Fulbright grantees and five other Gazan students who have scholarships to American universities.

There are also hundreds of other students in Gaza who have valid opportunities to study elsewhere abroad but do not qualify for the narrow category of the few dozen students with "recognized" scholarships for study in "friendly" countries that Israel now says may leave Gaza, following the intervention of the U.S. and other foreign governments.

We strongly urge that the United States broaden its diplomatic efforts in order to persuade Israel to permit the travel of all students whose travel presents no genuine security threat. Students allowed to travel should include not only scholarship awardees admitted to American universities and those of friendly foreign states, but the hundreds of others who have been admitted to foreign universities elsewhere without "recognized" scholarships.

As you said so eloquently on May 30, "If you cannot engage young people and give them a complete horizon to their expectations and to their dreams, then I don't know that there would be any future for Palestine." For Palestinians, like Israelis, education is the most important investment. Peace and a better future for both Israelis and Palestinians will depend on an educated and productive Palestinian community. Israeli policies that foreclose higher studies abroad that are generally unavailable in Gaza not only undermine such a future, but also threaten to destroy hope, the critical antidote to extremism and violence.

As Israel's ally and closest friend and partner in the cause of peace, the United States has a deep and legitimate interest, not only in ensuring that students in Gaza can come to study in our country, but in ensuring that any Gazan student who has earned a place at a foreign university has the opportunity to pursue these studies. The right to do so should not be limited to the few dozen who have "recognized" scholarships.

Members of the Israeli Knesset and Supreme Court, international academics, and leading media around the world, have called on Israel to permit Gazan students to study abroad. For example, Rabbi Michael Melchior, Chairman of the Knesset's Education Committee has said "Trapping hundreds of students in Gaza is both immoral and unwise." Broadening American diplomatic efforts to include all such students would reinforce these appeals. Such U.S. leadership would also resonate positively with the Israeli public, which, according to a recent public opinion survey, believes the closure of Gaza is likely to increase radicalism and support for Hamas. And, it would demonstrate to Palestinians, both in the West Bank and Gaza, genuine U.S. concern for the Palestinian people.

Of course, the deprivation of the right of students to travel abroad for education is only one harmful aspect of an Israeli security regime that harshly restricts the movements of a million and a half Gazans, as well as the movement of goods into and out of the Gaza Strip. We hope this larger problem is addressed soon and urgently. In the meantime, as the next academic year approaches, there is a special urgency to ensuring that Gazan students who have won by merit and hard work the chance to study abroad do not lose this priceless opportunity.

Yours truly,

Among the signatores, are:

Philip C. Wilcox, Jr.
President, Foundation for Middle East Peace
1761 N Street NW, Washington, DC 20036

Warren Clark
Executive Director, Churches for Middle East Peace 110 Maryland Avenue NE, #311, Washington, DC 20002

James Zogby
President, Arab American Institute
1600 K Street, Suite 601, Washington, DC 20006

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Point to Point Arab American Journalist Podcasts explore Israel-Hezbollah, and indictment of Sudanese president

Point to Point Arab American Journalism Podcasts
Topic: Israeli-Hezbollah Prisoner exchange
Topic: The war crimes indictment of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir

Veteran award winning columnists Ray Hanania and Ali Alarabi discuss and debate the most recent news in the Middle East on Point to Point: Interviews without Boundaries. The topics include the recent prisoner swap between the powerful Lebanese Shiite Militia Hezbollah and the Government of Israel, trading the remains of two Israeli solders killed when Hezbollah sought to capture Israeli soldiers to trade for its soldiers held by Israel in the summer of 2006, an assault that provoked Israel to launch a brutal retaliation against Lebanon's civilian population and Hezbollah strongholds. Israel released five prisoners, including the notorious Druse fighter and leader, Samir Kuntar (Kantar, Qantar), of a 1979 mission into Israel that resulted in the killing of an Israeli police officer and the murder of his four year old daughter. Kuntar was captured and served 30 years for the killings.

Hezbollah returned the bodies of two Israelis killed during the July 2006 confrontation that spark the 34-day Israeli-Lebanon war, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. What are the moral issues involved and is there an issue of hypocrisy in criticism of Arabs for killing civilians while there is silence when Israel kills Arab civilians?

And, Alarabi and Hanania discuss the recent war crimes indictment by the International Criminal Court of Sundanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and the hypocrisy of singling out Arabs while excluding Israel and even Americans from I.C.C. prosecutions. The two discuss the issues involved in Sudan and Darfur where al-Bashir has been accused of supporting genocide, while supporters accuse pro-Western groups of inciting a vicious campaign of terrorism. You can read columns on both subjects by Hanania and Alarabi at web site. 22 Minutes.

Go to or visit iTunes and download the podcasts to your iPod.

PLO Cites Israeli violations of peace accords

Letter from the Palestine Liberation Organization
July 15, 2008
Dear Sir/ Madam; Your Excellency etc…

This letter is to draw your attention to recent escalations in the policies and activities of the government of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory which violate commitments Israel made at the Annapolis conference, and risk destroying the political process and rendering it meaningless.

First, we note the recurring assaults on Palestinian cities, official institutions, and civil society organisations, which have increased in an unprecedented manner (up by 50%). Indeed, if we look back to the six months following the Annapolis conference, the numbers alone paint an alarming picture of Israeli violence against Palestinian citizens: 467 killed and 1706 injured in over 2000 attacks. Needless to say, many of the victims are civilians, including women and children.

Second, Israel has escalated the pace of construction and expansion of existing and new settlements throughout the West Bank, in particular in and around East Jerusalem, in flagrant violation of international law and its commitments under the Road Map as reaffirmed at the Annapolis conference. Furthermore, Israel continues the construction of the Wall four years after the decision of the International Court of Justice that held the Wall and the settlements to be illegal under international law.

Recently, Israel has encouraged the building of new housing units in the heart of East Jerusalem and specifically in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood where Palestinian houses were seized. Furthermore, in the heart of Nablus, it shut down and confiscated an entire multi-storey shopping centre, notwithstanding the fact that it is a publicly-held company, and in blatant disregard of signed agreements which prohibit the Occupation from shutting down and confiscating property inside PA areas.

These deliberate Israeli policies are primarily aimed at undermining the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and its role, standing, and credibility in the eyes of the citizens. Despite this, however, the PNA has all the while worked hard and at all levels to improve security conditions, to build and develop the economy, and to strengthen public institutions and to support civil society. On security, for instance, these efforts are evident from the security plans implemented by the PNA Ministry of Interior despite recurring Israeli obstacles, in particular in Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem, Hebron, and Bethlehem. With respect to the economy and institution building, a great deal of effort has gone into the adoption of the Palestinian Development and Reform Plan (PRDP), and the convening of the Paris, Bethlehem, and Berlin conferences. These efforts have led to the approval and adoption of numerous projects aimed at developing infrastructure, capacity and funding much needed for the maintenance and development of Palestinian society and economy.

The problem, however, remains that the prevailing stream within the Israeli government seeks to weaken and undermine the PNA, in a manner that strengthens the radical forces and renders them the dominant Palestinian counterpart.

Given the above, there is a real risk that the current negotiations may fail and collapse before the end of this year, a failure for which the government of Israel would bear full responsibility, be it on the internal or regional fronts. In order to prevent such failure, serious and decisive action is needed from the international community, with the United States and the Quartet at the forefront including all its parties, the UN, EU and Russia, and all peace loving countries, parties and forces.

We hope you expend all possible efforts to help stop Israeli violations which have reached unprecedented levels with regard to destroying Palestinian life and the functioning of Palestinian national and leadership institutions as well as destroying the peace process.

Palestine Liberation Organization
Executive Committee
General Secretariat

Friday, July 18, 2008

Ship sails to break siege of Gaza

Ship sails to break siege of Gaza
The Free Gaza Movement UK
Press Release � Friday 18 July 2008

For Immediate Release

Setting Sail on August 5, 2008 to Break the Siege of Gaza

Around 60 Palestinians, Israelis and Internationals from 15 countries will sail to Gaza during the sixty-year anniversary of the Nakba � the forcible expulsion of more than 700,000 Palestinians from their lands to create Israel �to challenge Israeli control over the open-air prison called Gaza.

Among the crew are a Holocaust survivor and a survivor of the Palestinian Nakba. They sail with the common bond of focusing the world's attention on the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza and its collapsing economy which are direct results of Israel's ongoing occupation and continuing control over Gaza's air space and territorial waters.

"The siege of Gaza ends only when Palestinians are accorded the basic fundamental human rights of citizens throughout the free world," says UK passenger, Musheir El-Farra who knows the irreparable human cost of current Israeli government policies. "My family and beloved ones in Gaza have been under siege for over two years now; living without their most basic human rights on their own land.

In the words of Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein "What an opportunity to make a change for good, both for Palestinians and Israelis. We intend to open the port, fish with the fishermen, help in the clinics, and work in the schools. But we also intend to remind the world that we will not stand by and watch 1.5 million people suffer death by starvation and disease".
A press conference will be held in central London on Monday the 4th August 2008 at 11am. Please contact us for more information about the Gaza boat and the conference.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tunisian freedom issues raised with French President

Paris, 10 July 2008
For immediate release

Press Freedom Groups Raise Tunisian Concerns With French President

A coalition of international press freedom organisations has asked French President Nicolas Sarkozy not to underestimate human rights violations in Tunisia as he seeks to create a Union for the Mediterranean at a summit meeting in Paris on Sunday, 13 July.

The World Association of Newspapers and 17 press freedom organisation wrote to Mr Sarkozy on Thursday to express their “extreme concern” over “the Tunisian authorities' tendency to resort to censorship, intimidation and violence.”

“It seems essential that the French government does not underestimate the seriousness of the human rights violations in Tunisia,” said members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange’s Tunisia Monitoring Group, in the letter to Mr Sarkozy, who will preside over a meeting in Paris on Sunday to establish the Union for the Mediterranean.

“It is furthermore essential that France adopts and promotes a policy in accordance with the values of the Republic, by inviting the Tunisian authorities to respect their international human rights obligations, specifically those in favour of freedom of expression and the press.”

Members of the Tunisia Monitoring Group include: Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (Egypt); ARTICLE 19 (United Kingdom); Canadian Journalists for Free Expression; Cartoonists Rights Network International (United States); Egyptian Organization for Human Rights; Index on Censorship (United Kingdom); International Federation of Journalists; International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions; International Press Institute; International Publishers' Association; Journaliste en danger (Democratic Republic of Congo); Maharat Foundation (Lebanon); Media Institute of Southern Africa; Norwegian PEN; World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters; World Association of Newspapers; World Press Freedom Committee; and theWriters in Prison Committee of International PEN.

The full letter can be read at article17627.html

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

New Arab American cartoon added to syndication

Award winning journalist, columnist and standup comedian Ray Hanania has launched "Ray Hanania's World" comic strip, which lampoons topics from the Middle East to suburban Chicago, and also pays particular attention to the hypocrisy in the mainstream American news media.

The comics are located on the Internet for viewing at:

The cartoon series is archived at and is distributed through several online media sources including, which focuses on Southwest suburban Chicago issues specifically in orland Park; the National Arab American Journalists Association at which focuses on news media hypocrisy and anti-Arab bias; at which focuses on Chicago area political issues; and at the Arab American Writers Syndicate web site at which focus on Middle East issues.

All of the comic strips will run under one banner name, "Ray Hanania's World," but may vary in their focus. The topics addressed will determine their placement.

"The Internet and the computer revolution have really allowed ethnic groups advance causes of justice and principle breaking right through the front windshields of the mainstream news media's ongoing bias and discrimination," Hanania explains.

"Today, you do not have to become enslaved by the mainstream news media and its bias and bigotry and instead, using the power of the Internet, can create and distribute communications products that range from columsn, news and features, to photographs and comic strips. The most powerful messages are those that are partnered with humor and satire and comic strips, in a few words, can say much."

Visit for more information.

The Archive Site for all of Ray Hanania's World Comic Strips is:

Ray Hanania