Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Hanania wins two journalism awards for stories and columns on alleged anti-Arab discrimination case

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Columnist and radio host Ray Hanania was honored last month with two major journalism awards, both dealing with the allegations of discrimination in Oak Lawn against a store owner there, Naim Massad.

Last August 2009, Massad alleged that he was being harassed by the village for nearly two years. That month, village officials had closed his store pending code violation reviews when police and inspectors were called by a neighbor who said that Massad placed a sign in Arabic that told his customers to go to the back of the store to purchase food while the store was closed. Massad was arrested when police claim that they saw Massad had stored some canned foods in a vacant store next to his own, food that had just been delivered but could not be placed in his own store because of the village inspectors order to keep his store closed.

Inspectors who arrived immediately ordered police to handcuff the store owner. When his wife Susan and son Abed protested, they were handcuffed and arrested and all were taken to jail where they spent the night pending the posting of bond.

As it turns out, the sign did not read what inspectors and police, who could not read Arabic said. The sign merely said that the store was temporarily closed but would soon be opened. Police had confiscated the sign from the door as evidence, but it mysteriously disappeared from the police evidence room.

Hanania, writing for the Southwest News-Herald Newspapers, obtained a copy of the police 911 emergency calls made just before they arrived at Massad’s store to see or confirm the evidence and a police officer was quoted as telling a dispatcher who asked him to respond to another emergency, that he would respond to the emergency but only after going to Massad’s store. In the 911 call, the officer told dispatch that he was on his way to “close an Arab store”.

Hanania wrote several news reports and columns on the incident, and was continually harassed by readers who attacked him because of his Arab heritage. Hanania is Palestinian and Christian from Jerusalem. Several of the owners of nearby stores refused to speak with him about the Massad case and there seemed to be great animosity with Massad.

In reviewing police records, Hanania also discovered that Massad’s store, located in the center of Oak Lawn, was also one of two Arab owned grocery stores attacked in the weeks before the incident with windows broken by large rocks. The other store was located on Oak Lawn’s eastern border.

Hanania received the Society of Professional Journalists’ Lisagor Award for In-Depth Reporting” from the Chicago Headline Club, the nation’s largest SPJ Chapter. He also receive the Sigma Delta Chi National Award for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Hanania has been a journalist and columnist since 1975. Today he also writes for and also for the Jerusalem Post.

He hosts the only American Arab weekday morning radio show “Radio Chicagoland” on WJJG 1530 AM Radio Monday through Thursday from 8 to 9:30 am and Friday from 7 until 9 am. On Fridays, Hanania co-hosts Radio Baladi which is simulcast in Chicago and Detroit from 7 until 8 am. His web site is

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