By: Dave Astor
A columnist from the Midwest is giving newspaper readers a different take on the Mideast.
He is Ray Hanania, a Palestinian-American who recently began a weekly column for the Arlington Heights, Ill., Daily Herald. His feature offers a more three-dimensional view of the Mideast than the pro-Israel columns that dominate America’s Op-Ed pages.
Hanania told E&P Online that newspapers publishing only pro-Israel commentary are “being somewhat disrespectful to readers. They’re saying, ‘We know what’s good for you.’ A newspaper should present a good balance and let you make up your own mind.”
He praised the Daily Herald for having such a balance. When the paper started Hanania’s feature, it also launched a Mideast column by Chaya Gil, a vice president of the America Jewish Committee’s Chicago chapter.
Daily Herald Assistant Managing Editor Jim Slusher found Hanania and Gil after the paper decided its Op-Ed pages needed more diverse Mideast commentary. “When columnists — such as Mona Charen and Charles Krauthammer — write about the Mideast, almost none of them write from the Arab point of view,” Slusher told E&P Online.
Slusher is impressed with Hanania’s writing ability. “He makes you think,” he said. “And his newspaper background is very evident.”
Hanania — a Christian married to a Jewish woman — is a former award-winning political writer for the Chicago Sun-Times and the Daily Southtown in Tinley Park, Ill.
Offers ‘An Informed Opinion’
“One lesson I learned as a journalist is that it isn’t enough to have an opinion to get published; it has to be an informed opinion,” said Hanania, who writes his Daily Herald column as a regular freelancer and also self-syndicates to other U.S. dailies, Arab-American newspapers, and papers in the Mideast.
Hanania and Slusher said the column (excerpts from which appear at the end of this story) has elicited “a lot” of reader reaction, with about an equal amount positive and negative.
“We’re gratified to see he’s really engaging readers,” said Slusher.
Hanania added that many readers are eager and curious to hear an Arab-American point of view.
The Chicago-born columnist did recall one World War II veteran who was angry with his writing until he learned Hanania served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War.
For his Sept. 11-week column, Hanania plans to write about some of the 14 innocent Americans — of Arab descent or “Middle Eastern” appearance — killed in the U.S. in post-Sept. 11 attacks hate crimes.
The columnist (http://www.hanania.com) takes a serious approach in his feature. But he’s also a stand-up comic who was scheduled to perform at Chicago’s Zanies club last week before Jackie Mason’s manager said the Jewish comedian would not feel comfortable appearing with a Palestinian-American opening act (see story below).
Hanania — the author of four books — said he wouldn’t mind writing a humor column in the future, and also doing serious pieces about the Arab-American population. He noted that many people don’t realize how diverse this population is in terms of politics, religion, and more.
The columnist said there are more than three million Arab-Americans and more than 11 million Muslims (Arab and non-Arab) in the U.S.
Examples of Hanania’s column commentary:
* “With only a few exceptions, Palestinian victims are portrayed to Americans as nameless, faceless non-human statistics. In sharp contrast, Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorism or those killed in clashes with Palestinians resisting Israeli attacks are portrayed in the most human terms possible.
“To me, they are all human. They are all victims. I grieve for all of them, Palestinian and Israeli. And unlike many of my Israeli and pro-Israeli friends, when the tables are turned, I have often publicly denounced Hamas terrorist attacks that have resulted in innocent Israeli deaths.”
* “The conflict is not between Palestinians and Israelis. It is between those who support peace through compromise and those who don’t. The real dividing line separates extremists from moderates. On one side are the Palestinian and Israeli extremists using terrorism to prevent peace.”
* “In the past two years, the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has targeted and murdered more than 76 Palestinian political leaders. The Israelis obviously don’t like to refer to these murders as assassinations. Instead, they use clever public relations spin to rename it as ‘extra-judicial’ killing.”
“On Feb. 25, 1994, Baruch Goldstein, an American doctor from Brooklyn, entered the Hebron Mosque and gunned down 29 Muslims who were praying. … One can argue that Goldstein, who expected to die in his attack, is the region’s first suicidal terrorist.”
Hanania Discusses Mason
Snub Leads To Column and More
Ray Hanania, dropped last week as Jackie Mason’s opening act at Chicago’s Zanies club, is angry at the comedian. But there has been a silver lining to the situation.
The Palestinian-American columnist/comedian said he has received at least 50 invitations from around the country to perform his stand-up act and has also received thousands of e-mails — with about 90% supporting Hanania and criticizing the actions of Mason, the famous Jewish comedian.
Mason’s snub also gave Hanania the topic for the Aug. 30 installment of the weekly Mideast-themed column he writes for the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill., and self-syndication.
“This is exactly the kind of problem we see in the Mideast,” Hanania told E&P Online. He explained that Mason took a situation that could have been handled humorously — and been an opportunity for Jewish-Palestinian cooperation — and made it serious and divisive.
In his column, Hanania wrote: “We need to break the deadlock of hatred that has Palestinians and Israelis in a death grip. It is hard to reason with a person’s anger. But sometimes, laughter can break through. … Just as it is difficult to bring Arabs and Jews together across a military battlefield, the same hatred and attraction to confrontation that consumes both sides seems to keep them apart everywhere, including a stand-up comedy stage.”
Hanania, a U.S. Air Force veteran married to a Jewish woman, said Zanies booked him about six weeks before booking Mason. When that happened, Hanania was moved to the opening-act slot during the three days Mason would appear. Hanania said Mason initially expressed no problem appearing with him.
Then Mason and/or Mason’s manager reneged. “He’s the bigshot, and they thought they could just blow me off,” Hanania said, adding that they changed their reason for doing so three times. First, they said Mason didn’t want to appear with Hanania because of his Palestinian ancestry. Then they said Hanania was too “inexperienced” as a comedian. Finally, they said they didn’t like the way Hanania had criticized some Israeli government actions in his column.
“He owes me an apology,” Hanania said, adding jokingly: “I should send Jackie Mason a bill for all the publicity I gave him!”
Hanania gave more than 75 media interviews last week — and turned down about 300 others for lack of time.
Mason, Mason’s manager, and a Zanies executive did not respond to E&P Online requests for comment.
Sept. 11 Reverberated In K.C.
Nephew’s Death Affected Columnist
This spring, Kansas City (Mo.) Star columnist Bill Tammeus wrote about the birth of his nephew’s son, Parker. But his nephew never saw the column, or his baby.
That’s because the nephew — 31-year-old Karleton Fyfe of Brookline, Mass. — died in the first plane to hit the World Trade Center, two days after learning his wife Haven was pregnant with their second child.
Tammeus has written about Sept. 11 as a bereaved relative, and as a more objective commentator. He even traveled to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Uzbekistan this June to get a better understanding of both peaceful and militant Islam — resulting in a summer series of Star columns and stories distributed by Tammeus’ syndicator, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
The death of Karleton — “one of my favorite people on the planet,” said Tammeus — may have even affected the Star staffer’s non-9/11 columns. “Perhaps his death has made me a little more realistic about things — though I’ve never been a Pollyanna — and a little more sensitive to other people’s losses,” said the former president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.
On Sept. 11, Tammeus plans to talk to relatives, speak at two community services, and see an editorial and column he’ll write published in the Star.
In the column, “I hope to talk about the fact that even though the pain of the loss seems less sharp that it did a year ago, it’s probably more deeper and profound than we imagine,” he said. “The person is gone forever, and there are all the complications of restructuring a family.”
But Tammeus said the column will also feature “a note of hope” about getting on with one’s life. He recalled recently attending a family wedding where people were able to share memories of funny things Karleton used to say.
Universal Launches Database
Site Offers Comics, Editorial Cartoons
Universal Press Syndicate launched a Web site that enables newsletter editors, book publishers, the general public, and others to search for comics and editorial cartoons.
The site (http://www.amureprints.com) includes tens of thousands of cartoons searchable by keyword or topical terms such as cats, dogs, food, health, relationships, etc. Visitors can receive an immediate price quote, and the art can be delivered electronically.
Universal comics include “Baldo,” “Cathy,” “Doonesbury,” “FoxTrot,” “Garfield,” “Non Sequitur,” “Stone Soup,” “The Boondocks,” and more. Editorial cartoonists include Lalo Alcaraz, Tony Auth, Pat Oliphant, Joel Pett, Ted Rall, Ben Sargent, and Tom Toles, among others.
More TV and Weather Info
For 770 ‘American Profile’ Clients
“American Profile Hometown Content,” a downloadable service for community newspapers, added more weather information and television listings starting Sept. 1.
“Hometown Content” is free to the 770 newspapers (combined circulation: 4 million-plus) that carry the 28-month-old American Profile magazine. About 30% of these papers use the 11-month-old content service, said Dan Hammond, publisher of the weekly magazine and CEO of Publishing Group of America in Franklin, Tenn. “We expect usage to continue to grow,” he added.
The new version of the service (http://www.americanprofile.com) includes more TV channels as well as state, regional, and national weather information (with graphics) in addition to local forecasts. Crossword puzzles continue to be offered.
Author Enters Advice Arena
Borchard Syndicating ‘Therese’s Pieces’
Therese Borchard, 31, has begun self-syndicating “Therese’s Pieces of Advice: A Gen X Hotline.”
It already appears in nine newspapers, and recently finished a close second in an advice-column poll conducted by The Sun of Baltimore. (First was “Dear Abby” by Jeanne Phillips of Universal Press Syndicate.)
In her feature, Borchard discusses parenting, dating, work issues, and more.
The Maryland resident (firstname.lastname@example.org) has written articles for various newspapers and magazines. She is also the author of a number of books — including I Like Being Catholic, I Like Being Married, and Winging It: Meditations of a Young Adult.