A Chicago newspaper reported these staggering but important facts: The Jewish community in Chicago raised more than USD 22 million to support Israel just in the past week. Chicago’s Lebanese American community raised about USD 30,000, total.
When you think about it, the Jewish community is saying that for every Israeli killed in this past conflict – about 80, mostly soldiers – they are willing to provide as much as USD 276,000 per victim. The Arab community is saying that for 800 victims, mostly civilians and Muslim, they are willing only to donate about USD 37.50 per victim.
It’s not that an Arab life is worth less than a Jewish life. It goes far deeper than that, reflecting the solidarity of the Jewish community on the basis of religion and politics with Israel in comparison to the disunity, apathy and disorganization of the Arab community, not just in Chicago but in most major American cities.
What’s the real problem? That Arabs don’t care about Lebanon? Well, not as much as they care about Palestine, for sure and tragically.
But the real problem has to do with the growing divide in the Arab community between the secular community and the selfish and ultra-religious community which only supports its own.
Add that to the characteristically divisive nature of Arab American culture – and I single out Arab American culture because the divisions and internal fighting and self-hate that is so dominant in the Arab American community, and is not that apparent in the community “back home” in Palestine, Jordan, Syria or Lebanon.
It’s not just about the money, either.
Recently, the Jewish community in Chicago organized a protest that drew several hundred thousand Jews and non-Jews in a positive demonstration of support for the Israeli and Zionist cause.
Nearby, a group of self-appointed Arab activists who spend more time hating, attacking and gossiping about other Arabs and Muslims in the community managed to draw maybe 100 people. A week later, they drew even less, about 45 protestors criticizing Israeli policy.
What’s the problem?
Well, the problem is that the leaders in the Jewish American community truly represent the Jewish American community. They have a structure and a democratic system through which the community can participate.
More importantly, they have transparency. The organizations involved in the Jewish American community are accountable to their community. Not only do they publish political news about Israel in their newsletters, newspapers and television shows, they also provide details on what they do and what they haven’t done.
They lay out a plan to help their community here in the United States while also supporting Israel when the time comes.
They just don't care
That’s all foreign to Arab American organizations, especially in Chicago where someone asking a question about a “leader” will result in them being thrown into the dog house, attacked, vilified, denounced, shunned and censored.
They will tar and feather you, all 45 of them.
The real problem is the majority of the people in the Arab community, both Christian and Muslims are apathetic, silent and they just don’t care.
They don't care that morons are leading their community and putting themselves up as their spokesmen.
They don’t realize that when a fanatic tells a television reporter that American foreign policy caused Sept. 11 – the biggest lying BS pack of lies I have ever heard in my life - the American public believes that all of the Arab community share that ignorant, stupid and ridiculous viewpoint.
Sept. 11 had nothing to do with American foreign policy. It had everything to do with a pack of crazed religious fanatics who operated with the silent acquiescence of the larger Muslim World, who decided to viciously murder innocent people who had nothing to do with foreign policy or the events in the Middle East.
Hostages by the extremists in our community
Despite that, most Americans believe that the average Arab and Muslim believes that stupidity when the truth is that most Americans just don’t realize that the majority of Arabs and Muslims are being held hostage by the extremists in our community.
Not only do this small handful of loud extremist ideologues succeed in intimidating the majority, but they also have pulled the wool over the eyes of the city's mayor and the state's governor, and nearly every other major regional government agency that provides grant funds that go mostly to support their political agenda rather than the social needs they were intended to service.
There is also one other major factor that might explain this lopsided effort to raise money to help the people back home: religion.
Let’s be honest, Arabs in the community are divided between Muslims and Christians and the extremists love to talk about how they bring both sides together and how we shouldn’t refer to the problems that exist between the two. Don’t even whisper them, we’re told, or else!
Yet the truth is the leadership of the two communities doesn't work together and doesn't really get along. And that’s obvious because when a mosque raised funds recently to expand, they raised more than USD 650,000 to support their church.
The “Lebanese” in Chicago are not viewed as “Arabs” but as “Christians." Most of the Lebanese in America are Christians, Maronite Catholics, and that irks many Arabs, especially the religious fanatics who not only look down on Jews, but also look down on Christians, especially the upstarts.
The Americans think all Arabs are Muslims, but they are not. The majority of Muslims in America (about 7 million) are non-Arab; of the 4.5 million Arabs in America, the majority is Christians.
Just mentioning that fact upsets the extremists, and when you have angry, red-faced fanatics at the helm steering the sinking ship, it might help to explain why it’s hard to raise money for even a good cause in the Arab community like helping the people of Lebanon.
Some Arabs and many Muslims will condemn me for writing this column. So be it. What else is new? But the truth is the truth. And you cannot fix something that is broken unless you recognize the problem.
In Arab folklore, it’s the Arab mind that has no clothes.
Ray Hanania is a Palestinian American columnist, author and standup comedian. He can be reached at www.hanania.com