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Ray Hanania (born 1953) is an Arab-American Palestinian Christian journalist and stand-up comedian. After the September 11 attacks, he created the Israeli-Palestinian Comedy Tour and Comedy for Peace, which brought together Israeli and Palestinian comedians. He founded his own public relations firm, called Urban Strategies Group.
Life and career
Hanania was born in Chicago, Illinois. His parents are Christian immigrants from the Mandate of Palestine. His mother is from Bethlehem; his father, George John Hanania, from a prominent Christian family in Jerusalem, served with the U.S. Army during World War II and with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the predecessor of the CIA. He himself served with the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War and in the Illinois Air National Guard. Hanania's wife, Alison, is Jewish; they live in Orland Park, Illinois.
From 1977-1985 Hanania reported for the Daily Southtown, and from 1985-1992 for the Chicago Sun-Times. From 1993-1996 he was publisher of the suburban Villager Newspapers group, was spokesperson for the Town of Cicero and published the Arab American View, an English-language American Arab newspaper. In 1992 Hanania founded his own public relations firm, Urban Strategies Group doing media consulting for political, government and private clients including the Town of Cicero (2009 to present). His career in broadcast radio began in 1980 at WLS (AM) until 1992, WJJG AM 1530 (2004–2008) and hosts "The Ray Hanania Show" every Sunday morning on WSBC AM 1240 in Chicago and WCFJ AM 1470 in Chicago Heights and the Chicago Southlands. He is also the host of Radio Baladi which broadcasts every Friday morning in Detroit.
His internationally-syndicated column is distributed by Creators Syndicate from 2002–2005 and 2010 until the present. Hanania describes his writing as "defining the moderate Palestinian & Arab Voice." He continues to write a Chicago political column carried locally with the Southwest News-Herald and the Lawndale News Newspaper, and formerly wrote a weekly column with the Arlington Heights Daily Herald (2002–2009), and has written a humor/serious column for the online website of Yedioth Ahronoth and also for the Jerusalem Post Newspaper Jerusalem Post.
Earlier in his career, Hanania wrote a weekly syndicated column for the Jerusalem Post and his columns advocated the "moderate Palestinian and Arab voice" and rejected extremism, embraces peace between Palestinians and Israelis, and opposed the use of violence. However, in November 2012, he wrote "the real obstacle preventing peace is the fundamental refusal of most Israelis and most American Jews to accept the right of Palestinians to exist as a people with a state." In addition, Hanania says that "until Israelis and Jews accept the right of Palestinians to exist, Palestinians have no option but to struggle and resist and defend themselves against violence, land confiscation and theft, and ethnic cleansing from historical Palestine. However, Hanania has committed himself to non-violence, embraces peaceful negotiations and maintains consistently on his web site that "The best way to fight extremism in the Middle East and bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians is through truth and facts. In my columns, you will read my opinions which provide a balanced view of the conflict, to let you understand the facts and the issues. I don’t just criticize Israel. I also criticize the Arabs. I don’t just point a finger at Israel and blame them for everything, I also point out the faults of the Arabs, too." Hanania describes himself as the Baby Boomer Blogger and editor of Arab American TV Online.
Hanania launched a standup comedy career in 2001 to advance his belief that humor can calm the animosity between Jews and Arabs, promoting peace through moderation. He was featured in a front-page story in the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers. In May 2002, the owner of Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago invited Hanania to perform comedy and enrolled him in comedy classes to hone his stage skills. He performed 35 shows for Zanies. In June, Zanies booked Hanania for a nine show performance over Labor Day weekend. A few weeks before the show, Zanies owner informed Hanania they were going to add Jewish American comedian Jackie Mason to the bill so he could get stage time before his planned appearances on Broadway.
But hours before the first show, Mason refused to have Hanania open for him. Hanania was called at home as he was leaving for the theater and told not to show up, even though the show had been pre-sold (sold out) a month before. Mason's manager and wife, Jyll Rosenfeld, who was in New York at the time, said that Hanania could not perform because he was "Palestinian" and not Jordanian as Mason had thought. After the controversy broke making international headlines (that lasted seven days), Zanies' management claimed the cancellation was because of Hanania's alleged "inexperience" as a professional comedian, even though Hanania had performed 35 shows for Zanies. But Mason's manager and wife Jyll Rosenfeld told a reporter for the Associated Press that Mason was "uncomfortable" being on the same stage with Hanania because Hanania is a "Palestinian." Hanania later developed a unique Palestinian-Jewish standup comedy routine that features his experiences growing up Arab in America and satirizing his marriage to his wife, Alison, who is Jewish.]. He co-founded with Israeli comedians Charley Warady and Yisrael Campbell and African American comedian/Journalist Aaron Freeman "The Israeli-Palestinian Comedy Tour, which broke the Arab and Palestinian comedian taboo of refusing to appear with Israelis.
Hanania is the national coordinator of the former National American Arab Journalists Association which coordinates and networks American Arab and Muslim Journalists in the United States, and is a partner affiliate of the Union of Arab American Journalists in Detroit.
Hanania is Managing Editor of The Arab Daily News online newspaper which is self-described as "The Newspaper of Record for the American Arab community."
- Sigma Delta Chi National Award for Column Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists (2009) for his columns on the alleged discrimination against an Arab grocer in a suburb of Chicago.
- MT. Mehdi "Courage in Journalism Award" 2009 by the Mehdi Family.
- Winner of the First National Ethnic Media Award for Commentary/Editorial Writing (English) in 2006 by the New America Media Association for his three-part series: "Shedding Moonlight on Conflict," "A new Language of Peace" and "Things Palestinians and Israelis share".
- Society of Professional Journalists Chicago Headline Club, Peter Lisagor Award for Column Writing, 1985, 2002, 2005, 2009.
- Chicago Newspaper Guild Column Writing Award (2 awards 1982, 1984).
- Three Awards from the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, 2 Chicago ADC (1981, 1988) and National ADC, 1985.
- Nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors in 1990/91 for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
- Arabs of Chicagoland, 2005 (Arcadia Publishing) ISBN 0-7385-3417-X
- I'm Glad I Look Like a Terrorist: Growing Up Arab in America, 1986, 2002 updated (http://www.themediaoasis.com/book.htm) ISBN 0-9654761-0-3 Also in eBook format.
- Strike Back: Lentil Soup for the Arab American Soul, 1999 (USG Publishing) ISBN 0-9654761-1-1
- Midnight Flight: The Story of White Flight in Chicago—1968 (Online Novel, http://www.themediaoasis.com/flight/flight.htm) 1996
- Troubled Times: Palestinian American Thought before and after Sept. 11th which features 98 of his award-winning columns, paperback;
- The Grapeleaves of Wrath, a parody of the famous novel the Grapes of Wrath applied to the story of the Palestinian refugees. eBook
- A Palestinian Refusenik's Open Letter To the Jewish People
- Video of Hanania's Arab-Jewish Comedy Act
- Who we are
- About NAAJA
- 2009 Sigma Delta Chi Awards
- Article on the alleged discrimination against an Arab grocer in a suburb of Chicago, Wordpress blog, 2009
- 2006 First National Ethnic Media Awards Winners
- Ray Hanania's official Morning Radio Show page
- Ray Hanania's official page
- Ray Hanania's media consulting web page
- Israeli Palestinian Comedy Tour official page
- Official web page of the National Arab American Journalists Association
- Opinion from Israel, Ynetnews Articles by Ray Hanania from his column
- Spoils to the Self Promoter, a detailed profile of Ray Hanania in the Chicago Reader May 20, 2010
- www.TheArabDailyNews.com, where Hanania is Managing Editor.