Ray Hanania’s Column
I remember reading about how businesses and government agencies expelled people because they were Jewish. But that was by the Nazis during their rise in Germany in the 1930s.
It’s sad to see that happen again, today.
The New York Stock Exchange, not known for its compassion about public concerns, ordered an American journalist of Arab American heritage who was freelancing for the Arab language satellite channel Al-Jazeera to turn in his credentials and leave the building.
Ammar Al-Sankari, a Lebanese American immigrant, began reporting for Al-Jazeera in 1999, doing two-minute reports each morning on business news. Also booted out of the NYSE building was Al-Sankari’s colleague, Ramsey Shiber, also a freelance reporter for al-Jazeera.
I understand the anger and even the hatred that is sweeping this country. Nearly 3,000 people, including many non-Americans, died when Osama Bin Laden’s terrorists destroyed the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. And, American soldiers are dying in a war against Iraq, a war some Americans feel is justified and many others feel is not.
I also know that there is a little bit of Hitler in all of us, evidence of which I am beginning to see more and more often. Yet, I am still surprised when people can’t control that ugliness. And what the NYSE exchange has done is an example of that same kind of ugly hatred that drove Bin Laden’s killers and the German Nazis.
There is no doubt that Al-Jazeera is being targeted. It’s Arab-owned. It’s journalists are of Arab heritage. It’s broadcasts are in the Arabic language, although the station recently opened an English language web site.
A NYSE official was quoted recently as saying, “We’ve focused primarily on those [broadcasters] who investors look to for business and financial news and unfortunately at this point that means we can’t accommodate Al-Jazeera. é Over time we have had to limit the number of [reporters] broadcasting from here because of security precautions.”
No matter how the words come out, bigotry, hatred and racism is always the same.
The real motivation is that Al-Jazeera, like many other American media outlets, began broadcasting video of Iraq soldiers interrogating American prisoners of war. The interviewing of POWs is strictly prohibited by the Geneva Conventions, but no one seemed to care when those interviewed in this war, and in prior wars were Arab prisoners held by American soldiers.
Still, the Geneva Conventions do not apply to news outlets that report the news.
The fact is that Al-Jazeera is providing news coverage that many American news outlets are afraid to provide. News coverage that is objective and provides both sides of the conflict, not only the war against Iraq, but also other wars against Arabs including extensive footage of Israel’s brutality against the Palestinians it occupies.
The fact is that I first saw the images of the American POWs not on Al-Jazeera, but on a cable news network that later stopped showing them. I saw the same photographs taken from the videos days later in a local Chicago newspaper.
This isn’t about the showing of the video footage of the POWs. It isn’t about fair reporting. It isn’t even about issues that are “unpatriotic” or morally wrong.
It is about racism. Many Americans simply hate Arabs. But this hatred didn’t just start after Sept. 11th. It began long before.
Among its many freedoms, Democracy allows Americans to hate whom they wish. Before it was the Arabs, it was African Americans who were murdered, burned and lynched for such crimes as “looking at a White woman.”
Rather than stand up to defend the rights of other Americans who work for a news network that happens to broadcast in a foreign language, most Americans will sit at home and relish in the NYSE’s actions. As other similar acts of bigotry and racism take place, as they surely will in this country in the coming days and weeks, they will enjoy those moments, too.
But in their glee, the hatred that moved Bin Laden burns brightly. And the NYSE and Americans who support their actions are handing Bin Laden a victory he could never have hoped for.
Bin Laden didn’t just destroy the World trade Center’s Twin Towers on Sept. 11th. Apparently, his terrorism is alive and well, and helping to topple the even larger twin towers of American morality and decency, destroying the very essence of justice that supposedly makes this country different from the monsters we claim to hate.
(Ray Hanania is a Palestinian American writer based in Chicago and a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN). His columns are archived on the web at www.hanania.com)