What Every Arab Journalist Should Know



    After spending a few weeks reading Arab papers and watching Egyptian TV, one walks away with a pretty consistent political viewpoint coming from political quarters that are rarely in agreement over any single issue.  A constant theme is that the United States and Israel, often portrayed as a single uniform political entity, do not respect international law, human rights or United Nations resolutions. Where they differ is on the rationale behind American and Israeli policies and how Arab governments and citizens should respond.

    True enough, the Bush administration doesn’t give a damn about any kind of international law and emphasized the point by withdrawing from an international court that threatened the career of war criminals like Ariel Sharon. Human rights have not been a priority since the Carter administration. As for the United Nations, Kofi Annan is considered a second tier State Department functionary, when Colin Powell happens to notice his existence. And the Security Council is just a rubber stamp for attacking Iraq or giving Israel a green light to pulverize the Palestinians.

    Yet, while a vast majority of Egyptian journalists would agree to every word in the last paragraph, they seem to believe that, by sheer volume of print, the United States will be persuaded to give consideration to issues of ‘international legitimacy.’  Some, especially the big shots, actually seem to expect that what they write will be taken into account by American journalists or at least the American embassy in Cairo.  The articles are phrased in a manner that suggests the writer expects to reach the ear of the party he is complaining about.  These journalists, on a daily basis, express a genuine alarm that America gives Israel a license to breach ‘international legitimacy.’  They seem to have a surreal expectation that the sole super power on the planet should be the first to support the rule of law.

    To this standard mix, hardly a day goes by without a few Egyptian journalists taking a swipe at the influence of the Israeli Lobby. In fact, ‘Lobby’ has become an Arabic word.

    In attributing a ‘rationale’ to American and Israeli policies, many Egyptian pundits make an assumption that the decision makers under Sharon and Bush are working within a set of guidelines from some ‘master plan.’ There is a belief that every policy move stems from a ‘rule book’ that is based on continuity and a well thought out strategy. An incessant complaint is that America will throw this ‘rule book’ at the Arabs while conveniently ignoring even the most vicious Israeli assaults.

    What every Arab journalist should know is that very little of what they write is ever translated into English. So, the expectation that their complaints are being registered is off the mark.  The State Department has very few Arabic language specialists and they figure if you can’t make your point in English, you don’t have a point. Here is a clue for any Arab journalist who wants to be heard. Continue to write in Arabic, but learn enough English to make sure that what you write can be translated by a State Department ‘Arabic expert’ who can hardly speak the language.  Make it short, because they will be drawn to the least labor intensive chore. Remember, this ‘Arabic expert’ is doing ‘government work,’ the kind of labor that wouldn’t survive in a free market.

    As for this business about a uniform alignment of American and Israeli ‘plots’ and ‘continuity’, that is also debatable.  While Israel is making plans for mass expulsions and ethnic cleansing, The United States doesn’t have a plot or a plan or a vision or even a coherent policy. George Bush and Cheney know as much about Turman’s policies in the Middle East as a chimp in Costa Rica. This administration makes it up as it goes. It all depends on the questions raised at the daily White House and State Department press briefings. They plan as far as the next day’s headlines. Even Colin Powell approaches the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as a ‘troublesome account’ that needs more attention from the marketing department.

    As for what to do about it, most Egyptian journalists are advocating passive resistance via a grass roots boycott of American and Israeli goods. The boycott is a fine legitimate pacifist response to the brutality inflicted on the Palestinian people. But boycott’s are difficult to sustain over the long term unless alternative products are manufactured locally or imported from other sources.

    What than should be done to persuade the United States to uphold ‘international legitimacy’ ? More griping will be just wasted print.  If international organizations, responsible for upholding the laws of our planet, are not going to be applied to the people of the Middle East. Well, maybe the Arabs and the governments that represent them should suspend memberships in all such organizations, including the United Nations.  They should encourage all friendly governments to do the same.  A temporary suspension of membership should become permanent if the United Nations doesn’t shape up and prove it by moving out of New York.

    Another thing that I would like to see more of in both the Egyptian and American press is a challenge to the United States government to take a firm stand against the expulsion of the Palestinians from their native lands.  This threat is more real than most might imagine. Check out our coverage of how the Republican House Majority Leader would be ‘content’ with a second Nakba.  Also note, that not a single Congressman or Senator, has made an issue of the matter. The fact that they chose to ignore an explicit call for mass expulsion might indicate that there is a strong Armey contingent in Congress that aligns with the most militant right wing Likudniks. Who are these people and why are they so ‘content’ with such diabolical plans of ethnic cleansing?

    You don’t have to be a paranoid Arab to believe that someone is lurking in the Israeli Lobby with a sinister plan to create ‘conditions’ for a mass expulsion. They talk about it very frankly, in Tel Aviv, in New York and in the halls of Congress.

    The problem is most Arabs believe that the Israelis wouldn’t dare undertake another mass expulsion. Well, think again. Are you the same Arab who thought that Israel wouldn’t dare invade Arab land in 1967 and move in settlers by the hundreds of thousands. Are you the same Arab who thought that the Israeli Army wouldn’t dare invade Lebanon in 1978 and 1982.  Do you still marvel that Israeli freely elected Ariel Sharon and gave him a mandate to continue his criminal war activities?  Did you think that Sharon would not dare commit additional war crimes like Qibya and Sabra and Shatila?  Do you remember later spending nights worried about the fate of the people of Jenin? How many times have you been surprised about how far an American government will go to coddle the sacred war criminals in Tel Aviv? What happened to the Jenin probe, Koffi?  So, expect the unexpected. In the current environment, with American Hate TV and Hate radio mounting a full scale assault against Arabs, assume nothing to be out of the realms of the possilbe. If the Israelis think they can get American blessings for expulsions, they will do it.

    Arab journalists should also be encouraged to confront American journalists like Thomas Friedman, William Safire and Charles Krauthammer.  These three men are dangerous bigots who have played a vital role in sanitizing Ariel Sharon’s war crimes and encouraging him to go on another killing spree.  They have very publicly advocated the continued repression in the West Bank and Gaza. The New York Times and The Washington Post, along with CNN must be constantly monitored and archives must be developed to determine how far they have gone in distorting the historical record and defaming the good character of the Palestinian people.

    Mr. Ahmed Amr is Editor of NileMedia.com in Seattle and a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN).