By Munir K. Nasser
Chief Correspondent, Washington, DC
Arab Americans announced that they are starting an extensive advertising campaign in the American press to counter the escalating hostility in the American media to Arabs and Palestinians during the past two weeks of violence in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Khalil Jahshan, vice president of the American Arab anti Discrimination Committee (ADC) told Albawaba.com the ad campaign will run at a cost of one million and a half dollars. He said the funding has been raised from Arab American sources and from sources in the Arab world.
Jahshan said the campaign will start on Wednesday and will appear in 12 major newspapers across the US including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles times, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, and other newspapers. The first round of the ads will be jointly sponsored by Arab and Muslim American groups, and will be followed by two rounds in the next few days by ADC.
According to Jahshan, the messages in the ads carry different points, focusing on themes like:
“Don’t blame the Palestinians,” “The Palestinians deserve freedom,” and “Let us end the Israeli occupation.” He said the campaign would show the true picture of the suffering of the Palestinian people and the ugliness of the Israeli reaction.
In recent weeks, Arab Americans have noted with great alarm that the coverage of the US media has revealed shocking levels of hostility to Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims from many American commentators and journalists. As the conflict grew in intensity during the course of last week, ever more extreme hostility and racism against Palestinians proliferated in the media. Groups monitoring the coverage have noted that the bias, in some cases, reached scandalous proportions in recent days.
ADC and other Arab American organizations have been calling upon the editors of major American publications to maintain consistent standards and ensure that their publications are not a platform for hostile anti-Arab prejudice. Monday’s edition of the online magazine Slate included some of the most hostile and biased coverage yet seen, including the use of outright obscenity to describe Palestinians. Slate is owned by Microsoft and edited by the well-known pundit Michael Kinsley. On Friday, Slate columnist Scott Shuger called one of the Palestinians who had participated in the killing of two Israeli soldiers "a piece of shit posing as a human being" and other Palestinians as "the other turds."
Hussein Ibish, ADC’s Communications Director sent an open letter to Slate’s editor Michael Kinsley asking him to apologize to Arab Americans for the biased coverage. “You should seriously ask yourself, and tell us, why the blood of two Israeli soldiers draws so much more ire and outrage from Slate than the blood of 20 Palestinian children,” he wrote “You must apologize and retract this characterization, start describing Israelis who commit comparable atrocities in similarly obscene terms, or admit that Slate embraces a racist double-standard for obscenity and invective.”
ADC noted in a statement that the killing of two Israeli soldiers by Palestinians prompted justifiable moral outrage in the press, but this same sense of outrage was absolutely lacking during previous days when one hundred Palestinians were gunned down. According to ADC, terms such as "brutal," "savage," "barbaric," "murder," "lynching," "terrorism" and others suddenly appeared for the first time in the coverage, loaded words never used in the coverage of the killing of over 20 Palestinian children. “Moreover, many attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians, including several extremely gruesome murders, went largely unreported and completely [ignored] by the
major media, including several killings that involved extensive torture,” said ADC.
Jahshan said that numerous Arab American and Palestinian attempts to join the media debates on the crisis have been, in general, rebuffed and the press has largely failed to use the Arab-American community as a resource for alternative viewpoints or as experts to correct the serious prevalent bias. He added that patterns such as blaming the victim, ignoring history and international law, humanizing one set of victims while dehumanizing others, uncritically repeating official Israeli claims, and reporting on events in the occupied territories as if there were no occupation in place have been on full, dismal display.
In a related development, ADC condemned the remarks of Reverend Franklin Graham, vice chairman of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and son of noted evangelist Billy Graham, for making “a series of extraordinarily racist remarks at a televised revival in Kentucky on October 14. Franklin, head of one of the largest evangelical associations in the United States, said "The Arabs will not be happy until every Jew is dead. They hate the state of Israel. They all hate the Jews. God gave that land to the Jews. The Arabs will never accept that. Why can't they live in peace?" These remarks were broadcast to a huge television audience.
ADC President Hala Maksoud said: "This pattern of anti-Arab hate speech from otherwise respectable religious, journalistic and political figures is shocking and deeply disturbing. It seems that many people in our country now feel entitled to defame and disparage any and all Arabs in a
manner that would be unthinkable with regard to most other groups…. It is high time our national leaders condemn the outpouring of hatred against our community and help to restore a sense of decency and civility to our country."
ADC also strongly condemned racist anti-Arab remarks by Ric Keller, the Republican nominee for the House of Representatives from central Florida who said "I think Palestinians are lower than pond scum" and endorsed Israel's bombing of defenseless Palestinian cities.
Hala Maksoud said "Racist remarks such as Mr. Keller's, which demonize an entire people, are completely unacceptable. This is yet another example of the double-standard which applies in our society against Arabs.” She said ADC is contacting the Republican National Committee (RNC) with a request that they repudiate these highly racist remarks by their nominee.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)