Khalil Jahshan: Arabs Need Effective Media Campaign in the US To Counter Anti-Arab Bias

Published October 19th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

By Munir K. Nasser 

Chief Correspondent, Washington, DC 

Albawaba.com 

 

 

A leading Arab American activist blamed the Palestinians for not having an effective media campaign to defend themselves against media bias in the United States. 

Khalil Jahshan, President of NAAA-ADC told Albawaba.com that the Palestinian Authority has no credible spokesman in the US that appears regularly and systematically on the American media.  

He said there is a more intensive effort by the government of Israel and other institutions in Israel that cater to the media. He noted that they are very effective, particularly with columnists and op-ed writers because the talking points are coming from the same source and everyone is putting their spin on it.  

He criticized the Arab governments for not keeping Arab spokesmen on a sustainable basis to deal with the media. The Arab world, he thinks, “gets interested in our performance in times of crises like this, but they are not interested in our performance all year long.”  

 

The following are excerpts from the interview: 

 

Q- How do you characterize the coverage of the American press of the current crisis? 

A-The general performance of the press is dismal, and it is a huge step backward. It seems that we have stepped 20 years into the past, and the cold war of covering the Middle East is back with very biased coverage. You would find so many op-ed pieces in the same newspaper all of them siding with the Israeli perspective. Although it has been showing better coverage over the past 20 years, this time the media is showing its true color again. But it is reversible, and this crisis proves it.  

 

Q- Who do you think is behind this campaign? 

A- There is a more intensive effort, not just by the government of Israel, but there are other institutions in Israel that cater to the media. That’s why you hear almost the same messages because there is coordination. There is an outfit, for example, headed by former Israeli Ambassador in Washington Zalman Shoval that represents “a right wing, anti-peace process, blame the Arabs” kind of rhetoric. These guys are very effective, particularly with columnists and op-ed writers because the talking points are coming from the same source and everyone is putting their spin on it. You can see a common denominator there.  

 

Q- What kind of things are Arab Americans doing to counter this bias? 

A- We are doing as much as we can by giving interviews and appearances on television and even writing and directing op-ed pieces. We are also correcting press mistakes by phone calls and letters to the editors and meetings with editors. We are meeting with the Washington Post editorial board this week to discuss their coverage of the crisis. We are also starting an extensive advertising campaign in the American press to counter the escalating hostility in the American media. This campaign will run at a cost of one million and a half dollars, and the funding has been raised from Arab American sources and from sources in the Arab world. The campaign will start on Wednesday and will appear in 12 major newspapers across the US.  

 

Q- Are you countering the Israeli point of view on television? 

A- The media this time is part of the bias. It is not giving Arab Americans the chance to speak.  

There is also a shortcoming on our part. We don’t really have the necessary spokesmen in the Arab community on a sustainable basis to deal with the media. We are basically in a skeletal situation. The Arab world gets interested in our performance in times of crises like this, but they are not interested in our performance all year long. The Arab world can sustain and work with Arab and Muslim American organizations and keep them strong, because that will strengthen the Arab cause.  

 

 

Q- Are the Palestinians doing a good job in presenting their case to the American public? 

A- The Palestinians are blamed for two things. They can be blamed for an ineffective media blitz to defend themselves. Officially, they have no credible spokesman in the US that appears regularly and systematically on the American media. They have two or three ministers that appear regularly and they seem to be exhausted and speaking different language every time they appear on television. There is also non-coordination in the non-official sphere were you have many Palestinian spokesmen, but again there is no effort to coordinate with them and brief them. People have been doing things on their own. Individual NGO’s or speakers from Palestine have been appearing on many shows, but there is no media campaign per se.  

 

Q- The Palestinians have recruited Edward Abington, the former US Consul in Jerusalem, to work on their behalf in the US. Is that a good step?  

A- Abington is a small outfit that has been hired to do specific things. In the absence of clarity from the Palestinian side, what can a small firm with limited resources do?  

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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