Aug 27

Actually, there are several battles over the Middle East. It’s all so complex and confusing. But underlying all of them seems to be the battle for public opinion, especially on the level of the world ‘community.’ The Arabs, admittedly, aren’t too good at this.

I’ve heard Arab spokesmen admit this on a few mainstream media news shows during the Israel-Hezbollah war. And an Arab journalist, Ray Hanania, admitted it to me at the just concluded Chicago conference of the Society of Professional Journalists. He was thankful the SPJ even allowed him to have a booth there that represented the Arab American voice. One of handouts was “An Open Letter to American Journalists.” Here’s a portion of it:

“Arab Americans are NOT asking the mainstream American media to become pro-Arab. Nor are we asking the mainstream American media to become anti-Israeli. We are demanding that the mainstream American news media give Arab Americans the opportunity to express their views on issues related not just to the Arab-Israeli conflice in a manner that provides balance to readers and viewers, but also to allow us to better portray ourselves as Americans…”

Theirs is obviously an uphill battle. And only one part of that is the obstacle that in the minds of many Americans, all Arabs are Muslims. Not true.

“Arab Americans ARE NOT MUSLIM. They are CHRISTIAN and Muslim. In fact, the majority of Arabs in the United States…ARE CHRISTIAN.

The media bias that exists is contributing to the strengthening of the extremist voices in the Arab American community…Please give Arab Americans the opportunity to express their views, for the sake of professional journalism and for the sake of helping to strengthen moderate, reasoned and rational voices in our community and in the American Community.”

We need moderate, reasoned and rational voices on — and from — the Middle East. And it’s true that we are not hearing many of them in the Arab world. My earlier post explained that my position is the humanitarian concern of human dignity and freedom for people in all lands, reflecting the concerns of Pope Benedict XVI and the Church.

But do some voices carry more power and influence than others? That question was raised in an intersting and intellectual dialogue in the July/August issue of Foreign Policy magazine.

In the Letter from the Editors at the issue’s opening page, they state that one of the definitions of controversy is “a lengthy discussion of an important question in which opposing opinions clash.” And that “at FP, we value controversy, as long as it is of (that) variety. Our preference is for controversies that clarify. And it is in that spirit that we assembled this issue’s cover story on the influence of the Israel lobby on American national interests.”

It’s a fascinating study in geopolitics and our national media. I’ll get to more of it in another post. For now, I’d like to hear what you think. As the cover story of the July/August 2006 FP magazine asks, “Does the Israel Lobby Have Too Much Power?” Yes or no? If you answer, be reasoned, brief, and most of all, civil.

The peace process has to begin with goodwill and civil discourse. Let it begin here.

One Response to “The ongoing battle over the Middle East”

  1. Clare Krishan says:

    I’m no foreign policy buff myself – but I welcome B16′s refocusing our attention to our faith in Jesus Christ (rather than political power) and a renewed awareness for man’s propensity to sin, our abiding desire for reconciliation and peace that arises out of our fallen nature.

    Over at her OpenBook blog, Amy Welborn raises a question about affirming the legitimacy of Georgetown’s RC faith – apropos its School of Foreign Service and recruiting ground for diplomatic careers at Dept. of State. American Christians would do well to consider the geopolitical common-sense behind Fr. Samir’s proposed corollary of the European Union for the peoples living in the countries, states and homelands of the Middle East. Spurning citizenship/legal residency in the US and Europe, modern Israelis chose to found their State in the Holy Land, location of sites contested by three major faith tradions. Two makor branches of Islam, Shi’a and Sunni, compete for political hegemony and global influence, split incontinguously between Arab and Persian ethnic roots, the former eschewing shallow cultural roots in favor of modern mercantile conquest, the latter embracing their deep cultural heritage of intellectual pursuits includintg science (most recently of a nuclear bent) with the like-minded wherever they be found, even at the far end of the Mongol Steppes in Norht Korea,

    The US is ill-advised to play favorites in the region, What was 50 years ago a veritable melting pot where Jews and Christian Arabs participated in mercantile community with their Turkoman. Kurd, Persian, and Arab Muslim brothers has unfortunately been rendered a cauldron of strife and contention, with a select priveleged few (e.g. UAE and their interenational business partners) enriching themselves at the expense of the local constituencies. The law of the jungle of capitalism may not be permitted to supplant the rule of natural law and divine justice we place our faith in as professed Christians.

    Rather than criticizing its fellow NATO allies about delaying EU membership for Turkey, American should be encouraging Anatoliams to lead the way in making a stand for a fraternal association of secular democracies in a new Middle East Union. Only then could we mere “voting voices” be able to judge which way the wind blows (as the apt quote from More above advises us should be our primary concern) ie will petrodollars buy more friends in Beijing than in Washington or will fissile-material dollars strengthening the burgeoning Russo-Perso-Indian marlets spark fear and consternation in Indonsia or Japan? If the new world order is to be built not on DOHA trade agreements but bilateral understandings, who is policing such negotiations to prevent corruption on a grand scale? Loath as many US citisens may be to admit it, without respect for international law and a commitment to universal rights of justice for humans everywhere, domestic law is only as strong as the weakness of our greatest foe. The political theory of unilateral action has proven to be as airheaded as our international friends warned us it was. Now is the time to start mending the fences – and our Pontiff is leading the way, for our greatest foe has been vanquished once and for all on the Cross, would that we would act as if we truely believed it!

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