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.’Â 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,Â admitted it to me at the just concluded Chicago conference of the SocietyÂ 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 needÂ 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.