The ONLY active voice for American Arab Journalists.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Anti-Arab Media Bias -- February 2006

Anti-Arab Racism in US
By Michael Saba
Arab News, February 3, 2006

While listening to a local talk show host the other day, I was shocked at the intensity of the host’s Arab-bashing on the air. The host was a popular local African-American and his program was one of the few on a progressive radio station in our area. He proclaimed, “The Arabs are coming. The Arabs are coming,” and warned his listeners about the UAE port deal in the US. He claimed that United States national security would be severely threatened by “Arabs” controlling American ports and couldn’t have said more negative things about Arabs and the “threat” they pose to America. You would have thought he was right-wing conservative talk show host, Rush Limbaugh.

I politely telephoned the program and told the editor, who answered the phone, that I felt the host was way off base and he was making very defamatory and derogatory remarks about Arabs. The editor screamed at me and said that I was the one off base, but then proceeded to put me on the air with the host. When the host came on air with me, I stated that as an Arab-American, I took offense to his remarks about Arabs. He then started railing at me and stated that Arabs were a threat as they were in airplanes that crashed into the Twin Towers on 9/11 and that “Arab banks” had been used to finance Al-Qaeda activities.

I asked him if he had any specific evidence linking the UAE authority that was buying into port facilities in the US with terrorism. He said that he really didn’t need any more evidence than what he had stated to me earlier. “These Arabs are dangerous and security risks and I told you plenty of good reasons to prove that,” he stated. I said, “Normally, you are very fair when it comes to racial or ethnic issues, but in this case you are making statements that are bordering on being racist.” He hung up on me!

We are experiencing an incredible racist surge in the United States over the UAE port issue. Politicians from both the left and the right are rushing to see who can bash Arabs the most. President Bush appears to be a “lonely guy” in his quest to put this deal through. His battle on this issue is reminiscent of another that his father fought in September of 1991. President Bush Senior was quietly trying to postpone an Israeli request for a $10 billion housing loan for settlers. He didn’t want to disrupt the Madrid peace process. The resistance to his request came from both sides of the political aisle. President Bush was confronted with a lobbying storm to oppose his efforts on this issue. “President Bush stepped up to the microphones and said,’I heard today there were something like a thousand lobbyists on the Hill working the other side of the question. We’ve got one lonely guy doing it.’” He further stated about being “up against some powerful political forces.” Many say that this issue and the battle that ensued over it were the beginning of the end for the Bush1 presidency.

Leading the charge against the UAE port deal is Democratic New York Sen. Charles Schumer. Schumer has said, “Outsourcing the operation of our largest port to a country (read “Arab”) with a dubious record on terrorism is a homeland security and commerce accident waiting to happen.” Schumer is a notorious Arab/Saudi/Muslim basher. When the price of gasoline is high, Schumer often blames the Saudis and states that the Saudis are using their “obscene” profits from oil to further fund terrorism. When Saudi Arabia puts more oil on the market, Schumer states that Saudis are doing this to “buy an election.” Very seldom are these contradictions in his arguments ever pointed out by the media. His main point: Anything Arab/Muslim/Saudi is bad for the US.

Even when reason occasionally appears amongst major political leaders, it is tempered with implicit anti-Arab sentiments. 2008 presidential hopeful, Democratic Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware stated on Fox News this past Sunday, “The fact of the matter is that there are some people — I’m sure this is anti-Arab-bashing”, adding, “I’m sure this is true.” However in the next breath Biden said that Arab allies in the Mideast should be treated differently. “You don’t sell the same aircraft to Saudi Arabia — our great ally — that you do to England or to France or to a NATO country. So there’s always been a distinction.”

The media has set the pace for Arab-bashing in the United States. And they are joined by Hollywood, television and even the Christian Zionists. Arabs and Muslims are fair game for all of the above and very little is being done to change this equation.

We recall the highly publicized purchases by Arab investors of US corporations in the 1970s and 1980s creating hysterical cries from the media about the alleged danger of Arabs “buying up” America when actually Canada, Japan and European countries accounted for almost 90 percent of direct foreign investment in the US during the 1980s. The US Department of Commerce reported at that time that direct foreign investment from OPEC countries in the US accounted for less than one percent of that total.

In an article entitled “Methods of Media Manipulation,” Dr. Michael Parenti, an expert in media analysis, writes, “We are told by people in the media industry that news bias is unavoidable.

Whatever distortions and inaccuracies that are found in the news are caused by deadline pressures, human misjudgment, limited print space, scarce air time, budgetary restraints and the difficulty of reducing a complex story into a concise report.” Parenti continues, “I agree that these kinds of difficulties exist. Still, I would argue that the media’s misrepresentations are not merely the result of innocent error and everyday production problems.” And media misrepresentation about Arabs and Saudi Arabia is legend. A article by Chris Weikopf, who also writes for the Los Angeles Daily News, began: “Saudi-bashing has become the new sport in Washington and with good reason.” In other words Weikopf was not only saying that it’s OK to “bash” a whole nation and an entire nationality/ethnic group, but it is also “good.” Put any other country or nationality/ethnic group in the “Saudi” word space and the writer would be accused of racism.

An incredible amount of work lies ahead for those of us who are fighting the battle against anti-Arab racism. We need to start at the grass roots level and we have done just that in my own area.

The African-American talk show host who ranted and raved that “the Arabs are coming” is being barraged with phone calls and e-mails calling for a change in attitude or for a subsequent firing if he continues making racist statements. As Congressman Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local” and campaigns to enlighten the public about anti-Arab racism can and must be fought at the local level.

Michael Saba,

No comments: