February 18, 2004
ARABS SAY 'COSMETICS' WON'T CHANGE 'UGLY' U.S. POLICIES
** Al-Hurra TV's debut draws widespread derision, mistrust and
criticism from Arab media.
** "Sweet" words and pictures cannot cover the U.S.'
"bad policy" and "double standards."
** Skeptics deplore another
American "propaganda machine" and expect Al-Hurra "to
** A minority praises the
media competition, chiding the "angry" Arab reaction as
U.S. must change policies; can't 'beautify an ugly face with
cosmetics'-- Most Arab media say U.S.
Mideast policy and "blind support for Israeli schemes" will be the
bane of Al-Hurra. Reflecting the
prevailing sentiment, the West Bank's official Al-Hayat Al Jadida
declared: "Launching newspapers, radio stations and TV channels will not
improve an ugly policy," and the independent Jordan Times
reiterated that "no amount of sweet words and pretty pictures will change
the reality of Israeli occupation."
Invoking U.S. "double standards," some berated the debut's
"scanty coverage" of Israel's "ongoing holocaust in the Gaza
Strip and West Bank." Both
independent and state-run papers called for the U.S. to "make a
comprehensive review of its policy toward the region"--the cause of
"the escalation of Arab hatred toward the U.S.'"
Seen as a U.S. 'propaganda tool,' Al-Hurra expected to serve up
unpalatable programs-- Skeptics throughout
the region portrayed the U.S. effort "to improve its image" variously
as "psychological warfare," "brainwashing" and an
"attack" on the Arab world.
Because the U.S. does not "treat Arabs fairly," a Saudi writer
argued, "manipulating facts in a world where everyone has access to
information is not going to help America obtain its goals." Jordan's influential Al Rai was
typical in denouncing the "invasion" as part of a "new war"
that uses "not the blind American war machine but rather thoughts and
ideas." As the
"mouthpiece" of the Iraq occupation, the network will be viewed with
"suspicion," an Egyptian daily added.
Just as Sawa and Hi before it, Hurra 'will never succeed'-- If Al-Hurra's "raison d'etre" is to
compete with Arabic satellite TV, it faces an "uphill battle" to
compete with Al Jazeera and Al Arabia.
Arab writers resented the "arrogance and condescension implied by
the project." A Jordanian daily
ridiculed the endeavor's "futility":
Al Hurra, like the U.S. Radio Sawa and Hi magazine, will be "an
entertaining, expensive and irrelevant hoax." Saudi Arabia's independent Al Quds Al Arabi compared the effort
to the tactics of "totalitarian Arab and socialist states during the Cold
War," and a Qatari columnist predicted that "Arab curiosity in
Al-Hurra will fade...because the Arab viewer has a heritage of hatred to
whatever is American."
Rejecting Al-Hurra is 'naive'--
notable op-ed by a prominent Kuwaiti writer defending the new channel ran in
Saudi pan-Arab Al-Sharq Al Awsat as well as in papers in Kuwait and the
West Bank. Reproaching the "angry
reaction" and "agitated mindset" of the Arab press, the writer
welcomed "one more color to add to the kaleidoscope of freedom," but
cautioned that Al-Hurra can "only succeed if it does not become the
mouthpiece of American foreign policy."
EDITOR: Irene Marr
EDITOR'S NOTE: This
analysis is based on 43 reports from 15 countries, February 11-18. Editorial excerpts from each country are
listed from the most recent date.
WEST BANK: "A New
Independent Al-Quds ran an op-ed by Ahmad Rabiya’i
asserting (2/18): "Angry reactions in a number of Arab papers against
'Al-Hurra,' terming it an American conspiracy to 'brainwash' Arabs, are naïve
and an indication of a volatile, immature mentality.... In the age of
satellites and live transmission of events, with the official Arab media taking
backward steps... 'Al-Hurra' will never
do well if its basic mission is to improve the American image, or if it loses
its credibility. Stations that employ political propaganda fill the Arab
airspace but no one is interested to watch.
However, if this new station opens a healthy dialogue where all opinions
meet together, it will serve as a net plus to existing channels and will also
promote competition...and encourage other stations to reduce reporting that
resembles political speechmaking."
"A Reading Into The Democratic American Project"
Ahmad Majdalani noted in independent Al-Ayyam
(2/18): "Arab rulers, like their peoples, were surprised by a project
presented by the American administration to the G-8 called ‘Greater Middle
East'. As the American administration was announcing its democratic reform plan
for the 'Greater Middle East,' which it will discuss with the EU while
disregarding the aspirations, regimes and institutions of the region's people,
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld launched a...campaign against the
'Al-Jazeera' and 'Al-Arabiya' satellite channels, accusing them of harming
American interests in Iraq.... In the
meantime, the so-called American-made 'Al-Hurra' was launched with American
funding and guidance as a means to improve the U.S. image. The main concern here is that the American
administration might be determined to establish a one-sided media outlet that
disregards other viewpoints."
"Al-Hurra (The Free One) Or The Slave"
Hafez Barghouti commented in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida
(2/17): “The U.S. has been working hard
to improve its image in the Arab world.
It has developed a new Middle East plan to present to the G-8 Summit. It has allocated hundreds of millions of
dollars to promote its policies through launching newspapers, radio stations
and satellite channels, including the most recent one called 'Al-Hurra,' a name
that doesn't really reflect its content, at least far as its inaugural broadcast
is concerned. Nonetheless, all these
attempts will surely fall short of improving the U.S. image.... As long as Al-Hurra forbids mentioning the
word 'Palestine' in its broadcasts, it would be more fitting to call this
station 'The Slave' [as opposed to the Free One]. At any rate, this station will never gain
anything but hatred.... The Americans
realize all this but turn a blind eye to it.
Launching newspapers, radio stations and TV channels will not improve an
ugly policy.... [Such media outlets] aim
to brainwash the people of the region against their principles, traditions and
cultures.... The quickest way to improve
America’s image is to end the [Israeli] occupation."
"Al-Hurra: A Dry
Fuad Abu Hijleh stated in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida
(2/16): "I made sure to watch
'Al-Hurra' on its first day of transmission.
It started with an attack against us Arabs, accusing us of being
underdeveloped and weak with no will to establish and manage modern, objective
media.... According to Al-Hurra, we
ought to love our executioners and to find justifications for their
crimes. We are also expected to be
convinced that our future is contingent upon our loyalty to the U.S. and its
Congress and to the Zionist lobby inside the administration...and thus we have
to boycott Al-Jazeera because it takes our side.... What Al-Hurra said about the official Arab
media and the latter’s troubling lack of professionalism is undeniably true,
but it is due to the fact that these media are supported by governments that
enjoy American protection provided by the Congress."
"American Arabic TV Gives Scanty Coverage
To Palestinian Plight"
A commentary in the Hamas-affiliated website,
Palestinian Information Center WWW, stated in English (2/15): "Occupied Jerusalem - A U.S.-financed
Arabic TV station launched yesterday has given only scanty coverage to the
Palestinian problem and Israel's ongoing holocaust in the Gaza Strip and the
West Bank. On its first day, al-Hurra devoted only a few sound bites of its
16-hour broadcasts to Palestinian affairs, including the ongoing construction
by Israel of the gigantic apartheid wall. Moreover, next to nothing was said
about the wall's devastating effects on Palestinians and the fact that it
managed to reduce Palestinian population centers to virtual detention camps.
Al-Hurra also ignored the ongoing rampageous home demolitions in the Gaza
Strip, suggesting the station is a mere carbon copy of Jewish-controlled
American media. Al-Hurra director, Muwafaq Harb, has promised that the station
'will be free and objective and cover all views.' Al-Hurra employs mainly Americanized Lebanese
Christian journalists and has a number of correspondents in a number of Arab
countries. The bulk of the materials broadcast Saturday were American documentaries
promotional-advertisements. The raison
d'etre of al-Hurra is to compete with such Arabic satellite Televisions as
al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya. However,
media experts have opined that al-Hurra is facing an uphill task of stemming
the tide of anti-Americanism in the Arab world which stems mainly from
America's embrace of Jewish Nazism and Israeli occupation of Arab land. One
Palestinian journalist opined that al-Hurra would seek to make an extremely
ugly face look less ugly or even beautiful, an impossible task, he said. On
Saturday, an Arab Knesset member, Ahmed Teibi, described al-Hurra as 'a
cosmetic effort to beautify America's ugly face.' An ugly face will remain ugly
no matter how much cosmetics you put on it"
"Democratic Change, How And Why?”
Naji Sharab wrote in independent Al-Quds (2/11): “As everyone knows, since the September 11
events, the U.S. has been imposing tremendous pressure on the Arab countries,
in general, and the Palestinian Authority [PA], in particular, to carry out
extensive ‘reforms’ to their political institutions and to rebuild the
structures of their political authorities....
A few questions that must be raised here are: would it serve [the
democratization process] to replace these regimes with armed forces?.... Should we ourselves take the initiative to
apply a democratic system or wait for others to lecture us about democracy?”
Ahmad Hasan noted in state-owned, aggressive Al-Akhbar
(2/15): "'It will be like a
lamppost in a media market that provocation and distortion dominate.' With these words Norman Pattis, Al-Hurra TV
network's chief, introduced himself and his team without shame or scruple to
millions of the Arabs and the Muslims in what is known now as the Greater
Middle East. For the knowledge of those
who do not know, the network started transmitting its programs yesterday for 14
hours a day to extend to 24 hours in the coming weeks. If the team and the location of the network
are still unknown, its objective is known.
It has been announced openly and clearly maybe to the point of cheekiness
that the network aims to improve the image of the United States in the Arab and
Islamic world and change the thoughts of viewers in this area of the
world. The objective might be legitimate
in normal circumstances. But to work to
achieve such objectives at a time the U.S.administration announces that the
U.S. policy is to change ruling regimes with or without force and reform and
discipline peoples through promises or threats, makes it necessary to view the
network in suspicion. Besides, this
Hurra [Arabic for the free one] network comes into existence in circumstances
totally unrelated to this word. I do not
refer only to the environment it will work in but also to the entire world
order and even to the United States that has turned into a police state whose
security laws might pass in their ugliness those in developing countries. The network also comes into existence during
the completely unjustified U.S. occupation of a sovereign country, and it being
the mouthpiece of the occupation attaches to it a stigma that cannot be
"Al-Hurra Challenges Al-Jazeera"
explained in state-owned weekly Al-Ahram (2/14): "In line with the rule that the devil is
in the details [in details are the tricky and dangerous sides of anything], the
U.S. administration is currently undertaking in total secrecy a number of daily
experiments before starting the new Al-Hurra TV channel that will transmit
political news in Arabic.... The channel
is considered an objective and balanced answer in the Arab world to media
organs like Al-Jazeera TV channel in Qatar which White House officials accuse
of inciting anti-American sentiment in the Arab region. Al-Hurra's work-team that will transmit its
programs from the U.S. state of Virginia is a combination of American managers
and well-known Arab journalists....
Even if the channel draws agreeable reaction some specialists doubt that
such a reaction would be big enough to justify the $62 million cost of the
first year of operation. Al-Hurra's
administration says that its transmission will be wherever there are viewers of
Al-Jazeera and Arabiya channels that are a chronic headache to the United
States... Al-Hurra's administration fears it might meet with the failure of
previous U.S. media projects. They,
however, hope they will manage to draw Arab appreciation, especially as the
channel employs a news manager and editor of Arabic stock besides prominent
journalists who until recently worked for some Arab media institutions."
SAUDI ARABIA: "The
American Al-Hurra Satellite Channel"
Independent, nationalist London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi
stated (2/17): "The USA yesterday
made its debut into the media scene with force by unveiling a station that
addresses Arabs in their own language, just like the totalitarian Arab and
socialist states during the Cold War....
The American Al-Hurra [TV channel] will meet the same fate that met the
Israeli channel that was buried and the other official Arab TV stations."
"New Satellite Station"
Ahmad al-Rub'i held in pan-Arab London-based Al-Sharq al-Awsat
(2/17): "The angry reaction by the
Arab press against...Al-Hurra--seeing the channel as an American plot to
'brainwash' the Arabs--is a naive reaction which indicates an agitated mindset
drowning in conspiracy theories.... The
Al-Hurra channel will not succeed if its mission is to put a fine gloss on
America's face or if it loses its credibility.
The Arab airwaves are filled with many stations spewing out political
propaganda and no-one watches them. But
if the new station opens a healthy dialogue and represents all views it will
constitute an addition to the stations and the satellite channels that already
exist.... Any nation that fears a
satellite channel, irrespective of its colors and source, is a frightened and
retrogressive nation. A self-confident
nation must regard such an event as one more color being added to the
kaleidoscope of freedom, which we need just as we need wholesome air."
"America Directs Its Media Attention To The Arab World"
Riyadh’s conservative Al-Riyadh editorialized (2/16): "We do not want to be prejudiced towards
the new American channel Hurra TV channel....
The establishment of Hurra TV is an attempt by America to devote its
entire media, psychological and political powers to gain an Arab blessing;
however, Arabs have already determined that the U.S. does not have any good
intentions toward the Arab world, nor does it deal fairly with Arab
issues.... America is fully aware that
creating a positive impact on Arab countries is near to impossible. But, the U.S. believes in moving
step-by-step.... Manipulating facts in a
world where everyone has access to information is not going to help America
obtain its goals, especially when Arabs are sensitive about those goals and
strongly believe that the U.S. is an enemy, not a friend, a plotter, not an
"Cheers To Hurra; Arabs Are Uncovered"
Abdulaziz Al-Jarallah maintained in Riyadh’s conservative Al-Riyadh
(2/16): "Arabs at this critical
moment do not have the ability to refuse the Hurra TV, or to stand up against
U.S. Congressional initiatives. However,
Arabs could have what is more valuable than rejecting Hurra TV, and that is the
development of their own domestic media institutions to give them a role in
political, economic and social decisions....
The Hurra TV is dealing with our issues, but we know our own issues
better. Here’s the logical way of
dealing with this--either we accept the changes in the world around us, or we
stand still. The Arab World is finding
itself isolated and remote from its geographical surroundings."
"Improve America’s Image?
Or Justify Its Plans?"
Jeddah’s moderate Al-Bilad editorialized (2/15): "An American-financed, Arabic-speaking
TV satellite station aired yesterday for the first time. This station is, according to U.S. plans,
responsible for improving the U.S. image in the Middle East. Congress has allocated $30 million in this
year’s budget for the project. Arab
viewers will receive this TV station with great skepticism and doubts of its
real intentions, because it contradicts the present U.S. policies in the
region. America is supportive of
Israel’s occupation in all its form, and there is the issue of the occupation
of Iraq. These are all things that
provoke Arab anger against America.
Double standard U.S. policies will be a major problem for this TV
"Skepticism Of The American Initiative"
Walid Choucair observed in London-based pan-Arab Al Hayat
(2/13): "The U.S. Department of
State's Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) stared out with a staff of
three employees before Secretary of State Colin Powell announced it last year. Today, it staffs around twenty people...and
they oversee the spending of a budget of $250 million allocated by Congress for
2004.... Some Arab countries were
responsive to this initiative; others were partially and timidly responsive; a
third group was expected to be severely skeptical and critical of MEPI... It is impossible for both sides, even for
America's major allies, to fully accept the program.... What justifies the partial rejection of the
initiative is the atmosphere in which Arab democratic leaders have indulged
themselves. It is an atmosphere of
searching for further ways of reinforcing Human Rights, the role of civil
society, fighting corruption, and developing accountability. Part of the rejection of the initiative might
be the financing of the modernization of education, introducing technology,
programs to enlarge women's contribution in political life, reinforcing
parliamentary skills, and other programs that might tamper with national
sovereignty and independence. There are
strong justifications for the initiative's total rejection. Some of the program’s objectives attempt to
address the gap caused by the absence of political life within Arab societies,
especially youth and middle and rising classes that are eager to express their
opinions.... If Washington wishes this
initiative to establish 'pressure groups' for its own interests it is likely
that this initiative will face rejection."
JORDAN: "Freedom In A
Independent, English-language elite Jordan Times declared
(2/16): "So, the 'Free One' is
launched and the region braces itself for a wave of change as the masses
realize the error of their fundamentalist ways, the benign nature of the
massive U.S. military presence in the region, the justness of the Israeli and
U.S. occupations of Arab land, and that walls indeed make good neighbors. Or perhaps not. Regardless, Feb. 14, Valentine's Day
(coincidence?), saw the launch of America's latest effort in the hearts and
minds campaign in the Middle East, the satellite TV station Al Hurra, with the
brief to promote the values of democracy and freedom in the Middle East. While the effort has already been panned by
commentators across the region, there is one thing to say for it: it is eminently more rational to promote such
values by argument and example, the things responsible media can provide, than
by brute military force. There the
positives end and the problems begin.
One problem is credibility, without which any serious media outlet is
nothing. While the station insists that
it will be editorially independent, it is sponsored by the U.S. government,
rendering it immediately suspect....
Another problem is the arrogance and condescension implied by the
project. It is condescending because it
seems to assume that the people of the region do not understand the U.S., nor
the principles of democracy and freedom.
It is arrogant, because it is saying that if only they did, they would
fall in line behind the most belligerent American foreign policy this region
has ever been exposed to. Which of
course brings us to the third and most important problem with the project: its futility.
No amount of sweet words and pretty pictures will change the reality of
an Israeli occupation, soon in its 37th year, or the chaos in Iraq, both of
which can be directly attributed to American policy. No one here is going to be convinced of
America's benign intentions as long as these issues remain unresolved. It all seems so obvious, at least to most of
the people of this region, that, to borrow the phrase of an American cultural
"USA's Al-Hurra TV Channel"
Dr. Fahd Al-Fanik asserted in independent, pro-government Al-Ra'y
(Internet version, 2/17): "Does Al-Hurra have the capability to convince
us [Arabs] about the fairness of the U.S. policy towards the Palestinians?...
Those managing Al-Hurra claim that their channel will contribute to creating
democracy in the Arab world. These are false claims, and as long as it serves
the interests of the USA we know that the USA is an ally of dictatorial and
"The Democracy Of Killing And Racism"
Khaled Mahadin commented in semi-official, influential
Arabic-language Al-Rai (2/12):
"The latest ingenuity of the alliance of the racist Zionism and the
racist American Christian right-wing is the encroachment of American democracy
upon us. This invasion is part of a new
American war, that uses not the blind American war machine, but rather thoughts
and ideas, as declared by Rumsfeld and Powell.... Over more than sixty years, the United States
was the greatest supporter of fascist, military and totalitarian regimes in the
Arab and Muslim world, in Asia, and South America. Because of this support, millions of people
were killed here and there, nationalist liberation movements were aborted in
dozens of countries, and the United States provided full protection for tens of
dictators and murderers. This is why
America's talk of invading the Arab world, the Middle East and the Muslim world
with what Washington calls democracy is amusing.... We do not think that any
sane person in our world could even take America's new call seriously, simply
because Washington knows that democracy in the Arab and Muslim world will yield
the real enemy of America's interests and plans. Real democracy will not bring into power
regimes and leaderships that accept to work under the American umbrella, or
take its orders, or even allow it to wreath corruption, conspiracy and racism
against Islam, real Christianity and Arab nationalism.... The American democracy that Washington is
calling for as being in our best interest is another form of the destructive
invasion that is targeting the Arab homeland and the Muslim world to benefit
the Zionist enemy and the Christian right-wing.... The American animosity towards Arabism,
Arabs, Islam and Muslims makes this call for democracy another lie in the
mountain-worth of American lies."
"The American Public Diplomacy Hoax--Why Do
They Keep Insulting us?"
Rami G. Khouri reflected in the independent Jordan
Times (2/11): "The American
president's intellectual terror ('they hate our freedom') is simplistic, wrong
and dangerous, and an inappropriate and ineffective retort to the world views
of the criminals who have terrorised and killed thousands of Americans and
other nationals.... At many levels today
-- Palestine/Israel, Iraq, the war against terror, mass media, public
diplomacy, democratic reform, religion and secularism -- Americans and Arabs
are interacting, but not communicating. This frustrating reality is about to be
sharply aggravated when the United States next week launches its
Arabic-language satellite television channel Al Hurra.... Perhaps not since the
Emperor Nero blamed the fledgling Christians for Rome's domestic troubles in
the mid-1st Century AD has a world power so flagrantly engaged in misguided
policies that find scapegoats in others instead of rationally analysing the
collective mistakes and responsibilities of all concerned.... By arguing that
our region is troubled and violent because Arabs and Muslims hate American
values, and then attempting to correct this by launching television, radio and
magazine efforts in Arabic, the U.S. government perpetuates a fatal combination
of political blindness and cultural misperception that is only going to
exacerbate the gap between Americans and Arabs, rather than close it. In public diplomacy as in its Iraq
intelligence analysis, Washington suffers from occasional technical
incompetence that is then magnified grievously by the distortions of extreme
political ideology, woefully inadequate cultural understanding of Middle
Eastern societies and a rigid refusal to examine how American foreign policy
impacts on Middle Eastern perceptions of the U.S. I predict that if Al Hurra television does
offer Arabs and Muslims a better understanding of American society and values,
its main impact will be to heighten Arab anger and irritation with U.S. policy
in the Middle East -- because the gap between American values and American
foreign policy conduct will become even more obvious to newly enlightened
Middle Easterners. Al Hurra, like the U.S. government's Radio Sawa and Hi
magazine before it, will be an entertaining, expensive and irrelevant hoax.
Where do they get this stuff from? Why do they keep insulting us like
KUWAIT: "Do Not Underestimate The Power Of
Sami Abdul Latif Al-Nisif wrote in independent Al-Anba
(2/18): “In the view of many Arabs, the
launch of the new satellite channel Al-Hurra is the first step in correcting
decades of accumulated grievances created by America the 'Great Satan.' Not only can Al-Hurra pull the rug out from
under the rest of the Arab satellite channels, but also, it can correct many
misconceptions on American foreign policy toward the region and perhaps end the
Faisal Al-Zamil wrote in independent Al-Anba (2/18): “It seems Paul Bremer and the Coalition
Authority are releasing persons linked to the former Iraqi regime, the same
people who tormented the Iraqi people.
Many Iraqis were right to be suspicious of America’s motives. How can we comprehend the reason behind the
release of Saadoun Hamadi and Mohammed Al-Sahaf, who committed crimes against
Iraqis and led them into pointless wars, while hundreds of Guantanamo detainees
continue to be incarcerated only on reason of suspicion? This silly charade of
releasing war criminals, and classifying their leader [Saddam Hussein] a
Prisoner of War is a serious turning point which even the families of American
soldiers are now questioning.”
"A New Satellite Channel"
Dr. Ahmed Al-Rubei, former MP and liberal columnist wrote in
independent Al-Qabas (2/17):
“The launch of Al-Hurra satellite channel elicited angry reactions
and was labeled an American conspiracy by many Arab news media. This reaction is naïve and clear sign of an
overwrought mindset. In an age where
technology reigns, and where Arab satellite channels are in regress, Al-Hurra
can succeed only if it does not become the mouthpiece of American foreign
policy. Only if Al-Hurra conducts a
healthy and impartial dialogue where all opinions are presented, then perhaps
it can open the door for objective analysis and fair competition. Self-Confident nations must look on such an
event as an addition of a new color to the spectrum of the colors of freedom.”
"Rich And Poor"
Fouad Al-Hashem wrote in independent Al-Watan (2/17): “I
predict within one year, the newly launched Al-Hurra satellite channel, will
best seventy five percent of all current Arab satellite channels. The finest endorsement for the new channel
was articulated when a female employee said she worked at numerous media
outlets, but now working at Al-Hurra she was free of the censor.”
"A Reading...Into An International Plan"
Dr. Mohammed Al-Rumaih wrote in independent Al-Rai Al-A’am
(2/17): “On several occasions, president
Bush and foreign secretary Powell spoke of MEPI and both hoped Western states
would adopt MEPI as a future working plan toward the Middle East. The philosophy behind this project lies in
that instability in the Middle East is threatening the interests of countries
such as the United States, and this instability is due to a failure in the
development in the Arab world. Most
significantly, many Western decision makers believe that Arab leaders are using
the unresolved Palestinian problem as a pretext to delay reforms. MEPI plan in general focuses on education,
and many of its elements are beneficial and welcome. It is what MEPI fails to mention that is much
Initiative Will Have No Effect On Arabs"
An editorial by Adib Farha in pro-Sunni Al-Liwa
(2/17): " We did not reject
President Bush's the 'Greater Middle East Project' which calls for the
democratization of the area...because we are against democracy.... His call, in principle, is great, however,
the problem...is the fact that Bush is planning for the future of our nations
without even consulting us about his plans as if he is drawing up projects for
countries that have no people.... We are
not trying here to underestimate the importance of democracy...however, we do
not want the process of democratization to take our attention off important
issues...like Israel's continued disregard of international resolutions and the
Palestinian cause.... We tell President
Bush that his call could have dominated our minds and hearts had it been linked
to an American decision to play a fair and a just role...in the Middle
"Why Do You Guide Us?"
An editorial by Ahmad Ayyach in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar
(2/15): “The question ‘Why do they guide
us?’ is an answer to the question ‘Why do they hate us?’ which in turn is the
basic justification for launching Alhurra channel.... There is no need to say that the question
‘Why do they hate us’ is the product of pure imagination.... The question
should be ‘why do they love us?’... The
sons of Arab nations look towards the U.S. as the land of fortunes an
opportunities.... All our young
colleagues who left Lebanon to work for Alhurra have our heartiest
congratulations. The thousands of
dollars salary they’ll receive on a monthly basis in addition to the prospect
of getting a U.S. citizenship are two basic reasons to envy them.... It will not be long before they discover that
the question ‘why do they hate us’ is pure imagination...however, they’ll find
out that they will have to answer the following question ‘Why do they hate us
in Palestine and in all the dark corners?”
"The Last Stop"
A daily column by Sateh Noureddine in Arab nationalist As-Safir
(2/17): “The worst in Alhurra is the fact that it is based on the assumption
that Arabs and Moslems are at the same wavelength of that of their rulers, and
consequently, it is possible to influence them and change their views easily.”
"Based On The
Assumption That Arabs Will Change Their Minds Immediately"
A daily column by Sateh Noureddine in Arab nationalist As-Safir
(2/16): "It was said, almost in
unison, that America does not only need to enhance its image, but also needs to
change its policy. Everybody said that
Alhurra will not be beneficial...basing their judgment on Radio SAWA’s
experience in the region...which was not able to compete with any local radio
in the region...America really believes that it will be able to penetrate the
Arab mind through SAWA, Alhurra, and Hi Magazine...exactly the same way it was
able to penetrate the iron curtain that used to divide Europe...The U.S. does
not realize and understand the important differences between the Soviets in the
sixties and seventies, and the Arab Muslims at the beginning of the 21st
Century...In America’s view, taxpayers’ money is not being wasted. A clear media plan was approved as a result
of September 11 on America’s highest official levels...and it is based on the
assumption that Arabs and Moslems do not know America well, and that as soon as
they know the real U.S., they will change their minds immediately.... The Arab
space can certainly contain this new Satellite station...it will be an
attractive experience, particularly in light of reports about a possible
Israeli Satellite TV channel that would be addressing the Arabs in the near
"Harb to As-Safir: I chose America...And I Strip The News
Story From Any Description”
An article by Rasha Al-Atrash in Arab nationalist As-Safir
stated (2/13): “Soon the phone will
ring...only seconds and we’ll have Muwaffac Harb on the line...while
waiting...it was difficult not to be filled with doubts thinking that he might
speak in a terse manner...or he might be defensive...or he will criticize the
Arab world that has already criticized Alhurra...Muwaffac Harb answered the
phone...and we found out that our doubts were not totally misplaced...however,
he spoke with great calm, friendliness, and optimism...the kind of optimism
that makes you wonder, because this channel which is totally funded by the U.S.
Congress, and which will have no commercial on its screens...seems to have been
rejected in advance by the Arab street which is...frustrated and angry and
targeted, beginning tomorrow, by efforts to correct its understanding of the
United States. What kind of miracle will
render Alhurra digestible in Syrian, Palestinian, Libyan, Palestinian, Iraqi
(even those who celebrated Saddm’s fall) and even Lebanese homes (where there
are current parties that support Washington and its master?) The philosophy of programming on Alhurra
revolves around promoting democracy and freedom through giving accurate
information which the Arab citizen will depend on. This is what Harb told Al-Jazeera...Alhurra
will not be broadcast in the U.S. because it is in Arabic and because its
mission to address the Arab world.”
"The Emperor Of Sound And Image And ‘Freedom’"
An article by Zeinab Ghosn in As-Safir asserted (2/13): “Who
is standing behind the Alhurra project?
He is the same person who stood behind Radio SAWA, Norman Pattiz. An unknown name perhaps on the level of the
Arab world, but certainly he is not unknown in the U.S. Some describe him as the Ted Turner of the Radio.... [F]ollowing September 11, Pattiz proposed the
idea of a establishing a radio that addresses the Islamic world...because in
Pattiz’s opinion the basic reason for Arab ‘hatred’ towards Americans is
‘because they do not know us.’ This
simplification of the relationship between the Arabs and the United States
shows up frequently in his media statements....
He also talks about the Arab media environment that calls for
violence...and gives false news that is subjected to governmental
censorship. Consequently, the only
solution in Pattiz’s opinion is a television and a radio that present to the
Arab world an accurate and transparent news story...Pattiz confirms that
Alhurra will remain independent...(we are not based on propaganda), however, at
the same time he is a member of BBG...which has been promoting American policy
since the second world war.... Despite
the liberal course of action Alhurra seems to have adopted...its news will
never touch upon the bilateral relations between the U.S. and the Arab states
which Alhurra is addressing, and it will practice self-censorship in the sense
that, for example, it will not broadcast the rap songs that express a wave of
anger against the U.S. authorities....
Of course this is just a simple example about the nature of censorship
that might be imposed on the ‘freedom’ and ‘truth’ that might be practiced in
Alhurra and its sisters.”
“Will A Good Television Cover For A Bad Policy? Alhurra To Be
Launched On Saturday”
Wafiq Ramadan remarked in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar
(2/12): “The name of this new station is
Alhurra. The name itself is
controversial...because no media tool owned by any government has ever been
described as hurra (free). It is similar
to a bouquet of flowers meant to be given to a beauty to get her attention, but
then it was used to strike her down.
Alhurra means that other Arab and non-Arab television are not hurra (not
free.)...Will Alhurra be able to confront tens of Arab satellite channels? Will it cover events that might embarrass the
U.S. Administration? Will it be able to
take into consideration local feelings about certain events?... Media is a mercurial mission and Al-Alhurrah
has to confront a basic challenge: It
will either be able to gain the trust of viewers in its first weeks or live
another hundred years, like other media outlets created by USIS, without being
watched by anybody.... Officials in
Alhurra say that it will present the policy of the United States clearly and
effectively and it will also present discussions of this policy--this alone is
a great challenge.”
MOROCCO: "The 'Arabic'
Radio Sawa In Morocco"
Yahya El Yahyaoui observed in Istiqlal party-run Arabic-language Al
Alam (2/17): "In fact, the
timing of the launching of radio 'Sawa’' following the Anglo-American
aggression and direct occupation of Iraq, was the result of two factors in our
belief: First was the ugly image Arab
citizens had of the behavior of a right-wing, extremist and Zionist U.S.
administration following the invasion and destruction of Iraq.... Second is the U.S. administration’s inability
to communicate its vision about events developing either in Iraq, on the
Palestinian issue or about its intentions towards Syria, Iran and the
Gulf.... We are fully convinced that
radio 'Sawa' aims to infiltrate the Arab media system and reconstruct its form
and content.... Neither Radio 'Sawa'
(nor its TV channel) can mend by words or pictures what (U.S.) policy-makers
have broken with deeds and practices....
U.S. behavior towards Arabs, as well as towards Muslims, has created
strong feelings of rejection that cannot be mended by the performance of a
radio station (or a TV channel), but only by changes in the form and in content
of its behavior.... Radio 'Sawa' is an
aggressive station par excellence; why not, since it is the creation of an
administration that does not hesitate to humiliate human beings, civilizations
and stones in most instances without having the right to do so?"
"Alhurra: U.S. Gift To The Arab World"
Laghziwi noted in independent Arabic Al Ahdath Al Maghrebiya
(2/17): “Those who have tuned their ears
for a while to radio ‘Sawa’ have been waiting impatiently for Saint Valentine’s
Day last Saturday to see how America will win Arab eyes after controlling their
ears for quite some time.”
Denounced By The People To Whom It Is Addressed"
An editorial in French-language opposition Al Bayane
(2/17): "’The launching of the new
American TV network in Arabic, Alhurra, aimed at improving the U.S. image in
the Arab world, has been received with skepticism and even scorn in this region
where anti-Americanism is intensifying with the ongoing occupation of
Iraq. The network and its announcers
insist on the fact that they are free as if they were telling the Arab audience
that it was not free, that it is oppressed and the U.S. would teach the (Arab
people) freedom. This is a pretty stupid process,’ said the Egyptian analyst
Salama Ahmad Salama."
"Fierce American Invasion Of Morocco"
Under the sub-head: "American delegations
to recruit young people to work in Sawa radio, the Al Hurra TV channel and Hi
magazine," Casablanca's Masadir
noted (2/14): "[L]ast week,
American delegations arrived in Morocco. They represent the [U.S.] Al Hurra
satellite television channel that will be on the air soon, and also the
American Hi magazine, published in Arabic in Washington. The aim of the
delegation is to recruit two Moroccan teams to work for both the TV channel and
the magazine. The American delegates received hundreds of job applications and
held preliminary tests for a group of Moroccan youths who wish to join these
American information organs. In addition to Al Hurra channel and Hi
magazine, there is already the [American] Sawa radio station that has been so
far broadcasting its programs on FM frequencies in Casablanca and Rabat....The
American delegations that have come to Morocco put forward a condition for
those who want to work for the Hi magazine and the Al Hurra channel:
Candidates must not be over 30 years of age....
U.S. delegates perhaps believe youths under 30 are favorably amazed by
the American way of life, and that they enthusiastically love American music
and films, which makes it easy to recruit them to work for the new American
media mission now highlighted by American propaganda, and for which huge
budgets have been allocated, so that the American presence may become
permanent, with the use of audio visual means and a newspaper.... The Moroccan masses, with all their strata
and age groups, have enough immunity and steadfastness to resist in the face of
the America news media onslaught. These masses are voicing this on every
occasion through their information channels that are hostile to the policy of
the White House in the Arab world.... This is bound to complicate the plan of
the American State Department and the Washington secret services that are using
all means to infiltrate the minds of Arab citizens in order to market an
angelic picture of today's America....
As the Americans have seen closely during their recent visit, and as
former American ambassador in Rabat, Margaret Tutwiller, has warned, Morocco is
determined to resist the American propaganda machine; it rejects the White
House assertions and does not believe that democracy comes to the Arab world on
board American tanks. Will America lose
its bet in Morocco and win it in other Arab countries?"
"Why Al-Hurra Will Fail"
Hammad, columnist, semi-independent Arabic Al-Watan (2/17): “When I was searching for Al-Hurra I remembered
an old Arab saying which says that “The Hurra (free) woman will never feed
herself by prostitution.” Our new Hurra TV will never be hungry as long as it
is supported by the American Federal Reserve! I believe that after a few days
the Arab curiosity in Al-Hurra will fade away and disappear because the Arab
viewer has a heritage of hatred to whatever is American. Actually I believe
that an Israeli Satellite Channel would be much more successful in attracting
Arab viewers because Israel is Israel, but Al-Hurra is Israel’s mouthpiece.
Al-Hurra will never replace Al-Jazeera or Al-Arabiya because these two channels
have their own place in the hearts and minds of the Arab people. While Al-Hurra
is another propaganda tool that will never succeed and will face the same
problems of Radio Sawa and Hi Magazine. The first political program that
Al-Hurra aired showed how shallow the channel is. How can we accept a TV scene
calling for co-existence between the Palestinians and the Israelis when our
minds and eyes have seen, every day for the last three and half years, Israeli
tanks attack, destroy and kill Palestinians in Jenin, Rafah, Jabalya, and
Bethlehem in front of the world’s eyes and with the support of the United
States? The two goals of Al-Hurra are to polish and clean the image of the
United States in the Arab world and to control the horses of Al-Jazeera and
Al-Arabiya. These two goals will be met only if the United States takes the
moral stance in the Arab Israeli conflict and acts as a fair mediator. And,
since the President loves speed, as he said in the Daytona car race, we hope
the President will love quickly speeding Israel to stop its daily crimes
against the Palestinians, quicken the pace of handing over power to the Iraqis,
and not hide behind illusions like Al-Hurra. These illusions will bring only
more destruction, and more pain, and maybe more leaders like Sharon.”
the Satellite American Channel"
a Qatari columnist, semi-independent Arabic Al-Raya (2/17): “When I saw my colleague Talal Al-Sada on
Al-Hurra I felt so proud. I also felt very proud because Al-Hurra, and before
that Al-Arabiya, the Israeli Satellite Channel and soon the French Satellite
channel are the outcome of the establishment of the great and most credible channel
in the region - Al-Jazeera. There is no doubt that Al-Jazeera broke all taboos
seven years ago. It is one of the most important and reliable sources of
information, not only in the region - but in the world. However, statements
that were issued by Al-Hurra officials asserting that the new channel will be
accurate and balanced will be assessed by the Arab viewers. I don’t think
Al-Hurra will have a real effect on us because channels before Al-Hurra tried
and failed, like the Israeli channel. The viewers are not a white paper that
will absorb anything. The most important issue will be the content not
idealistic pronouncements. I have to admit that establishing Al-Hurra means
that the USG has finally acknowledged that Arab public opinion is vital and essential
in forming the foreign policy in the world.”
And Controlled Channel”
Al-Thibah, columnist, semi-independent Arabic Al-Watan (2/17): “The Arab viewer is not naïve - but he is
also not a genius; and we should not underestimate people’s intelligence! The
USG is underestimating our intelligence and our humanity. Al-Hurra and Hi
Magazine are media tools, which the Americans are using to penetrate our minds
and our values. But how can you penetrate the minds of people who suffer from your
strategic ally? And of course I mean Israel. This new channel, which pretends
that it represents objectivity and accuracy, is actually the outcome and the
product of an administration that does not respect us and wants to dominate our
lives and our future. It will be almost impossible to digest Al-Hurra programs
and newscasts. The Americans should know that 65 percent of the Arabs are
illiterate and will never accept Al-Hurra’s approach because it is impossible
to penetrate their social code; and it is impossible to be penetrated with what
we see as the reason behind our miseries.”
SYRIA: "U.S. Needs New
Policy On The Middle East"
Chief Editor Fuad Mardoud wrote in the English-language
government-owned Syria Times (2/15):
“The Bush administration needs to make a comprehensive review of its
policy towards the region and to its blind support for Israeli schemes which
are the cause for the escalation of Arabs’ hatred towards the U.S. The U.S. administration needs to focus its attention
on the Middle East with a firm, evenhanded policy that works for the
realization of just and comprehensive peace in the region. Washington has to fashion a plausible and
principled Middle East policy that takes into account of injustices inflicted
upon Arabs during the past five decades.”
Conflict Hinders Democracy In Middle East"
Mustapha Karkouti observed in expatriate-oriented English-language
Gulf News (2/17): "The vast
majority of Arabs would be delighted to see the advancement of real democracy
into their own countries, whether through self-help or with external aid. Either way, the Arabs will consider
themselves the winners. But when the U.S.
administration declares that it will support a program to establish democracy
in the region, its call keeps falling on deaf ears.... But, when carefully examined, one can see a
lot of logic and reason behind the Arab hesitation. First, in its long history of relations with
the Middle East, the U.S. has not shown any tangible effort to help the process
of democratization in the Arab World....
But some Arabs believe what the administration is really after, is by
and large, some form of docility rather than full-fledged democracy. Other Arabs, including traditional and
long-standing U.S. allies, suspect that there will not be any such
call.... The real issue is not a
question of development in the Arab world only, but it is both an issue of
development and peace. And as long as
the Arab-Israel conflict over Palestine is not solved, the development process
will continuously be interrupted and irreversibly set back."
Right-of-center Le Figaro opined (2/17): "Financed by Congress, the goal of the
new station is to enhance America’s image in Arab countries and to reduce the
influence of al-Jazeera and al-Arabiyah....
The station was received with skepticism and disdain in the Middle East,
according to local reporters."
"Unfortunate Launch Of American TV Broadcast"
Petr Pesek held in center-right Lidove noviny (2/16): "To say that the new broadcast of
Al-Hurra is professionally independent and launch the TV station’s broadcast
with an interview of President Bush is very unfortunate. The credibility of the station will be
impaired by this lapse, and the TV station will be perceived as the mouthpiece
TURKEY: "Bush's Great Lie"
Husnu Mahalli reflected in pro-Islamic,
intellectual Yeni Safak (Internet Version-WWW, 2/18): "Al-Hurra is the new television program
that will carry out America's propaganda directed at the Arabs. The channel began broadcasting last Sunday
and aired an interview with President Bush....
Even before the sentences that left President Bush's mouth were
completed they were contradicting themselves.
But, that did not matter for Bush After all, he is 'the Lord of the
Rings' in person. With his classic grin
President Bush explains to the Arabs how they should be reformist and
democratic. But he did not explain why
he always cooperates with backwards, antidemocratic dictatorships in the Arab
world. President Bush said he 'was all
for peace in the Middle East' and mentioned 'the need to end Palestinian
terrorism' but did not explain why he continues to support Sharon, whom the
whole world accepts as a murderer....
The principle goal of Bush's 'exalted' effort is to turn this perfected
region into completely into an American sphere of interest. Of course the
peoples of the Arab and Muslim countries must be saved from the disgraceful
situations they are in.... All America
has to do is top supporting the antidemocratic, fascist dictatorships governing
those countries. Nobody should believe
Bush's lies.... When you read between
the lines of President Bush' speech you see that Washington's concern is not
the liberation or the democratization of the Arabs and Muslims. What concerns it is using the pretext of
terrorism he is worrying us with to bring the entire region under America's
political, economic and mental control."
A broadcast in the Tehran Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Radio 1 asserted (2/16): "The huge
American investment in the establishment of the network itself reveals to what
extent America's antagonistic policies against the world of Islam and Arab
countries have led to hatred and negative public opinion reaction in the
region. This has put America in a situation in which it feels that - in order
to confront this problem - it has to establish a vast publicity network. It should also be mentioned that America's
tarnished image is not confined to the Middle East.... At any rate, in his interview with this Arab
network, Bush tried to explain his foreign policies regarding the Arab world.
In his interview, he stressed the importance of reforms in Arab countries. But
what does Bush mean by reform? If reform means defending democracy in these
countries, it has to be said that, as a matter of fact, America has had no
problems so far with countries in the Arab world that have had non-elected
states but which have been inclined toward America's policies. Quite the
reverse, it has been the most antagonistic toward countries such as Iran,
which, at any rate, in terms of democratic standards, has achieved notable
success but which has not accepted America's unilateral and hegemonic
policies.... Therefore, it has to be
said that, if America really and sincerely wants to improve its standing among
Middle East nations, the simplest and most effective way is not to escalate the
psychological warfare and expand expensive publicity networks, but to change
policies, halt that country's support for the Zionist regime, respect the
independence of nations, and refrain from interfering in the internal affairs
of Middle East countries."
CHINA: "Feature: Satellite Channels Flourish in Post-Saddam
New China News Agency (Beijing Xinhua) filed from Baghdad (2/16): "Since the ousting of Saddam,
the U.S.-appointed interim Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) has been complaining
that some of the Arab satellite channels offended Iraq in the way they cover
the news or support the former regime.
The broadcasting of videotaped messages from Saddam before his capture
on Dec. 13 and from leaders of Al-Qaida terror network, including Osama bin
Ladin himself, further annoyed the American and Iraqi officials. The US
condemnation has recently focused on Qatar-based Al-Jazeera [Al-Jazirah] and
Dubai-based Al-Arabiya [Al-Arabiyah].
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H.
Rumsfeld has branded both stations "violently anti-coalition"
and accused them of turning Arabs against America. Most serious of all, the channels were
suspected of collaborating with resistant elements in the country since the
media was quicker to be informed of some anti-US attacks than the authority....
The council then started to punish the channels by banning the access of their
correspondents into the IGC building.
Last Saturday, U.S. President George W. Bush inaugurated the
Washington-based American satellite TV station Al-Hurra, or The Free One, which
broadcasts in Arabic and attempts to minimize the influence of other Arab
channels and improve the U.S. image in the Arab world.... With Al-Hurra, the U.S. administration hopes
to counter what Bush has called "hateful propaganda that fills the
airwaves in the Muslim world." ##