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Iraqi journalist hailed as a national hero
By Ali Alrabi — American journalists often say: “I am American first.” Then they ask, is Muntather Alzaidi a hero or a villain? According to Alzaidi, he said, “I am an Iraqi first.” For many, Muntather Alzaidi’s action of throwing his famous shoes at George Bush during press conferences in Baghdad has optimized Iraqi people’s feelings about George Bush and his legacy in Iraq as they see it.
Alzaidi expressed his sentiments of resentment against Bush by a harmless weapon, his shoes, accompanying by his famous words “ this your kiss goodbye ya Chalb, ( dog)” which is taken as a great insult in the Arab world, but not as bad for George Bush or in the Western culture.
For the most part, the shoe story was the dominant news in the Arab world this past weekend. It was part humor and part vindication against George Bush in his “farewell” trip top Iraq. Aljazeera played out the tape and marched journalist s and analysts as well as the Alzaidi’s brother to talk about this event that mesmerized the Arab world.
A Wealthy Saudi offered 10 million dollars for the shoe in order to make it a symbol of freedom that “vindicated the humiliated Arab pride”
A Lebanese TV station, New TV, already offered Alzaidi a job at the station.
Iranian people were overjoyed at the Iraqi journalist’s gesture. Text messages and emails flew at a high speed rate between all over the world. Face book fans created page for Alzaidi and his fans are already in the thousands and keep going by the minute.
Al-Jazeera also showed scenes of ordinary Iraqis cheering Alzaidi’s actions calling him an Iraqi hero, who expressed=2 0their opposition to the occupation of their country.
Only the Kurdish journalists in northern Iraq had issued a statement against Alzaidi and his action calling him “unprofessional” and the official Iraqi journalist association also condemned Alzaidi.
Arab journalists though stressed that the action was inappropriate, though they understand the man’s feelings about the occupation of his country.
Alzaidi’s action is not unusual except that it was more graphic and more colorful than what an American or Japanese journalist would do when he/she feels that his country was railroaded and destroyed by another.
Many American journalists on and after September 11, have discussed how they felt on that fateful day as to whether to report the news without having their own feelings expressed as they were witnessing a great tragedy and that their country was under attack at a moment of vulnerability and great uncertainty .
Dan Rather and all of the leading American journalists have said on many interviews occasions, talking about their feelings that day that” I am an American first” The same sentiments was also expressed by the late Tim Russert, the famous host of NBC’s iconic show Meet the Press, have said many times that he is an American first before he is being a journalist at times when his country is under attack.
Fox news, a news organization, not particularly known for its journalistic austerity, and often blurs the lines between journalism and propaganda, has took it upon itself to be an apologetic for the war in Iraq and made itself to be the unofficial mouth piece of the what later on turned on to be lies that led to the war in Iraq.
Bill O’Reilly, Fox news talk show host was militant in his pro war statements and talk shows and actively advocating for the invasion of Iraq to “get rid of weapons of mass destructions”
Was he being a professional journalist who was supposed to report n the news and not making it up, or speak on behalf of George Bush and Dick Cheney’s administration? Many people will frown at the notion that O’Reilly is actually a journalist. It was not surprising, therefore, that when the White House, wanted to hire a new press secretary, they hired former Fox news talk show host the late Tony Snow.
Muntather Alzaidi will be remembered as an Iraqi patriot who wanted to hurl an insult at a man who he feels had destroyed his country and his people.
Though Alzaidi has suffered severe beatings according to the tape we saw broadcasted around the globe and according to CNN’s journalists who were present at the press conference and who told me that American security were trying to prevent the Iraqi guards from brutally abusing and beating the man. Hundreds of Arab and western lawyers are now volunteering to defend him against Iraqi charges, fearing torture and for his life, calls are being made to the Iraqi government to release him.
It is strange however, to see how the Iraqi government and its security behaving in a manner that is not much different than the way Saddam and his security behaved toward ordinary Iraqis.
Witnessing the destruction of his country and the world h e grew up and lived in, Muntather Alzaidi had simply felt, before everything else, that he is an Iraqi first.
(Ali Alarabi is an awardwinning journalist and media specialist and can be reached at email@example.com.)
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Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.
Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.
Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com
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