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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
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, Hanania 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. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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