09-01-09 Gilad Shalit in the Arab media

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Gilad Shalit in the Arab media
By Ali Younes —
Every time I read and watch how Arab media outlets cover the story of prisoner’s exchange of the Israeli solider Gilad Shalit and hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, I come to think how Arab media have fallen victims to Israeli PR machine (propaganda). There are several issues at play here when covering this story. Note that Gilad Shalit is always mentioned by name, I know his name, you do, and maybe my grandmother knows his name too!

Why, because the Israeli government has made sure that the whole world, and even my grandmother knows this soldier name. Every effort to release him ( note its always about him ) was made specifically for him, the Egyptians, the Germans, the Americans, even some Palestinians care more about him than their own.

How many Palestinian prisoners’ names do we know? We know that there are 12000 of them in captivity I might know Marwan Barghouthi, whose only image I know is him in chains and handcuffs waving them off. Maybe few others and that’s about it. The rest I just see them without actually see them in Israeli busses or cages, or jail cells. Or, we might see a crying wife, a saddened son, or an ailing mother clinging to a picture of her imprisoned son. But I don’t know who he is, or how, when and why did the Israeli army arrest him. We don’t even know if those prisoners have children or if they are married even.

Moreover, I watched an Arab media outlet over the weekend looping a report as part of a show on the possibility of prisoner’s exchange, where the Israeli soldier was shown with his “boyish looks” smile around, eating, and joking like any other normal person. But this should be anything but normal.

The Palestinian movements did not capture him out of his bedroom or out of his school yard. He was manning a tank and military position that was laying siege against Palestinians, shooting at the Palestinians and God knows how many Palestinians he/they kill.

Yet Arab media fall into an Israeli trap and present “normal” image of one its soldiers who was trained to kill Palestinian men, women and children.

If imagery is not enough, let’s talk about the words. Almost every time an Israeli official talk about “the Exchange” we notice that Israeli is “in pain” at releasing “Palestinians with bloods on their hands” One Arab TV anchor repeated those words, with the disclaimer that those were an Israeli allegations. This is true, but in the world of media and PR, the disclaimer matters not once you utter the crucial words that Israeli PR machine wants you to say.

Does the Israeli soldier have blood on his hands; no one says anything about it. What we know about Gilad Shalit-note I always mention him by name, whereas I don’t mention any Palestinian by name, because as an Arab consumer of television and news, I have been spoon-fed news reports and imagery about this one Israeli solider and that no one bothered, at least to the best of knowledge to mention that he was a killing machine part of even larger killing machine called the Israeli Army.

Israel has humanized its solider making him a celebrity around the world and in the heart of the Arab world. Hamas, the Palestinians in general obviously for the lack of experience and host of other problems have yet to match the Israeli PR sophistication and prowess.

When was the last time the Haaretz or any Israeli newspaper or television or Fox news, or CNN run a true objective story that humanizes the Palestinian victims? It’s almost never.

The only time Palestinians were dealt with as human beings, really, was that when treating them like “animals” would cause a “hiccup” in the conscious of Israelis. That’s about it.

Ali Younes is a journalist and Middle East analyst in Washington D.C

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

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