Arabs must win American hearts and minds

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Arabs must win American hearts and minds
By RAY HANANIA
Saudi Gazette Sunday July 22, 2012 – Most Arabs do not understand that their future is directly tied to the public whims of the United States. If America sees you as an ally – usually through need (oil and military support in the region), America will help you. If America sees you as a threat, it will try to destroy you, or at the least make your life miserable.

Look at American foreign policy. The United States claims to be an ally of Saudi Arabia, yet the perception of Saudis in America is negative. In fact, the Kingdom has done more for Americans than any other foreign country, certainly more than Israel has done.

Saudi Arabia has helped to stabilize the price of oil on the world’s petroleum market and this has made gasoline more affordable for US consumers. For Americans, energy is their most important vulnerability.

In the blink of an eye, OPEC could dramatically increase the price of oil and bring Americans to their economic knees, and use that to force Americans to embrace justice and reconsider their hypocritical support of Israel’s oppressive policies.

And what does Saudi Arabia get for its support of America? In truth, Americans, overall, have a negative view of the Saudi people and government. Saudi Arabia is constantly vilified in the mainstream American news media, on television, in movies and in American literature. It’s really a strange relationship. But while Americans are hypocrites and two-faced about Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom is genuine in wanting to support the US.

Yet Saudi Arabia could do far more. It could help change how Americans view the Arab world. Through a sophisticated and strategic communications campaign, the Kingdom could target US congressional districts where notorious Arab-haters pillory Arab rights and justice for the Palestinians and promote anti-Muslim stereotypes and hatred.

The Arab world has few real friends in the United States, and even fewer in the US Congress where peace and justice in the Middle East are regular casualties of the powerful and well-financed pro-Israel movement. Congress is the Arab world’s number one enemy.

Instead of trying to influence American politics through the anti-Arab Congress, the Arab world should take its case directly to the American people, something they have never done effectively. The truth is it is easier to influence the public through strategic communications, messaging, media and public relations, all the mechanics of success that the Arab world has failed to use effectively.

The Arab world is just bad at communications. They have justice on their side but they can’t seem to connect the dots with the American public. The old saying when I was a child in the 1960s remains true today: Israel has a lousy case, but great lawyers. The Arabs have a great case, but lousy lawyers. With lawyers being our representatives and spokespersons.

In lieu of strategic communications to influence the beliefs of the American people, the Arab world has surrendered to American foreign policy, preferring to use obsequious diplomacy to achieve what would have been called a “détente” in the 1970s. Back then, America decided not to go to war with the Soviet Union and maintain a tolerable level of relationship that was always on the brink of conflict.

America is actively leading conflict in the Middle East targeting countries it opposes and balancing its interests against what it dislikes in other Arab countries. But eventually, when the oil dries up, American foreign policy will change and become more aggressive and more negative toward the Arab countries that it “tolerates” today. The Arabs shouldn’t wait for that to occur. They shouldn’t sit back and hope that things will improve, nor should they continue with current policies that pander to American energy excesses.

Americans, like the rest of the world, should learn to be energy efficient. And they should pay the market rate for oil the way the rest of the world pays the market rate for American products, such as foodstuff and technology.

And Saudi Arabia should revive a new coalition of Arab countries under a banner other than the useless Arab League, and then pour funds into a massive strategic communications campaign to re-educate Americans about the justice of the Arab cause in Palestine, the Gulf and throughout the Middle East.

Arabs and Muslims are good people. Not many Americans really believe that, instead absorbing the brainwashed bias and hypocrisy that they receive every day from the American media and the anti-Arab US Congress. The Arab world can’t wait for justice or the rule of law to arrive of its own accord. It should actively fight the real war for the hearts and minds of the American people.

If Americans knew the truth about the Middle East, they would support our demands for justice. They just don’t know the truth. And that is our fault as Arabs.

— Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist and radio talk show host. Reach him at www.RadioChicagoland.com

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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