Obama had chance to help Arabs but never did. Obama names new communications team — no Arabs. From the archives. Feb. 24, 2009
By Ray Hanania
It’s hard to fight anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias in the mainstream news media, let alone in mainstream society, if no one wants to help.
Being Arab is a double-edged scimitar. Everyone knows you are a problem from all the media coverage given to the Middle East, terrorism, narrow and usually racist stereotypes, but few Americans turn to you to ask for help. So the problems never get resolved. They only are exacerbated by the continuing ignorance and lack of education.
President Barack Obama apparently is no different. This week, he announced a slew of communications appointments to strengthen his outreach to the minority and “new media” community. Most of the appointments were rewards for battles fought during the election. None of them are American Arab or Middle Eastern in heritage.
Well. At least they included us in the press release for distribution.
There are African Americans, Hispanics, Asians. All kinds of folks and backgrounds. I couldn’t find one American Arab in the list. That’s too bad. There are more than 90 American Arab publications in the United States, according to monitoring we do at the National Arab American Journalists Association. It has been growing since many papers shutdown immediately after the racist backlash that began after Sept. 11, 2001 when crime took on a chiseled-in-rock face.
I think it contradicts the President’s claimed message that he made when he appeared on al-Arabiyya Satellite television in the Middle East. The station is one of several Arab and English language news broadcasts that reach not only Arabs in the Middle East but Arabs in America. So we saw and heard his effort to “reach out” to the Middle East and tell them how much he cares. Cares, but not enough to give American Arabs appointments or roles in his government yet. not enough to respect veteran American Arab journalist Helen Thomas at a recent news conference when she asked a very pointed question and he dodged it somewhat embarrassingly for Thomas.
Thomas rightly pushed Obama during his first press conference, after he pulled the wool over al-Arabiyya’s eyes and the Arab World, was about the hypocrisy regarding nuclear weapons in the Middle East. Everyone, including Obama, denounces countries like Iran that are working towards nuclear weapons, but mumble and avoid discussing the 200-plus nuclear weapons Israel has which are outside of International scrutiny and monitoring.
She asked Obama about the “so-called” terrorists in Pakistan, making the point that the claim of terrorism is often thrown own recklessly for political reasons rather than reality. And he avoided any reference to her question that raised reporter’s eyebrows “Do you know of any countries in the region that have nuclear weapons?”
She may be 80 years old but she is not stupid.
Obama responded with a lot of blah, blah, blah that began “With respect to nuclear weapons, I don’t want to speculate … ” But he avoided noting that Israel has nuclear bombs. And when she tried to follow up, he just ignored her, looked at his card which listed “approved” journalists to select at the press conference and moved on back to the mainstream fantasy world understanding of the Middle East.
But that’s unusual for Thomas. During the Bush regime, Thomas was often snubbed and openly insulted by the late Tony Snow, who many said carried hateful views of American Arabs and Muslims. When Thomas asked about the the Israel-Lebanon ‘Summer War,’ Snow ignored her questions that focused on hypocrisy in the Bush policies, and once thanked her for her “Hezbollah view.” He then accused her of “hectoring,” which I think was more of a slam against the mainstream media that sat there and kissed Bush’s ass during many press conference involving the important and ignored Middle East issues than it was of Thomas, who is a true journalist in the spirit of the Watergate Era that drove many like myself into this unfulfilling profession that continues to fail to live up to its great promises of fairness, objectivity and “just the news.”
Maybe the American Arab community and the Arab World will wise up.
Or more likely, maybe they won’t.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and Chicago radio talk show host. He can be reached at email@example.com.)
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"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
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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