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Arab American journalists face industry bias
Arab American journalists continue to be targeted by racism and discrimination that dominate the mainstream American news media. America’s journalism industry is driven by an unethical and unprofessional growing trend by American media outlets to exclude any voices that are critical of Israel. It’s the main reason why there are so few Arabs working at mainstream American media or publish Op-Eds in the U.S. Media. American Arab journalists can strengthen the fight for justice for the Arab World in America, the one country in the world that has the most impact on the future of the Arab people and Arab culture. Audio podcast widget below
By Ray Hanania
Arab American journalists face an unyielding racism not just from American society but from the journalism news media industry itself. That needs to change.
It never fails that every time I complain about the bias against Arab Americans by the mainstream American news media, how we have been excluded and marginalized, an American reader writes back to me saying something along these lines:
“Are you kidding. Some of the highest profile journalists in the national media are Arab. They include Fareed Zakaria who anchors a show on CNN and Christiane Amanpour who worked at ABC Network news and is also at CNN.”
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Fareed Zakaria and Christiane Amanpour ARE NOT ARAB, I always write back to an endless silence.
But that is a part of the problem. The American people are among the least educated about the Middle East and Arabs — they think anyone who has dark skin and black curly hair is an Arab. They think anyone who criticizes Israel has to be a terrorist, in addition to being an anti-Semite.
Where do you think they get these false, stupid and ignorant notions? From the mainstream American news media which feeds the racism against Arabs and Arab Muslims by exploiting American ignorance.
American journalists are the biggest babies and pro-Israel activists are the biggest whiners. They have to be in order to shield Israel from legitimate criticism.
The mainstream American news media has thrived by fueling racism against Arabs and Arab Muslims — the media distinguishes between Arab and non-Arab Muslims — and by excluding and marginalizing Arab and Arab World rights.
This is a topic that I addressed in my column this week in the Arab News Newspaper in Jeddah Saudi Arabia. The column provides a look back some of the high profile incidents in which highly qualified American Arabs have been targeted and pushed out because of comments or actions that appeared to be “too critical” of Israel.
But there are so many other important factors that play into the weakness of Arab American journalism. One of the biggest factors has been the role played by Iranian American journalists and non-Arab Muslim journalists who have found themselves to be under the spotlight of American concerns over issues related to the Middle East and Israel, but that are given a pass by the media because they do not address Israel in a critical manner.
The column addresses the racism I faced as one of the first professional journalists of Arab and Palestinian heritage to work at a major American media newspaper — I covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992.
But it wasn’t just me. Helen Thomas, one of the most influential Arab American journalists who covered the White House from the 1950s and the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower until she was confronted by a pro-Israel Rabbi who pushed her into a topic about Israel’s occupation. At issue was the factual reality that Arabs view Israel as both a country and an occupier, and that Israel has taken Palestinian lands for their racist Jewish-only settlements. But to the Rabbi and other pro-Israel extremists, the settlements are a part of Israel.
So when Thomas said the Israelis should go back to where they came from, she was referring to the occupation and the nearly 500,000 Israeli Jewish settlers who have occupied confiscated Palestinian lands to build their racist settlements.
But the media twisted the issue and accused her of being anti-Semitic. She was forced to resign by the Hearst Newspapers in 2010. A year later, the Society of Professional Journalists, in reaction to further criticism she made of Israel’s lobby influence on American government and politics and especially the racist anti-Arab Hollywood movie industry, “retired” the Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award which was established in 2000.
Nevermind that the president of the SPJ at the time was an Israeli American journalist who participated in the SPJ’s parallel campaign that same year to shut down a special Arab SPJ section called “Al-Sahafiyeen” intended to encourage Arab American journalists to join the “professional” media industry organization.
Other high profile journalists were also punished for expressing views that offended Israel including Octavia Nasr at CNN and Rula Jebreal at MSNBC.
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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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