Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Lebanese Ambassador Riad Tabbarah Slashes through the Media Curtain

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Lebanese Ambassador Riad Tabbarah Slashes through the Media Curtain

Article excerpt

Lebanese Ambassador Riad Tabbarah Slashes Through the Media Curtain

By Andrew I. Killgore

In his April 18 television interview with Lebanese Ambassador to the United States Riad Tabbarah, host Larry King seemed particularly concerned to protect Israel from criticism after its artillery killed more than 100 Lebanese civilians in a United Nations compound at Qana in south Lebanon. No matter how King worded his questions, however, the low-key, politically savvy Lebanese envoy relentlessly took the conversation exactly where King didn't want it to go. Finally King had no other option than to say, with a show of indignation, "You're not suggesting that the [May 29] elections in Israel are the cause of Israel's attacks in Lebanon, are you?"

Quietly Tabbarah replied, "I'm afraid I am."

In one form or another, this dialogue was repeated day after day as the tireless Lebanese emissary went from media interview to interview to make his country's case to an American public that didn't really want to hear it so long as Israel continued to use U.S.-supplied weapons to kill Lebanese civilians.

By the time he had finished making his rounds, this articulate Arab diplomat had ripped through the protective curtain that sympathetic American journalists so frequently drape over Israeli actions, even under such egregious circumstances as the brutal Israeli assault on Lebanese civilians and their country's infrastructure from April 11 through 26 in the guise of battling Hezbollah (Party of God) guerrillas in and around Israeli-occupied south Lebanon.

The fact is that Ambassador Tabbarah is blessed with the brains, self-confidence and mastery of English and the nuances of American culture to joust on an equal basis with the most ardent and aggressive American apologists for Israel.

A Sunni Muslim born in Beirut, the Lebanese envoy earned his undergraduate degree in economics at the American University of Beirut (AUB). Subsequently, in 1958, he earned a master's degree at Northwestern University and then, in 1964, a Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University, both in economics.

In 1991 Dr. Tabbarah became dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at AUB and the same year was appointed chairman of the board of Lebanon's National Archives. In fact his entire career has involved a mixture of academia, civil service, and international affairs.

Ambassador Tabbarah is a writer-intel-lectual. He has published more than 50 articles in the fields of economics, social development and politics. Among his published books are Demographic Techniques for Manpower Planning in Developing Countries, Toward a Theory of Demographic Development, Background to the Lebanese Conflict, Population, Human Resources and Development in the Arab World, and The Reconstruction of Lebanon: Social Problems and Tasks.

From 1982 to 1986 he was resident representative and resident coordinator in Tunisia for the U.N. Development Program and also a U.N. representative to the League of Arab States. Between 1986 and 1991 he was chief of the Social Development, Population and Human Settlements Division of the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia.

Ambassador Tabbarah has lectured by invitation at universities around the world, including Madrid University, the People's University in Beijing, Australian National University and the University of Western Australia. …

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