Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Journalists Discuss the Middle East at AUC Forum

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Journalists Discuss the Middle East at AUC Forum

Article excerpt

Journalists Discuss the Middle East at AUC Forum

It's not every day that one is able to see prominent journalists step away from the camera, or computer, and share their observations on the events they cover. But on the morning of Thursday, May 29, 1997 four seasoned journalists who have covered the Middle East offered their thoughts on current events, politics, and prospects in the region at the American University in Cairo Forum, "Observations on the Middle East: Journalists' Perspectives." Held at the Citicorp Center in New York City, it was attended by 100 business executives and friends of AUC. This AUC Forum was made possible in part by a grant from the Hauser Foundation, Inc. and sponsorship by AUC alumnus Antranig Sarkissian '57, vice president of Citibank, N.A.

Dean E. Fischer, diplomatic correspondent for Time magazine, presided over the panel which included Walter Rodgers, Jerusalem bureau chief, CNN; Caryle Murphy, religion correspondent, The Washington Post; and Youssef Ibrahim, European economic and business affairs correspondent, The New York Times. Fischer, a former Middle East bureau chief and veteran reporter at Time, kicked off the program with a brief introduction of the topics each panelist would address: the Arab/Israeli conflict, security in the Persian Gulf, and Islamic fundamentalism.

CNN's Walter Rodgers shared his thoughts on the Arab/Israeli conflict, noting that his remarks were his own opinions and were not the views of Time Warner Broadcasting. Perceptions, 2,900 years ago and today, are extremely important in the Middle East, Rodgers noted, especially in the peace process.

Rodgers considered the current political landscape in Israel, and where that leaves the Palestinians and the peace talks. Pragmatically speaking, Rodgers noted that Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat has concluded the peace talks are clinically dead. Mounting unemployment has caused a decrease in Palestinian support of Mr. Arafat, and many believe that nothing was gained from the Oslo accords. Rodgers also noted that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has not encouraged a new dialogue wth the Palestinians. In his concluding remarks, Rodgers returned to his thesis of perceptions and the pivotal role they play in the region. While the political landscape appears bleak, he said, things may not be what they seem, and perhaps negotiations again will be possible in the future.

Drawing on her experiences in the Persian Gulf, Caryle Murphy of The Washington Post considered security issues in the region. Noting that the Gulf war was little more than a "hiccup in the history of war -- lasting fewer than 100 days and ending in a complete allied victory -- it perma nently changed the region's landscape.

In the aftermath of the war, Murphy was struck by two separate world events, and how differently each was played out. The first was the prolonged and difficult U.S. decision to send troops to war-torn Bosnia, and the second is the rapidly growing U.S. military presence in the Gulf. Murphy contended, "The Persian Gulf war, too, drastically changed the U.S. relationship to the Gulf. Our country is now the overlord of the area." What troubles Murphy is the lack of public debate in the U.S. on the build-up of troops in the region. She doubts that protecting oil resources is the antecedent for the escalation. Rather she believes we are trying to maintain the region's political stability. …

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