U.S. Media Coverage of Palestine/Israel: Fair and Balanced?

By Hishmeh, George S. | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March/April 2014 | Go to article overview

U.S. Media Coverage of Palestine/Israel: Fair and Balanced?


Hishmeh, George S., Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


A little over 40 years ago, I landed a job at the foreign desk of The Washington Post, a leading American newspaper, just about four years after returning to the United States to settle in Washington for good, since I was returning with my American wife in the wake of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

My success was due to meeting the paper's deputy opinion page editor, the late Stephen S. Rosenfeld, an American Jew. I called him the morning after I had read his very long column critical of Sen. William J. Fulbright (D-AR), who was then head of the prestigious Senate Foreign Relations Committee and was believed to be understanding, if not sympathetic, to the Palestinian people in their conflict with Israel. I was surprised by Rosenfeld's reaction when I told him that the Post did not carry the senator's remarks which he decried. He was shocked and promised to call me back, wondering whether the coverage appeared in a later edition of the paper.

But when he returned my call he admitted, rather embarrassed, that I was correct, as the paper failed to carry the speech. The excuse was that it came too late for the deadline...but not for his commentary.

"At least you and I think it was an important speech," I said, laughingly. He went along with me, and later revealed that he was a subscriber to the bi-monthly magazine that I had edited then but folded a few weeks earlier due to lack of sufficient funding. The magazine, called Amideast, was published by the American Friends of the Middle East (AFME), a non-profit organization, which was very popular among its readers who followed the news of the turbulence, as always, in the Middle East. He then suggested we have lunch together.

I was then free-lancing for some papers in the Arab world, including The Daily Star of Lebanon, which I had edited before coming to the U.S. He wondered about my future plans. I replied, half-jokingly, that I would like to work for The Post. He took my response seriously and said he would look into it. That evening I started my first day at The Post, but regrettably my stay did not last for long.

One evening, my immediate editor at the foreign desk, also an American Jew, came to my desk wondering whether I could translate the letter he was carrying in his hand. But on checking, it turned out it was written in French, not Arabic as I had thought it would be. He looked at me saying, rather grudgingly, "How come you, a Lebanese, do not know French?" My response was that I am not Lebanese. And when he pressed me, I revealed that I was a Palestinian who lived in Beirut after we lost our homeland to the Israelis in 1948. He took a small step backward in amazement, if not shock. I then knew that my days at The Post would be numbered. A few weeks later I succeeded in getting another job. (Job security at American private enterprises is not usually secure.)

The presence of American Jews in several American media outlets has always baffled many Americans and disappointed several Arab Americans, and certainly the Arab world. …

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