Arab-American Activism

By Willford, Catherine M. | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, October 31, 1992 | Go to article overview

Arab-American Activism


Willford, Catherine M., Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


ARAB-AMERICAN ACTIVISM

ADC Condemns Bias at CBS

Following several demonstrations organized by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) at the Columbia Broadcasting System Washington, DC offices, representatives of ADC, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) and African-American and Jewish-American groups held an August 20 press conference at the National Press Club to protest remarks by CBS boardmember and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, CBS News anchorman Dan Rather, and CBS Middle East consultant Fouad Ajami.

The remarks were made in New York June 3 at a panel discussion sponsored by the Jerusalem Foundation to raise funds for the absorption of Jewish immigrants into Jerusalem. During the discussion moderated by Rather, Kissinger told the audience that "You can't really believe anything an Arab says." Neither Rather nor anyone else on the program objected.

Fouad Ajami, whose views are anathema to some fellow Arab Americans, is a Shi'i Arab from Lebanon. He reportedly told the Jewish audience repeatedly that Arabs are not capable of practicing democracy. Later, describing a visit to a Bedouin camp, he told the panel: "I insisted on only one thing, that I be spared the ceremony of eating with a Bedouin."

CBS anchor Rather opened the discussion by saying that "Many of us celebrate 25 years after the city [Jerusalem] was united under Israeli rule," and warned that Israeli control of the city was at risk from an Arab "population explosion."

At the Washington, DC press conference, ADC President Albert Mokhiber described the appearance of top CBS personnel at the fund-raiser as a "partisan act which raises questions about the impartiality and balance of the CBS Network in news coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict." In an August 6 letter to CBS President Eric Ober demanding a public apology from Rather, Kissinger and Ajami, Mokhiber noted that "If the word `Arab' or `Bedouin' were replaced with `Jew,' `Black' or `Hispanic,' such statements would have been condemned, and rightfully so."

Mokhiber read an excerpt from a CBS statement of personnel policy which stated: "Employees in their private capacity who take a public position on a controversial issue...will either be removed from handling the news involving that issue...or be required to take a leave of absence." The ADC president then noted that in two previous cases of anti-Black and anti-gay statements allegedly made by CBS employees, Jimmy the Greek was fired and Andy Rooney was disciplined by CBS.

"CBS seems to have a rather odd double standard in which their jesters are held to a higher standard than their journalists," said FAIR's Sam Husseini, who alerted ADC to the Jerusalem Foundation remarks. …

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