Sunday, August 10, 2008

PAUL FINDLEY They Dare to Speak Out 16

"Frail Geyer" Under fire
Concern over appearances and external pressure also led the Chicago Sun-Times to drop the regular column of veteran foreign correspondent and syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Geyer for several months dur-ing the 1982 war in Lebanon.37 The decision followed an outpouring of reader protest over Geyer s columns criticizing the war and Israeli pol­icy. Letters assailed Geyer as "a well-known Jew hater," "an anti-Semite par excellence," and "an apologist for the PLO"—the sort of innuen­does to which Geyer had grown accustomed during many years of cov­ering both sides of the Arab-Israel dispute. Frequently denounced in print, she has also been harassed with similar charges at lectures.38
Geyer, whose worldwide journalistic coups have made headlines for years, told me that receiving "this endless, vicious campaign of calumny and insults because you write what you know to be impeccably true" is the most distressing aspect of her life as a journalist.39
Editot Howard Kleinberg of the Miami News also suffered criticism for carrying Geyer s columns. He wrote in a 1982 editorial: "I cannot remember receiving more outside pressure on anything than I have about Georgie Anne Geyer s columns on Israel. . . . Geyer's antagonists have portrayed her not only as anti-Israel but anti-Semitic as well; 'Frau Geyer,' some of them call her."40
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Aware of the violent response, Geyer suggested that Weinberg not publish her column for a while, but he was adamant: "I steadfastly have refused to bow to the pressure." He added: "We carry syndicated columns of contrasting viewpoints because it is the role of newspapers to provide a vehicle for the exercise of free speech."
Although the Chicago Sun-Times later resumed publication of her column and the criticism abated, Geyer found that calling Middle East issues as she sees them exacts a personal price, and she noted sadly that her commentaries seem to have damaged permanently valued relation­ships with Jewish friends.
Ted Turner Caves In
In an ominous episode in June 2002, media giant Ted Turner, the bil­lionaire founder of CNN, emerged from retirement to apologize for speaking his mind about Israeli terrorism. When he told a British news­paper that "borh sides [Palestinians and Israelis] are engaged in terror­ism," Israel's cable television company, YES, announced that it would cease broadcasting the popular CNN international feed to its viewers. CNN immediately broadcast a series of announcements in which it stated its disapproval of Turner's reference to Israeli terrorism. It also dispatched CNN executive Eason Jordan from Atlanta to Israel to extend personal regrets to YES executives and to try to make amends.
The upshot was that Turner caved under pressure and so did CNN. Turner apologized for making the remark and, as an added gesture of obedience to Israel's lobby, CNN promised that henceforth it would refuse to broadcast "without good cause" statements by the families of suicide bombers or people wanting to become suicide bombers. The "without good cause" reservation was, of course, a meaningless "fig leaf" gesture to the cause of free expression. YES resumed broadcasting CNN.41
On and Off the Enemies List
Branding critics and thoughtful analysts as "enemies" is another famil­iar tactic of the Israeli lobby. Those singled out for inclusion on enemies
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lists—particularly The Campaign to Discredit Israel, published by AIPAC, and the ADL's Pro-Arab Propaganda in America: Vehicles and Voices— rarely take issue with lobby criticism, perhaps in the belief that a direct response would only give undeserved credibility to their detractots. But in December 1983, a selective challenge to these enemies lists was offered by Anthony Lewis, a Jewish columnist who writes for the New York Times.
In two installments of his regular column, Lewis took issue with the inclusion on the 1983 lists of Professor Walid Khalidi, a professor who has taught at Oxfoid, the American University of Beitut, and Harvard.42 Khalidi, who cofounded the well-known Institute for Palestine Studies, has long argued for a Palestinian state living in peace and mutual recog­nition with Israel. He outlined his position in a 1978 Foreign Affairs atticle, subsequently receiving sharp criticism from exttemist groups in the Middle East and elsewhere. Hence Lewis was "astonished to find Professor Khalidi's name on lists of supposed anti-Israel activists."
Lewis exposed the techniques used to implicate Khalidi in a putative campaign to discredit Israel. First, AIPAC quoted him as saying in the 1978 article that Israel's existence is "both 'a violation of the principles of the unity and integrity of Arab soil and an affront to the dignity of the [Arab] nation.'" Khalidi had in fact referred to this as an old view that has been discarded. Second, the book identified Khalidi as a mem­ber of the Palestine National Council (PNC), a body that served as a PLO parliament, and claimed that on one occasion he "narrowly escaped expulsion" from the PNC for supporting Geotge Habash's radical Popu­lar Front. Khalidi responded that he has nevet attended a PNC meeting "because of [his] lifelong commitment to complete independence from all political organizations." Lewis added that Khalidi's views are the antithesis of George Habash's. Lewis concluded: "Some people see his very moderation as dangerous. He is a Palestinian nationalist, after all, and one must not allow that idea to have any legitimacy."
The Times published letters from both the ADL and AIPAC that protested the Lewis columns, and the ADL assigned a team of researchers to review previous Lewis columns in search of anti-Israeli bias.43 Lewis was also sharply criticized in the January 1984 issue of Near East Report, the AIPAC newsletter.
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The Perils of Non-Orthodoxy
A New York businessman almost made it onto "enemies list," thanks to media coverage of his views. Jack Sunderland, businessman and chair­man of Americans for Middle East Understanding, a national organiza­tion that issues scholarly reviews, made statements supporting Palestinian self-rule and an end to Israeli West Bank settlement construction during a trip to the Middle East several years ago.44
His remarks were widely reported in the U.S. and foreign media, and shortly after returning to his New York home, Sunderland learned that a man had visited several of his neighbors and asked personal questions about his family, including his children's schedule and routes to and from school. Concerned for his family's safety, Sunderland engaged a private detective. Working with FBI cooperation, the detective soon located a graduate student who admitted to the obtrusive questioning and also to illegally gaining access to computer information about Sunderland's finances and credit record. The student said he was an employee of B'nai B'rith and that Sunderland was being investigated as a prospect for inclu­sion on the organizations "enemies list." Faced with the student's con­fession, B'nai B'rith officials refused to meet with Sunderland personally but agreed not to mention his name in future publications. When the "enemies list" appeared in 1983, under the sponsorship of B'nai B'rith's affiliate, the Anti-Defamation League, the organization Sunderland heads was listed as a "vehicle" of "Arab propaganda." Several officers were mentioned by name. Sunderland was not.
On a Saturday morning in 1977, producer Debbie Gage encoun­tered peril of a different sort when she presented on a one-hour program of interviews with local people of Palestinian origin on Minneapolis Pub­lic Radio.45 The station's switchboard was promptly swamped with calls demanding equal time for the Israeli viewpoint. Gage demurred, responding that she had decided to do her program because of the heavy coverage being given to the Israeli view in the local press. She saw her broadcast as "simply a small attempt to redress that imbalance."
The following Monday, news director Gary Eichten informed Gage that her job would be terminated in three weeks and that a program devoted to pro-Israeli views would be aired the following Saturday. Eichten denied that he was pressured into doing the follow-up program,
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but, as station intern Yvonne Pearson observed, "If dozens of angry phone calls aren't pressure, I don't know what is."
James Batal, a man of Lebanese ancestry, was interviewed on a Miami television program during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.46 He was seventy-two years old at the time, and he sought to explain the little-understood Arab view of the conflict. Following the broadcast of his interview, he received an abusive—and anonymous—phone call warn­ing that his house would be burned down or bombed in retaliation for his remarks on television. Batal appealed to local police and the FBI, but was told that they were unable to provide protection. In despera­tion, he and his ailing wife closed their home and moved into a small apartment with her sister.
The late Grace Halsell, a noted writer on the Middle East, told of a similar incident that took place in late 1983.47 While in Jerusalem, she visited Amal, a young Palestinian woman with whom she had become friends while living in Jerusalem some years before. An American tele­vision journalist had asked to interview Amal while she was employed as assistant to the United States vice consul in East Jerusalem, and her American boss had agreed to her being interviewed. When the inter­view was aired, however, she was fired. She explains, "I was thought to be too pro-Palestinian. I had merely said, in answer to a question, that my family lived in a house where Israelis now live."
Washington Reports
The consequences of publishing reports that do not convey such a con­genial message can be even more drastic than loss of employment or public pressure from lobby groups. John Law, a vetetan journalist who founded and edited the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, a non­partisan newsletter published by the American Educational Trust, once described the aim of the publication in these words: "It would like to see Middle East issues approached in a way that will benefit the interests of the people of the United States, while being consistent with their stan­dards of justice and fair play."48
On May 6, 1982, Law received a telephone call that threatened his physical safety and warned that he should "watch out." The following day John Duke Anthony, then an official of the American Educational
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Trust, was assaulted by two men near his home. One subdued Anthony by striking him on the head with a brick. The muggers took neither his money nor his credit cards—only his personal address book.
An editorial in the next issue of the Washington Report responded: "The man who threatened Mr. Law and the two men who assaulted [Mr. Anthony] were presumably hoping to deter them from doing their work. This is not going to happen."
And it didn't. In the spring of 2002, publisher Andrew L. Killgore and executive editor Richard H. Curtiss observed the twentieth anni­versary of the Washington Report, which has grown to a circulation of more than 35,000. The publication is widely respected worldwide as the preeminent American source of balanced Middle East coverage.
Upon retirement from careers in the U.S. foreign service, Killgore and Curtiss decided to embark on a new nonpaid career of acquainting the American people with the reality of U.S.-Arab relations. It hasn't been easy. The two ran a series of ads in the late 1990s in several U.S. newspapers about politicians accepting funds from "stealth PACs"— those PACs whose names are ambiguous but whose goals are quite clear: to support Israel. The ads prompted journalists nationwide to investigate and report similar campaign contributions to elected officials in their regions—an uproar that was completely unacceptable to members of the pro-Israel lobby. Late one evening, Curtiss received a call from a man in California who warned, "You'll be dead by nine o'clock." Curtiss's response was quick and to the point: "Sorry, but it's past nine o'clock in D.C. already."
When asked if the daily threats and harassment the Washington Report receives made him fear for his safety, publisher Killgore—whose white Alabama family has fought for African American civil rights since the 1870s—replied with typical calm: "Zionists are a night flower— blooms in the dark, dies in the sunlight. I'm too well known, and the Zionist organizations are too afraid of negative publicity, for anything to happen to me."
While his physical safety seems assured, Killgore acknowledged that his views prevented him from advancing within the ranks of the foreign service as well he might have had he kept silent: "I know for a fact that I was chosen to be the first U.S. ambassador to Bahrain in 1974, but Kissinger vetoed me. When Carrer came into office in 1976, several
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influential Zionists were no longer in power." Killgore became ambas­sador to Qatar the next year. He feels no bitterness for his former State Department colleagues who, despite privately agreeing with his fair-minded approach to the Middle East, never spoke out. "Financially, its suicide. At the time, most of us were poor kids working our way up. If you wanted to educate your kids, you kept quiet."
But Killgore never did remain quiet. "I don't know why," he says. "Maybe I wasn't smart enough to keep my mouth shut. But if I never got one pat on the back, it wouldn't matter. My dad would be proud of me if he knew what I've done. That's better than money."49
"Conviction Under False Pretenses"
Opinions that depart from the pro-Israeli line cost a New York journal­ist his job in early 1984. For ten years, Alexander Cockburn contributed the popular "Press Clips" feature to the Village Voice in New York. Although his topics and views were often controversial, his candor and originality were widely respected. One reader hailed him as "Guinness Stout in a world of 'Lite' journalism."50
In August 1982 Cockburn applied for and received a grant from the Institute of Arab Studies (IAS), located in Belmont, Massachusetts, to underwrite travel and research expenses for a book on the war in Leba­non.51 The grant was not secret. It was recorded in the IAS public report, but in January 1984 the Boston Phoenix published a long article expos­ing Cockburn's "$10,000 Arab connection." The article provoked a storm in the editorial offices of the Voice. Editor David Schneiderman decided that Cockburn should receive an indefinite suspension without pay, but permitted him to reply to the decision in print. Cockburn defended the grant, contending that the IAS is a legitimate nonprofit otganization, founded "to afford writers, scholars, artists, poets, and pro­fessionals an opportunity to pursue the full exploration of the Atab dimension of world history through their special field of interest."52 He argued that the bottom line of the matter was that he "didn't properly evaluate the climate of anti-Arab racism." The book granr, he felt, con­stituted an ethnically dubious "connection" because it was "Arab money."
Readers were outraged by Schneiderman's trearment of Cockburn, and many wrote to protest his "conviction under false prerenses." It is sad
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that even in the United States, with its traditions of free speech, there are still people who, when it comes to Middle East issues, will use force and threats of force to try to prevent the dissemination of ideas they do not like.
Dow Jones Stands Firm
Major national media have not escaped these pressures. Organized let­ter campaigns are a favored tactic of pro-Israel groups. As Lawrence Mosher, a staff correspondent for the National Journal, observes: "[Such groups have] a seemingly indefatigable army of workers who will gener­ate hundreds or thousands of letters to congressmen, to newspaper edi­tors, etc., whenever the occasion seems to warrant it. . . . Editors are sometimes weighed down by it in advance and inhibited from doing things they would normally do if they didn't know that an onslaught of letters, cables, and telephone calls would follow if they write or show such and such."53
Mosher himself had experienced the pressures that speaking out brings. The National Observer of May 18, 1970, printed an article by Mosher on a little-noticed court case then pending in Washington, D.C. The case involved Saul E. Joftes, a former high official of B'nai B'rith, who was bringing suit against the organization and its officers. The charge: "Zionists have used B'nai B'rith—a charitable, religious, tax-exempt American membership organization—to pursue international political activities contrary to the B'nai B'rith constitution and in viola­tion of federal foreign agent registration and tax laws."
Joftes had been disturbed by the "employment" by B'nai B'rith of a woman whose post was funded and controlled by the Israeli consulate in New York City. She was given the job of providing "saturation briefings" for Jews visiting the Soviet Union, but her main duty was to "channel information back to the Israeli government on who went to the Soviet Union and what Russians visited the United States." The woman, Mrs. Avis Shulman, observed that "Jewish organizations, particularly B'nai B'rith, are especially useful" as a "base of operation." Joftes was obliged to meet her request that "a subcommittee" be "invented with her as 'sec­retary' to give her a handle that could be relatively inconspicuous but meaningful."
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The one-year employment of Shulman was but one aspect of what Joftes saw as the Zionist takeover of B'nai B'rith's international opera­tions. He resented being compelled to develop the organization to serve policy mandates of the Israeli government, with "the identity of B'nai B'rith itself taking a secondary role in fostering the interests of a foreign power."
Mosher's article went on to discuss the broader issue of national ver­sus extra-national loyalties raised by Joftes s case, quoting the views of numerous national and international Jewish leaders.54 He disclosed the mechanisms through which tax-free donations from U.S. Jews were sent to Israel for purposes other than the designated "relief," and he discussed rhe Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings of seven years before, which had exposed and closed down an illegal Israeli propaganda oper­ation in an organization called the American Zionist Council.
Shortly after the article appeared, the offices of Dow Jones, which owned the National Observer, were visited by Gustave Levy, senior part­ner in a New York investment firm, and a group of other Jewish leaders. The group did not dispute the accuracy of the article, but protested its publication as an embarrassment and an anti-Jewish act. They questioned the motives of Warren Phillips, then vice president of Dow Jones, in publishing the Mosher piece: "Why create public focus on this infor­mation?" Despite the pressure, Phillips stood behind his writer.
"Who Gould Be Mad at Us?"
In its April 1974 issue, National Geographic published a major article entitled "Damascus, Syria's Uneasy Eden." The article discussed ancient and modern life in the Syrian capital, but a brief segment on the life of the city's small Jewish community caused a storm of protest.
Author Robert Azzi, a journalist with years of experience in the Mid­dle East, found that "the city still tolerantly embraces significant num­bers of Jews" and that Sephardic Jews enjoy "freedom of worship and freedom of opportunity," although they lived under a number of obtru­sive restrictions, including strict limitations on travel and emigration. He had estimated that about 500 Jews had left Syria in the years following the 1967 war, and said that "reprisals against the families of those who leave are . . . rare."
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A number of U.S. Jewish groups and many of the magazines sub­scribers were outraged by Azzi's portrait of Jewish life in Syria. A torrent of angry letters poured into the offices of the National Geographic Soci­ety protesting the "whitewash" of Syria's treatment of its Jewish citizens and the refusal of the editors to correct Azzi's "shocking distortions." Society President Gilbert M. Grosvenor later recalled that his offices received more than 600 protest letters.55 This correspondence was liber­ally seasoned with harsh charges, including "hideous lies," "disgraceful," "inhuman," "communistic propaganda," and "as bad as Hitler's hatred for the Jews."
One letter threatened Grosvenor's life. As the controversy grew, the Society even received a letter from Kansas Senator Robert Dole in which he expressed concern over the issue. He included a longer letter that he had received from the Jewish Community Relations Bureau of Kansas City. Unaccustomed to controversy, the National Geographic offices were shocked at the outcry raised over a small section of what had been seen as a standard article. Protestations by Grosvenor that the piece had been checked for accuracy by Western diplomats in Syria, the Syria desk offi­cer at the U.S. State Department, and even several rabbis—none of whom had found any problems with the text—were unavailing.
The criticism culminated in a public demonstration by the Ameri­can Jewish Congress (AJC) outside the Society's Washington offices in late June. Informed of the picketing outside the Society's opulent head­quarters, a receptionist was incredulous: "Are you kidding? Who could be mad at us?"56
Phil Baum, associate executive director of the AJC, met with Grosvenor and declared that the picketing had become necessary due to the refusal of National Geographic to acknowledge its "errors" in print. This was the first instance of picketing against the National Geographic Society since its establishment in 1888. As the picketers prepared to depart after marching in near-100-degree heat, one told a New York Times reporter, "The magazine doesn't print letters to the editor. This is our letter to the editor."
Grosvenor views the picketing basically as an AJC fund-raising event: "A simple matter of dollars out, dollars in.57 You can hire pickets on short notice around this town." Although some of the picketers argued vehe­mently with National Geographic staffers who went out to speak with
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them, many were quite amiable. "We setved coffee, doughnuts, and bagels to the picketers," Grosvenor recalls. "In fact, I think we picked up a few new members from the group."
At the same time, Grosvenor did not ignote the pressure generated by Baum and the AJC. The Society decided to print an editorial com­menting on the episode—another "first" in the fifty-eight years of the organization. Personally signed by Grosvenor, it conceded, "We have received evidence from many of our Jewish readers since the article appeared that convinces us that we unwittingly failed to reflect the harsh conditions under which that small [Damascene Jewish] community has existed since 1948. . . . Our critics were right. We erred."58
"A Mimeograph Machine Run Rampant"
During the same period, CBS experienced a similar controversy over a 60 Minutes segment dealing with the situation of Jews in Syria. The pro­gram, titled "Israel's Toughest Enemy," was broadcast February 16, 1975, and featured correspondent Mike Wallace.
As his point of departure Wallace said, "The Syrian Jewish com­munity is kept under close surveillance." He noted that Jews could not emigrate, were required to carry special identification cards, and were also required to notify authorities when traveling inside Syria. Despite such restrictions, Wallace concluded, "... today, life for Syria's Jews is better than it was in years past." Wallace backed this claim with a num­ber of interviews with Jews who were making their way comfortably in Syrian society. The most striking of these interviews was with a Jewish teacher. In it Wallace asked, "Where do all these stories come from about how badly the Jews are treated in Syria?" The teacher replied, "I think that it's Zionist propaganda." CBS was swamped with angry lettets, and the American Jewish Congress branded the report "excessive, inaccurate, and distorted."59 Protests were also sent to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National News Council. As the complaints continued, Wallace realized that, for the first time, he had "come up against a conscientious campaign by the so-called Jewish lobby—against a mimeograph machine run rampant." He observed at the time: "The world Jewish community tends somehow to associate a fair report about Syria's Jews with an attack on Israel because Syria happens to be Israel's
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toughest enemy. But the fact is there is not one Syrian Jew in jail today as a political prisoner."
On June 7 of that same year, 60 Minutes rebroadcast the segment on Syria, along with an account of the criticisms received and additional background on the film. The program also included a promise that Wal­lace would "go back and take another look" at the situation of Jews in Syria.
The second program, broadcast on March 21, 1976, disappointed critics who expected the second report to prove their charges: instead, it confirmed the findings of the first. A Syrian Jew who had fled Syria at age thirteen and lived in New York declared that Syrian Jews "in general are much more prosperous now than ever before."
Critics then turned to attacking Wallace personally. The February 1984 issue of Near East Report, the AIPAC newsletter, carried an anti-Wallace commentary by editor M. J. Rosenberg. He was disturbed by Wallace's observation in the January 8, 1984, edition of 60 Minutes that "nothing affronts Syrian dignity and pride more than the fact that Israel has Syrian land, the Golan Heights—and Syria wants it back." Rosen­berg responded that Wallace "mouths Syrian propaganda as if he were a member of the Ba'ath Party's young leadership group." Recalling the controversy of 1976-77, he wrote that "Wallace didn't leain much from that episode. After all, Mike Wallace is Jewish. Does he feel that he has to bend over backward to prove that he is no secret Zionist?"
A Double Standard Toward Terror and Murder
CBS radio also became a storm center at about the same time as the Wallace controversy. In March 1973, on its show First Line Report, White House correspondent Robert Pierpoint made a controversial statement regarding events in the Middle East.60 Focusing on two recent inci­dents—a commando-style raid against Palestinian refugee camps 130 miles inside Lebanon's borders and the downing of a Libyan commercial airliner that had strayed over then Israeli-occupied territory in the Sinai Desert—Pietpoint compared the American response to acts of violence committed by Israelis to those committed by Arabs.
He observed that after the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, "the United States, from President Nixon
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on down, expressed outrage." Yet these two more recent acts by Israel had caused the death of more than a hundred innocent civilians, and there had been hardly a ripple of American response. Pierpoint's con­clusion was blunt:
What this seems to add up to is a double standard in this country toward terror and murder. For so long, Americans have become [so] used to think­ing of Israelis as the good guys and Arabs as the bad guys that many react emotionally along the lines of previous prejudices. The fact is that both sides have committed unforgiveable acts of terror, both sides have killed innocents, both sides have legitimate grievances and illegitimate methods of expressing them.
Knowing that he had voiced an opinion rarely heard over network airways, Pierpoint was not surprised when CBS switchboards in Wash­ington and New York were jammed for hours with protest calls after his broadcast.61 The reaction grew so heated, in fact, that Pierpoint became concerned about the attitude of CBS management. Vice President Sand-ford Socolow told him ominously, "Bob, you're in real trouble," and Gor­don Manning, another CBS executive added, "It doesn't look good for you!"—even though both men felt that the commentary had been pro­fessionally done and should be defended.
When they walked into the office of Richard Salant, CBS president, to discuss the matter, they quickly learned that Salant had already decided not to bow to the pressure. "Wasn't that a terrific broadcast Pier­point did!" Salant declared, thus bringing the matter to a close within the CBS hierarchy.
For Pierpoint, however, the controversy lingered. He received more than 400 letters on his broadcast, some labeling him "a vicious anti-Semite" and desctibing his report as "like Goebbels's propaganda machine." He later remarked that his commentary had caused him to be perceived as a "public enemy" by some Jewish Americans.62
Soon after the First Line Report broadcast, news reporter Ted Kop-pel discussed the Pierpoint affair on ABC radio's World Commentary. Koppel cited the swift reaction of the pro-Israel lobby: "The Anti-Defamation League responded immediately. Regional offices of the ADL sent out letters the next day, enclosing copies of the Pierpoint report, and calling on friends of the ADL to send their protests to the local CBS
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affiliate station. That kind of carefully orchestrated 'spontaneous reac­tion' disturbs me just as much coming from the ADL as it would from a politically partisan group. It is a tactic of intimidation. I hope that the Anti-Defamation League wasn't trying to get Robert Pierpoint fired, because he's a decent and responsible reporter. But I suspect he will think long and hard before he does another commentary that might distress the ADL—which is why I did this one. American newsmen these days sim­ply can't afford to be intimidated—by anyone."
Affordable or not, the intimidation tactic made its mark.63 Under pressure, Pierpoint dropped a chapter relating the details of the broad­cast uproar and its aftermath from his forthcoming book, White House Assignment. In the draft chapter, Pierpoint wrote that "a very powerful group of Jewish businessmen and representatives of national Jewish organizations had demanded to see CBS News president Richard Salant" and that "a delegation of Jewish businessmen" called for a retraction by CBS affiliate station WTOP in Washington, D.C.
In the excised chapter, Pierpoint candidly explained the impact of these events on his work as a newsman: "It was many months before I voluntarily discussed the Middle East on the air again." Recalling his decision, Pierpoint says that Elisabeth Jakab, a book editor for the pub­lisher, G. P. Putnam's, predicted that the controversial chapter could affect sales of the book: "She told me that Jews are major book buyers and might boycott my book." Another Putnam staff member had simi­lar advice: "Joel Swerdlow told me he didn't like the chapter, but he admitted he was emotional about the subject because he is Jewish. He suggested that I change the text or drop ir." "Finally," concludes Pier­point, "I gave in."
Indeed, in a March 1983 intetview, Pierpoint admitted that the intimidating pressure found its mark beyond his self-censoring decision regarding the book chapter: "Ever since that strong reaction, I have been more aware of the possibility of getting into arguments with listeners and viewers, and therefore somerimes when I had a choice as to whether to do a broadcast on a topic like that or go in another direction, I prob­ably went in another direction. You don'r like to have constant atgu-ments, particularly with people you may like and admire but don't agree with."64
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"Set Right This Terrible Thing"
In 1981 Patsy Collins, chairman of the board of King Broadcasting in Seattle, was subjected to severe criticism fot airing a series of reports on Israel and the West Bank.65 Just before the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, she and a technical crew visited sites including Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and the Israeli Knesset. They put together a series of eight four-minute segments, which were broadcast on the evening television news over eight consecutive days. The reports sought to portray the life of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation. A closing thirty-minute documentary was planned.
Although public reaction to the reports was mild, the local heads of the American Jewish Committee and the ADL visited the station to "set right this terrible thing." They demanded and received a private screen­ing of the final documentary before it was broadcast. Unable to cite any inaccuracies in the piece, they criticized its "tone and flavor." Among telephoned complaints was one accusing Collins of being in the pay of the PLO.
The Israeli consul general in San Francisco, Mordecai Artzieli, tele­phoned with a stern demand that air time be provided to "refute the lies" in the program. The King stations in Portland and Seattle agreed to follow the closing summary with a 30-minute discussion between rep­resentatives of the Jewish and Arab communities, moderated by a mem­ber of the broadcast company staff. The planned discussion did not materialize, however, as no Jewish group would agree to send a repre­sentative to share air time with an Arab American. Collins believed that the refusal to take patt in the discussion was urged by Consul Artzieli.
Reflecting on her experiences, Collins concluded: "I don't think thete's any 1staeli or Jewish control of the media at all. It's influence; and people can be influenced only if they allow themselves to be influenced." Criticism of Collins evaporated with the 1982 Israel invasion of Leba­non—during which Collins herself cited shortcomings in netwotk cov­erage of the daily progress of the fighting. At the onset of the action, NBC was covering the attack on Lebanon not from Lebanon, but from Israel. Despite the courage of NBC crews in filming the progress and results the Israeli's advance to Beirut, film footage broadcast on the NBC
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Nightly News showed only Israeli forces on their way to Lebanon. More­over, reports frequently described weapons used by Arabs as "Soviet-made," while the Israelis were never described as using "American-made" F-l6s, or "U.S.-built" tanks.
Collins's comments paralleled those of Alexander Cockburn, who had noted in his Village Voice column how New York Times editors struck the word "indiscriminate" from foreign correspondent Thomas Fried­man's August 3 report on the Israeli bombing of Beirut.66 The action violated usual Times policy. Friedman sent a lengthy telex expressing his outrage: "I am an extremely cautious reporter. I do not exaggerate. . . . You knew I was correct and that the word was backed up by what I had reported. But you did not have the courage—guts—to print it in the New York Times. You were afraid to tell our readers and those who might complain to you that the Israelis are capable of indiscriminately shelling an entire city."
NBC Charged with Anti-Israel Bias
Despite the instances of NBC's pro-Israeli bias that were cited by Patsy Collins, Alexander Cockburn, Richard Broderick, and others, eight affil­iates of the network in New York came under pressure in 1983 from par­tisans who alleged bias against Israel in NBC Nightly News coverage of the war in Lebanon.67 Americans for a Safe Israel (AFSI), a New York-based lobbying organization, filed petitions with the Federal Com­munications Commission to prevent the eight affiliates in New York from renewing their broadcast licenses. AFSI director Peter Goldman described the NBC coverage as "deliberate distortion of the news," claiming that the network presented the war "in a manner favorable to the Arabs."
Goldman's campaign against NBC—presented in a film entitled NBC in Lebanon: A Study of Media Misrepresentation—had been backed by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), a Washington-based group that focuses its efforts primarily against anti-Israel bias it allegedly finds in the Washington Post.68
Lawrence K. Grossman, president of NBC News, called the AFSI charges "untrue and unfounded: The AFSI film distorted NBC News coverage and selectively ignored imporrant aspects of NBC's reports."69
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He noted that the Columbia Journalism Review had praised the "overall balance" of NBC coverage, and that the Washington Journalism Review had criticized the AFSI film for "manipulation" of NBC's coverage of the war in Lebanon. Early in 1984 the FCC rejected similar AFSI petitions against seven NBC affiliate stations in New England, but the group did not relax its pressure. The petitions were revised and resubmitted.70
Such attempts to stifle media coverage deemed uncomplimentary to Israel were augmented with a $2 million media campaign by Israel designed to assure Americans that Israelis are nice, warm people and not bloodthirsty militarists.71
Lobbyist in the News Room
Like Thomas Friedman, William Branigin of the Washington Post cov­ered the Israeli bombing in Beirut—but, unlike those of the New York Times, his editors did not delete "indiscriminate" from his front-page report. During the same period, however, Post editors experienced an intimidating presence in their newsrooms.
Fairness in reporting Middle East events has been a special concern of the Washington Post over the past several years. Complaints from pro-Israel groups about its coverage of Lebanon—especially the massacres at Sabra and Shatila—led to the unprecedented placement of a represen­tative from a pro-Israel group as an observer in the Post newsroom.
The idea arose when Michael Berenbaum, executive director of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington; council president Nathan Lewin; and Hyman Bookbinder, area representative of the American Jewish Committee, met with Washington Post editors to inform them that the paper had "a Jewish problem."72 The meeting followed substantial correspondence between the Post and Jewish community leaders. As an accommodation, executive editor Benjamin C. Bradlee agreed to have Berenbaum observe its news operations for one week, provided he not lobby or "interfere with the editorial process in any way."
Many members of the Post staff were unhappy about having to work under the surveillance of an outsider. News editor Karen DeYoung declared the idea "not the best in the world. . . . There's no question that someone following you around all day is an inconvenience." Columnist Nick Thimmesch found the experience "very intimidating."73 He recalled
5 They Dare to Speak Out
a comment of one staffer that expressed the view of many: "Next thing you know, someone else will be in here."
Washington Post ombudsman Robert J. McCloskey termed the week a "worthwhile experiment": "Irregular, yes, but so is the shelling news­papers are taking."74 Criticism from the Jewish community diminished somewhat as a result, but editors of other major newspapers were criti­cal of the whole episode. Boston Globe editor Thomas Winship com­mented, "I understand the pressures the Post has been under from the Jewish Community Council, and I have sympathy for what the Post did, but I would hope personally that I would not do it."75 Robert Gibson, foreign news editor of the Los Angeles Times, questioned the fairness of the Post's decision: "I honestly don't know how one could do it for Jews and refuse to do it for Arabs."
When Moshe Arens arrived in Washington as Israeli ambassador to the United States in February 1982, he initiated monitoring and evalu­ation of the coverage given to Israel in American newspapers.76 His scor­ing system showed that the Washington Post had distinguished itself as "by far the most negative" in reporting on Israel and the Middle East in 1982—the year of Israel's invasion of Lebanon. Arens noted with dismay that the massacre of hundreds of civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in the fall of 1982 produced "a tremendous drop in the index, to the lowest point" since the beginning of the weekly survey.
Armed with a battery of graphs and charts, Arens presented his find­ings to Meg Greenfield, editor of the Washington Post editorial pages. Greenfield, who ranked among the most respected voices in U.S. jour­nalism, disputed the very premise of the ratings.77 She protested that the Post had fulfilled its "obligation of fairness" by having "as many of the important Arab and Israeli players as we could speak for themselves on our op-ed page." During the controversial Israeli invasion, pro-Israel commentaries by Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Abba Eban, Henry Kissinger, Alfred Friendly, Shimon Peres, and Arens himself had been printed. Two long editorials from respected Israeli newspapers had also appeared in the Post.
The Boston Globe was the only other paper contacted by Arens because of the low rating he gave its stories about Israel and the Middle East.78 Former editor Thomas Winship recalled that Arens "started right off going after the American press on what he felt was very much a bias
Scattering the Seeds of Catastrophe 5
against Israel." Arens described the Globe as "one of the newspapers with the most negative attitude," and he made this view known to the local Jewish community.79
Like Greenfield, Winship rejected the idea of the ratings system: "My feeling is that having such a list smacks of the Nixon enemies list and strikes me as pretty close to harassment of the media."80 Current Globe editor Ben Bradlee, Jr., describes the Arens study and his meetings with newspaper executives as "an unusually bold demonstration of Jerusalem's effort to put the American press on the defensive and make itself heard among opinion shapers."81
Pressure to "Stop the Ads"
Direct pressure to reject paid advertising that was viewed as being unsympathetic to Israeli interests was applied beginning in late 1982 against major media in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia. The National Association of Arab Americans (NAAA), the oldest Atab American foreign policy lobbying organization in the coun­try, purchased radio air time in these areas for commercials questioning the U.S. governments decision to increase aid to Israel.
Typical of the messages was this one, which was aired in Pennsylvania:
While there are more than twelve million Americans unemployed, with over half a million from Pennsylvania alone, Congress decided to give Israel 2 billion, 485 million of your tax dollars. Senator Arlen Specter [D-PA] is on the Senate Appropriations Committee that wanted to give Israel even more. Is funding for Israel more important than funding for Pennsylvania? Call your senators and ask them if they voted to give your tax dollars to Israel.82
Thirreen Pennsylvania stations contracted to catry the NAAA mes­sage. Four of these canceled the ads after only three days of an agreed-upon five-day run. Mike Kirtner, an ad salesman representing two stations in Allentown, informed the NAAA that its ads were being taken off the air because "they were getting a lot of calls, hate calls, and a lot of pressure was coming down on the station to stop the ads." Station management refused to comment on who was pressuring the station to take the ads off the air.
5 They Dare to Speak Out
Mike George, a salesman for an Erie station that canceled the ads, was more frank. He informed the NAAA that the station owner had been called by "a group of Jewish businessmen who told him that if he did not cancel the ads immediately, they were going to cause his radio and television stations to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars."
In Maryland, the NAAA sponsored similar messages citing the prominence of Congressman Clarence "Doc" Long (D-MD) in sup­porting aid to Israel.83 Although the ads were aired on four stations in Washington, D.C, as well as four in the Baltimore area, a number of sta­tions refused to carry them, calling them "anti-Semitic."
Later, in California, the NAAA found that stations in San Francisco, San Mateo, Berkeley, and Santa Clara were unwilling to carry the NAAA's paid message, despite editorial statements in some local news­papers supporting the NAAA's right to free speech. The stations offered no reason for their refusal.84
Ron Cathell, who served as communications director for the NAAA before its merger with the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Com­mittee, was not surprised by this apparent lack of accountability: "This has happened to us before. People have been threatened with financial losses to prevent them from having a talk show with us or running our ads. [But] it hasn't happened to this degree before. This week was really pretty stunning." Cathell added: "The only way to get [the Middle East conflict] resolved is to talk about it. And if we can't talk about it here in the United States, how do we expect them to talk about it in the Mid­dle East?"85
"Someone Even Managed to Defecate intn a Photocopier"
Israel's March 2002 incursion into the West Bank prompted unprece­dented coverage of the Palestinian plight. Unfortunately, most of that coverage was presented outside of the United States. British Independent correspondent Robert Fisk, who has lived for years in Beirut, listed some of the disinformation tactics that accompanied the military assault, including "dishonest attempts to label any criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism, fraudulent assertions that the Israeli army behaves with restraint, mass rallies, and continued attempts to portray Palestinians as beast-like, suicidal animals."
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"Europeans," Fisk continued, "are becoming weary of this cynical, ruthless conflict, tired of being called anti-Semites when they object to Israel's occupation. . . . And despite the roar of the old pro-Israeli pun­dits on the U.S. east coast and Israel's lobbying power over Congress, Americans are infuriated by the gutless, supine Middle East policies of their own government."86
One of these Americans is former CIA political analyst Kathleen Christison, who wrote an article questioning the "anti-Semitic" label so often used to silence critics of Israel. She cited an article by "honest, courageous" Israeli reporter Amira Hass, in which Hass described the devastation caused by Israeli forces during their month-long occupation of the Palestinian Ministry of Culture. In addition to damaging com­puters, books, and furniture, Hass offered the following, deeply dis­turbing images:
"There are two toilets on every floor, but the soldiers urinated and defecated everywhere else in the building, in several rooms in which they had lived for about a month. They did their business on the floors, in emptied flowerpots, even in drawers they had pulled out of desks. They defecated into plastic bags, and these were scattered in several places. Some of them had burst. Someone even managed to defecate into a pho­tocopier. Relative to other places, the soldiers did not leave behind them many sayings scrawled on the walls. Here and there were the cande­labrum symbols of Israel, Stars of David, praises for the Jerusalem Betar soccer team."
Reacting to the Hass report, Christison was "forced to ask some questions that the American majority will no doubt never hear." For example: "Can it, for instance, be called terrorism if an entire unit of the Israeli army forsakes purity of arms and spends a month crapping on floors, on piles of children's artwork, in desk drawers, on photocopiers? Is this self-defense, or 'rooting out the terrorist infrastructure'? Is it anti-Semitic to wonder what happened to the moral compass of a society that spawns a group of young men who will intermingle their own reli­gious and national symbols with feces and urine, as if the drawings and the excrement both constitute valued autographs?"87
Being labeled anti-Semitic is not, of course, the worst thing that can happen to a journalist. Quite a few, as noted earlier, receive death threats. Some are physically attacked. Fisk wrote: "Almost anyone who criticizes
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U.S. or Israeli policy in the Middle East is now in this free-fire zone. My own colleague in Jerusalem, Phil Reeves, is one of them. So are two of the BBC's reporters in Israel, along with Suzanne Goldenberg of The Guardian—all highly respected, eloquent reporters with a history of bal­ance and objectivity in their reporting—and none of them American." Despite attempts at fairness, Fisk wrote, "the damage has been done. As journalists, our lives are now forfeit to the Internet haters. If we want a quiet life, we will just have to toe the line, stop criticizing Israel or Amer­ica. Or just stop writing altogether."
Arabs and Muslims Organize
Thankfully, journalists like Fisk and Hass have not lowered their stan­dards or ceased working altogether. And while their counterparts in the mainstream American media are difficult to locate, those reporters encounter great support from the burgeoning Arab American and Mus­lim American communities.
Muslim Americans have finally entered the mainstream of U.S. pol­itics. In the spring of 1998, Muslim policy organizations, under the lead­ership of American Muslim Alliance (AMA) founder Dr. Agha Saeed, formed a coordinating council. It consists of the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the American Muslim Council (AMC), and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), in addition to AMA. While the other groups follow broader agendas, the AMA focuses entirely on persuading Muslims to enter the political arena at all levels. In 2000, more than 700 Muslims were candidates for public office, and 152 were victorious.
Arab American organizations provide services parallel to those of the Muslim groups. Of these, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), founded in 1980 by former U.S. Senator James Abourezk, has the largest membership. It is headed by Ziad Asali, M.D., a Palestinian Muslim who formerly operated a clinic in my Illinois con­stituency. His wife Naila, an Egyptian-born Christian, left her career to become the president of ADC and, later, a member of its board of direc­tors. During our first meeting in Illinois in 1985, Mr. and Mrs. Asali mentioned their plan to retire from their professional careers and move to Washington, D.C, in order to devote their full time to challenges
Scattering the Seeds of Catastrophe 5
facing Arab Americans. The National Association of Arab Americans (NAAA) is now consolidated with the ADC, with former president Khalil Jahshan now serving as vice president. The Asali-Jahshan team brings commitment, skill in human relations, and broad experience to the cause.
Also notable is Ray Hanania, an award-winning Chicago journalist turned media consultant, who founded the Arab American View monthly newspaper in 1999. The same year, Hanania organized the National Arab-American Journalism Association, for which he serves as director. At the organizations second conference in Chicago in March 2002, 145 Arab American journalists from across the nation and several other coun­tries participated. Hanania is author of the book I Am Glad I Look Like a Terrorist: Growing Up Arab in America. As a volunteer in Palestine, he recently trained local officials in media relations. A man of diverse tal­ents, he moonlights as a stand-up comedian in Chicago nightclubs.
The Arab American Institute (AAI), whose agenda includes public policy issues as well as partisan activity through both major parties, is headed by its founder, Dr. James Zogby. The AAI helps carry out voter registration and partisan activities by Arab Americans. Zogby is a veteran campaigner for Palestinian rights, a columnist, and a frequent guest on television discussion programs.
Both ADC and AAI sponsor seminars, workshops, and activities on Capitol Hill and at the community level. Working closely with Muslim gtoups, they are established as a feature of the American political land­scape. Will they become an effective counterbalance to Israel's lobby in time to avert the "filthy war," as Robert Fisk describes it, from engulf­ing America in a horrifying catastrophe?
12What Price Israel?

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