February 5, 2004
Daily Star - "Arab-Americans go to battle on television news networks"
The following article on Arab American efforts to communicate in the mass media, particularly television, appears in the Feb. 4 issue of the Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star. It can be read online at:
Special to The Daily Star
WASHINGTON: Two years ago on a now defunct US television program, Hussein Ibish, communications director of the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee (ADC), was involved in a heated debate over the Israel-Palestine conflict with Daniel Pipes, a leading right-wing critic of political Islam and a strident supporter of Israel‘s Likud party. After a barrage of challenges from Ibish, an exasperated Pipes finally yelled at Ibish to “shut up.”
So incensed was Pipes that he followed up the outburst with an editorial, which appeared in both the New York Post and Jerusalem Post, accusing Ibish of everything from pushing a “far left agenda” to leading an “immoral lifestyle” and calling on the American media to “close their doors to someone so far removed from the mainstream of the American debate.”
Pipe‘s editorial blacklisting attempt backfired. Rather than being shunned by the US media, Ibish won new fans and was honored with a spot on The New York Press‘ Best of Manhattan 2002 list for Best TV Spokesperson for the Arab Cause.
“Pipes‘ column,” wrote the New York Press, “was pathetic, undignified and all-too-obvious and it demonstrates how Ibish can drive even his smoothest opponents completely batshit.”
Ibish represents the new Arab-American voice on television: generally young, articulate, and possessing an ingrown understanding of the Americans‘ political culture and 30-second sound-bite media.
On any given day, one can tune in to such popular cable news programs as MSNBC‘s Hardball with Chris Mathews, Fox News‘ The O‘Reilly Factor, and CNN‘s Crossfire, and find Ibish, Sarah Eltantawi of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, or any number of prominent Arab-Americans going head-to-head with the likes of right-wing television evangelist Jerry Falwell, Israeli spokesperson Raanan Gissin, or Pipes.
Arab-Americans, said Ibish, have found their voice. “I think that (we) have been collectively in search of the Holy Grail,” he said. “And that Holy Grail is a language that expresses a certain political idiom. We