[Ikhras Note: During Israel’s eight-day onslaught on Gaza a select few Arab and Muslim Americans appeared in the mainstream US media as representatives of the Palestinian side of the conflict or spokespersons for the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim communities. These groups and individuals do not represent the views of the Palestinian, Arab or Muslim communities in the US, and were certainly not appointed as spokespersons for the Palestinian people under occupation.]
To our knowledge, during the entire eight days of Israeli air, sea, and land bombardment of Gaza not a single authentic Palestinian-American voice or any neutral, objective expert on the Arab world was invited to appear or write in mainstream television or print media. Instead what we watched was a parade of pseudo-analysts, Arab Zionists, anti-Palestinian ideologues, self-appointed spokespersons of all stripes, and even a couple of comedians. All of them, without exception, were invited to parrot the Israel narrative, or at best, offer polite criticism of Israel in the name of Palestinians and Arab or Muslim Americans.
Lebanese-American neo-conservative Fouad Ajami appeared on CNN almost daily to do what he does best which is justify every Israeli aggression as the inevitable consequence of the Arabs’ refusal to behave as civilized people. Hussein Ibish, from the American Task Force on Palestine, the Arab-American wing of the pro-Israel lobby, also appeared on CNN & published a couple of articles during this period advocating views no different than Israel’s Ambassador to the US and Ibish’s dinner companion, Michael Oren. Under the façade of somber, objective analysis Ibish offered a version of events that would be welcomed by the propagandists of Benjamin Netanyahu’s (Hussein refers to him with the loving nickname “Bibi”) Zionist regime.
Yet token Arab Zionists like Ajami or Ibish may not be quite as misleading or harmful as the ostensible advocates and defenders of the Palestinians in the US. After all, by now they’re both largely recognized as anti-Arab, pro-Israel ideologues and political fraudsters. Those that are more misleading and damaging are the likes of James Zogby. After issuing a disgraceful statement on Gaza on behalf of his one-man outfit Zogby appeared on MSNBC with his good friend and Zionist fanatic Martin Indyk to have a friendly chat about what the US should be doing. There were no condemnations and no mention of the unconditional US support of Israel’s war crimes. With his characteristic mainstream blathering the quintessential opportunist has always been quite adept at using Israel’s wars on Palestinians and Arabs as a tool in his shameless self-promoting activism.
And it’s not just Arab-Americans. Palestinians are fortunate enough to have a larger group of Muslim Americans from which the mainstream media can pluck out a select few to represent their side within the strictly defined parameters of public discourse on Israel & Palestine in this country. The Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim Public Affairs Council also found an opportunity in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza to promote their organizations in the media. Spokespersons from these two groups, most of whom are not Palestinians or Arabs, were invited based on the sole qualification of belonging to a Muslim-American organization. Unwittingly playing into the Zionist narrative, they’re invited to represent the “Muslim side” in what is framed as a religious war between Muslims and Jews.
A couple of clowns from that quickly proliferating group of very lame and unfunny comedians were also able to get in on the act, and use Israel’s latest murder spree as an opportunity to appear on obscure cable channels to advance a mediocre career on the margins of American pop culture.
None of these organizations or individuals is invited to speak based on their expertise of the region or as authentic voices of Palestinians or Palestinian-Americans. They are selected based on their willingness and ability to strictly follow the rigid mainstream American narrative on Israel and Palestine. Unburdened by the need to appear as defenders of Palestinian rights, token Arab Zionists like Ajami and Ibish offer more relaxed performances while others strain to ostensibly defend the Palestinians without offending American political and media sensibilities. Not a single US media appointed spokesperson for Palestinians, whether identified as Palestinian, Arab, or Muslim or presented as an academic, activist, or community leader offered a clear moral condemnation of Israel’s massacre in Gaza or US government complicity in its war crimes. That was left to those who will rarely, if ever, be invited to appear in mainstream media outlets because they refuse to sacrifice their conscience and humanity in exchange for being designated as “one of the reasonable ones” among the mostly crazy and extremist Arabs or Muslims.
Palestinian-American Human Rights Attorney and Activist Lamis Deek said it best:
When those who suffer most, who pay the ultimate price in Gaza support the resistance, how dare ‘activists’ opine on whether it’s strategic or it ‘alienates Americans’? ….There is no shortage of resources dedicated to publishing the Zionist perspective, are we afraid of the work associated with publishing all other perspectives? Are we afraid of how it reflects on us when it reflects on Palestinians in Gaza as death and destruction…?
And if those alleged academics, activists, comedians, and community leaders (and it’s often difficult to tell them apart) are indeed afraid of condemning Zionist massacres and defending Palestinian rights, including the right to self-defense, they should at least have enough respect for the victims of the aggression they refuse to condemn to simply ikhras.