TV Arabs: Fouad, James, and Clovis - MER FlashBack
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TV Arabs: Fouad, James, and Clovis - MER FlashBack

"He has criticized the Secretary of State... and I think that is wrong!" James Zogby, Arab-American Institute CNN - 8/27


Why have things gotten so depressingly miserable when it comes to mass media coverage of the Middle East, especially in the United States? There is no single answer, no magic bullet solution. The answer is quite complex and multi-faceted in fact.

It's not just the terrible policies being pursued by Washington; and the still-growing propaganda capabilities of the U.S. Government. It's not just the power and influence of the Israeli/Jewish lobby; and the intimidation capabilities that lobby has such a reputation for. Nor is it just the still-increasing big-corporate control of radio, TV, and print journalism -- indeed media ownership by the very corporations and personalities that make up the huge military-industrial complex and entertainment industry.

One other major factor that is little discussed is the still-growing presence of co-opted "client organizations" and the many on-the-take public relations hacks they promote. And then these same groups and persons in turn co-opt their own communities shamelessly promoting themselves with the incestuous corporate media, largely to promote and protect the regimes that in actuality sponsor them.

This MER FlashBack from a few years ago tells part of the story. Then upcoming soon from MER articles about a few of the more egregious MiddleEast-related multi-million dollar organizational scandals that also help explain why today's situation is as deplorably depressing as it is.

And yes, there is a similar but considerably more complex phenomena when it comes to the American Jewish community, and to its interlocking but much more professional and powerful group of organizations and spokesman. MER has dealt with that too in the past; and will again in the future

MER FLASHBACK: Washington Scene: "TV ARABS"

F O U A D, J A M E S, and C L O V I S - T H E " T V A R A B S "

[MER - MID-EAST REALITIES - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 10/10/98]: When the American mass media needs to flash "Arab" on the screen pretending to some kind of semblance of "balance", they know whom to call on. These are the faces, names and "Arab" identifications one sees on the screen politely commenting these days about "terrorism" and "peace process". These are the tried and true, always politically correct, "tamed" and controlled Arab Americans. Largely despised by the Arab American grassroots -- the more you know them the more you loath them -- they are always ready, waiting and willing to play the TV Arabs game.

At the top of this list is Fouad Ajami, an academic cum "analyst" of southern Lebanese and Iranian ancestry. The darling at CBS and of Dan Rather -- where he has earned his widespread infamy -- Fouad actually got his start as an Arab protégé of the Israeli/Jewish lobby.

For the past two decades Ajami has been pushed forward, very well paid in the process, by a number of major Zionist publishers in Washington eager to promote this intellectualized Uncle Tomish Arab -- most especially Martin Peretz at The New Republic and Morton Zuckerman at U.S. News & World Report. To make this easy to understand, think of Fouad this way: Justice Clarence Thomas is to the American black community as Professor Fouad Ajami is to the American Arab community. Need more be said?

Then there is James Zogby, a kind of public relations guy put in place by the conservative Arab regimes, most especially the Saudis, to misrepresent Arab Americans as badly as the regimes do their own people. True, in the way he craftily expresses his views Zogby is one step up from Ajami. But actually Zogby is both more dangerous and more misrepresentative, for after his name flashes the association: "Arab American Institute". Ajami, to his miserable credit, doesn't publicly claim to represent Arab Americans. Zogby does!

Indeed, Zogby is the darling of the Saudis and their many cut-out organizations. Among other things they feature James weekly on their cable TV system, "Arab Network of America", ANA, which they use unashamedly to propagandize Arab Americans, just as they use Middle East Broadcasting in Europe as well as a number of print publications, including "Middle East International" in the UK and "Washington Report on Middle East Affairs" in the US.

True enough, there is little grass-roots reality to this "AAI" concoction other than a few dozen of the most right-wing Arab American businessmen who are closely aligned with the Arab regimes and who are continually rewarded by them for their efforts. But most Americans don't know any better. Most actually think Zogby and his cabal are for real. Overall, what a disgraceful situation for those of Arab and Muslim ancestry.

Additionally, when it comes to Zogby, there are the long-present rumors, difficult if not impossible to completely confirm, that Zogby and friends have for a long time had under the table relations not only with major players in the Israeli-Jewish lobby, but also with the CIA. Indeed, Ghossan Zogby was the first CIA station chief in Lebanon back in the 1960s, and some in the know believe that the Zogby family has had very shady connections of various kinds for a very long time. It should also be remembered that when Bill Clinton was first elected, quickly proceeding to appoint the most Israeli-connected personalities ever to key positions in his Administration, it was none other than Jim Zogby who publicly came forward to compliment Clinton for his "great" and "even-handed" appointments. Hard to believe...but true!

And then there is the granddaddy of them all. And since he has been around the longest and has allowed, indeed aided, this dastardly situation to develop in order to promote his own fortunes, in a sense he's the worst of all. In a way "Dr. Clovis" Maksoud can be compared to "Dr. Ruth" -- he's always got something verbosely interesting to say for anyone who will listen; but one has to always wonder, as with Dr. Ruth, if he really has any first hand experience with what he is constantly gabbing about.

Largely a creature of another of those pathetically co-opted institutions, the Arab League, Clovis masquerades these days as an academic at American University, where he helps bring them money from the arms and oil bazaars of the Arab elite -- including that of international swindler Adnan Khashoggi whose name prominently adorns the huge building near Clovis' tailor-made and well-financed "Institute".

But in reality Clovis is also at heart a political hack, in his case a kind of bombastic baffonish rhetorical entertainer who in Washington for decades now has long served the regimes as a kind of "enforcer" keeping everyone else of Arab background either in line or excluded from the party.

Bottom Line: Maksoud is a very big talker and a very small doer who shifts in the political winds in whatever ways will most feather his own nest. Those who know Clovis best listen to him least; while those who know him least are oftentimes impressed with his rhetorical gab, unaware how hollow and without substance Clovis' rhetorical flourishes always prove to be as well as how unbelievably hypocritical and self-serving Clovis always is.

The larger importance of Clovis in Washington, where he has been since the 1970s, is that he and a few other Arab Ambassadors have grandfathered the entire despicable situation that today exists in the U.S. capital among "official" Arab Americans. He and his friends gave birth to the current crop of impotent and incestuous Arab-American organizations. And these days they preside over it all making sure everyone toes the line, speaking the assigned lines at the right time and in the right places.

There are other "tamed" and subsidized Arabs around; this list is hardly complete.

There's Khalil Jahshan, who for many years now has bled dry the "National Association of Arab Americans" (NAAA) of both funds and credibility. Jahshan gives the others a run for the most self-serving award; but he's not important enough to be elevated to the big leagues.

There's Hassan Rahman, now-a-days "Ambassador" of the Palestinians. Rahman has nothing of credit to his name other than years of loyalty to Yasser Arafat and considerable money he's managed to squirrel away that belongs not to him but to the Palestinian people. A protégé of Clovis, Rahman is so oily he makes some of the others look good at times.

And there are many junior players of the Uncle Tomish variety. Some like Ray Hanania, home-base Chicago, do alot of the grunt and dirty work for the big boys. Others, right-wing business types like Elias Aburdene, busy themselves with joint-venture deals with the Israelis claiming (grossly deceitfully) that they are helping the Palestinian cause. With many millions made available by the Americans and the Saudis to promote the "peace process" (i.e., U.S. and Israeli policies and interests) in a great variety of ways, the list of persons close to the quisling and collaborator categories has grown considerably in recent years.

And there is the tragic case of Osama Siblani, publisher of the "Arab American News" in Dearborn, Michigan, the largest center of Arab Americans in the US. Like small publishers in the Middle East who are either co-opted or frightened into submission by the "client regimes" that control their people -- let's not call it govern or even rule -- so too with once aspiring journalists like Siblani. In danger of total failure and bankruptcy after years of attempting something worthwhile, Siblani sold out in the years after the Gulf War and rather than pursuing his goal of publishing a serious and respectable national Arab American weekly he today publishes a small, local, mediocre rag which features columns from non other than Zogby and Jahshan.

Indeed, Zogby especially is extra busy these days posting his by-lined weekly column far and wide -- paying and cajoling his way following the lead of his Saudi sponsors. Along with Muslim allies he has helped set up in Washington in recent years, most especially the American Muslim Council (AMC) and its founder Abdulrahman Alamoudi, in the past year Zogby and friends have even managed to infiltrate and corrupt groups like the Muslim Student Association (MSA).

All of these "Arab spokesman" have a few things in common:

They are all tamed, politically correct, and working in one way or another for, or with, various Arab regimes and/or the Jewish/Israeli lobby, however under the table.

They are all rhetorically gifted, but like a beautiful woman they trade on that gift selling themselves to those buying mouths rather than bodies (not that a great deal of the body buying isn't going on as well...but that's a totally different story).

They are all extraordinarily self-serving, exceedingly hypocritical, and very much tuned-in to the prostrate ways of contemporary Washington where three things rule when it comes to the Middle East -- the power of the Israeli/Jewish lobby, the money of the Saudi and other Gulf regimes, and the terrible corruption of the media brought about by the previous two.

Comment on these article(s)

February 2002


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TV Arabs: Fouad, James, and Clovis - MER FlashBack
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Why have things gotten so depressingly miserable when it comes to mass media coverage of the Middle East, especially in the United States? There is no single answer, no magic bullet solution. The answer is quite complex and multi-faceted in fact.

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