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April 13, 2012

Israel Critic Rami Khouri is Upstaged by an NPR Listener

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National Public Radio, as in the April 10, 2012 broadcast of the Talk of the Nation call-in show, persists in relying on Lebanon-based journalist Rami Khouri as a guest on discussion shows in which he frequently conveys misinformation about Israel and the Middle East. CAMERA has detailed Khouri’s tendency to snipe at Israel here, here and here.

According to Harvard University,“Rami George Khouri is a Palestinian-Jordanian and U.S. citizen whose family resides in Beirut, Amman, and Nazareth. He is director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut. His journalistic work includes writing books and an internationally syndicated column, and he also serves as editor at large of the Beirut-based Daily Star newspaper.”

But Khouri’s patrons including Harvard University (Belfer Center), American University of Beirut, PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, as well as NPR, take no public notice of his false equivalence, lumping Israeli behavior – essentially that of self-defense – with that of anti-democratic Arab/Islamic regimes that threaten their neighbors and repress their own citizens.

Khouri’s slanted perspective on the Jewish state often echoes institutional Arab anti-Israel propaganda. Examples are his Daily Star commentaries in 2012 on March 21 and March 10.

Early in the April 10 thirty-minute discussion of the turmoil in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, Khouri, while downplaying the issues of enmity between Sunni and Shia Muslims and – Muslim antagonism toward the Christian Arab minority, declares that the Arab uprisings are about wanting “to have something closer to Belgium or Switzerland or even the United States, where people can more or less live a decent life knowing that there's a single standard of law that applies to everybody.” This despite popular support and voter turn out for Islamists and, as in Libya, where public opinion surveys show a majority more interested in Islamic rule than democracy.

At the discussion’s midpoint, Khouri aims his customary defamation dart at Israel in listing those he alleges are responsible for conditions causing the uprisings: “It’s not only the Arabs who need to be accountable but foreign armies that invade the region, occupation forces like the Israelis and others, the Iranians, the Turks...”

Khouri added, “An overwhelming majority of Syrians want this regime to change” and suggested that the promise of the new leaders emerging in Syria and elsewhere – to respect human rights of all citizens – can be relied upon.

But Khouri is upstaged by a woman calling from Pennsylvania offering a far different perspective:

I’m a Syrian-American. I grew up in the United States. My parents decided to leave Syria when Hafez al-Assad was in power. Of course the heir apparent was always his son Basil. It was not Bashar. Basil was killed. And then when Bashar came into power, my parents decided to move back to Syria. We are Christians. I have to say that we had a nice life. I had been going back and forth every holiday to celebrate. In Syria we have friends who are of all ethnic backgrounds – Alawites, Shia, Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Armenians in the north. I have to say that we’ve had freedom of religion. And things actually have been quite good under Bashar al-Assad.

I’m afraid of what’s going to happen afterwards. The people in the streets are Islamists and we don’t want an Islamic country. It’s now a secular government. Yes, it’s not perfect but the curse of the Middle East is its rulers, unfortunately. I’ll tell you whatever is going to come after him is going to be far much worse. Look at what’s happening in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood said they’d never float a candidate for president. Now, they’re doing it. They will always go back on their words. It’s a shame but it’s true. But the majority that I know – and I know a lot of people in Damascus – are just hunkered down in their houses right now, and they’re afraid to go in the streets, but they’re supporting Bashar al-Assad.

Host Neal Conan noted that “The record for Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities has not always been happy as these regimes have changed in many Arab states.”

Khouri countered, only slightly backing off his previous assurance of the reliability of Islamist public declarations of respect for human rights:

Well, we haven’t really had many experiences with regime changes and what the caller is saying is correct to a certain extent where you do have a lot of people who support the regime. Some of them feel that a different regime might actually not give everyone the same opportunities. But the problem is that, like in Iraq, it was the same thing. You had Christians who could do everything they want – Jews, Christians. And I’m a Christian myself and – but the fact is that an overwhelming majority of the entire population had no real civil rights or political rights or equal opportunity and there was massive deterioration in quality, in economic access to resources and job opportunities ... About the Islamists taking over, one of the things we have to really follow very closely to what they are saying – including the Muslim Brothers in Syria who have made some statements – they are all coming out now with very clear statements about their commitment to secular governments. These are Muslim people – the majority of Arabs are Muslims like the majority of Americans are Christians – but they recognize the rights of people who are different minorities and they are committed to a secular government. And this is something that has to be monitored very, very closely.

(Click here to listen to the entire discussion).

Khouri's projection that Islamists like those in Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood are committed to secular government and minority rights is untested and quite possibly, like his chronic sniping at Israel, unfounded. His claim that Iraqi Jews – forced out decades ago – and Iraqi Christians, who in large numbers have fled post-Saddam Hussein intimidation and murder by Muslim Iraqis "could do everything they want" is nonsensical. Nevertheless, he remains a popular resource for NPR and others.

Khouri can be contacted at rami.khouri@dailystar.com.lb and NPR can be contacted here.



Posted by MK at April 13, 2012 07:15 PM

Comments

Here's an article Camera should print.
Khouri comes from this logic like most Arabs.

http://dakhane.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/israel-did-it/
“Israel did it!”
Omar Dakhane Blog
April 13, 2012
This is the quickest and easiest answer you will always get in the Arab world when asking the reason any problem happens to them. Who created poverty in the Arab world? Israel. Who caused diseases to spread in the Arab world? Israel. Who created natural disasters in the Arab world? Well, it’s nature but Israel certainly had something to do with it.

By blaming Israel for everything wrong, the Arabs feel more relaxed about their lives, since it’s not their problem anymore and they don’t have to do anything about it, except blame Israel for “causing” it.

In some Arab countries, you can question anything except faith and conspiracy theories related to Israel and the Jews, and this comes mainly from the anti-Semitic idea that Jews are always conspiring against the Muslim and Arab world, an idea proven false many times.

This idea goes on against the United States as well. Some Arab countries won’t publicly call the United States the “Great Satan” like Iran does, but they do teach this ideology to their kids in school and they build their whole educational system to revolve around the idea of blaming others.

This is why we have generations of Arab youth who aren’t angry at their parents or at themselves for not doing anything to improve their lives and societies. Instead, they are angry at the United States and Israel and blame these two countries for almost every problem on earth, and to them, that’s not an opinion, that’s a fact.

Blaming others for your own faults means that you will never be able to fix them, especially when you play the blame game for hundreds of years without ever even trying to fix anything. It’s always easy to accuse others as the cause of your own problems, but that won’t make them go away. Wearing the label of victim is glorified in the Arab world, where everyone is crying morning and evening on how the rest of the world isn’t fair to us, while forgetting – or ignoring – the real reasons for why the rest of the world is moving forward, and we keep crawling backward.

Posted by: Ed Frias at April 15, 2012 01:50 PM

how come the media chooses to ignore the way Christians and Jews were made so uncomfortable in Iraq, Syria, Iran, etc that most left? How come the massacre in Homs under the first Assad gets no mention? How come the annihilation of the Baha'i community in Iran gets ignored? How come the continued attacks against Israelis by Palestinians in Israel and by Hamas?
Does anyone care that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was greeted enthusiastically by Adolph Hitler?
Does anyone care that there are no churches, etc in Saudi Arabia?

Posted by: jack chachkes at April 21, 2012 08:38 PM

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