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October 17, 2003     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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October 17, 2003

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PAGE 10 HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, OCTOBER 17, to Arab, '41 ,q photo by Tina Hager/White House President Bush participates in a roundtable discussion with Arab and Muslim American leaders at the Afghan Embassy in Washington in 2002. ByRon Kampeas willcontinuetogrowandpose Edward Djerejian, a former a security threat. U.S. ambassador to Israel and WASHINGTON, D.C. Those are among the con- Syria. (JTA)--"Seinfeld"airs on Syr- clusions of a congressional Panel members said Israel ianTVtwiceaday, andteach- report that found that would benefit from such an ers there use"Friends'toteach America's public diplomacy in approach, because its alliance English. the Arab and Muslim world with the United States would In the post-Sept. 11 world, needs an overhaul, be seen in the context of an when the cultural gap between Cold War levels of outreach America that also cares about the United States and the are needed to explain and de- the Arab world's future. Middle East has clearpolitical fend U.S. Middle East policy, "The fact that the United consequences, some might the team that did the research States has been part of trying thinkthatexposuretothebest said. to resolve" the Arab-Israeli of Americanpopculturewould "The United States today conflict over the years "needs sensitize the Arab and Muslim lacks the capabilities in public tobeemphasized much more," world to American lifestyles diplomacytomeetthenational said Stephen P. Cohen, a pan- andvalues, security threat emanating elistandnationalscholarwith Yet without the context to from political instability, eco- the Israel Policy Forum. understand such globally per- nomic deprivation and ex- Israel'sForeignMinistryhas vasiveAmericanculturalphe- tremism, especiallyintheArab studied the report, and offi- nomena, Arab and Muslim and Muslim world," says the cials there took at least a little hostility to the United States report by the panel, headed by satisfaction in discovering that they are not alone in being misunderstood by the Arab world. "It shows you can't just press a button and be immediately understood," one Israeli offi- cial said. The idea that America needs to defend its policies more vig- orously marks a rare conver- gence between Iongtime Arabists--some of whom were on the panel--and Israel's most vocal defenders in Wash- ington. "They gave a blunt assess- ment of what's gone wrong," said Robert Satloffofthe Wash- ington Institute for Near East Policy, who in the past has been harshly critical of U.S. public diplomacy policy as es- poused by State Department veterans like Djerejian. The panel said that empha- sizing the U.S. commitment to a fair solution to the Arab- Israeli conflict should be just one component of a new pub- lic-relations strategy. The United States also should em- phasize its role in defending Muslims from non-Muslims in Bosnia, and in intervening in intra-Muslim conflicts in So- malia and the Sahara, the re- port recommended. Above all, the report, en- titled, "Changing Minds, Win- ning Peace," advised against "spin" and manipulations. "Public diplomacy is about telling it the way it is, some- times even if it means people won't like your ideas," said Shibley Telhami, a University Weekly Pool Service Automatic Pool Cleaners Family Owned Since 1954 Chlorine Generators Open Sundays 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. Mon-Sat 6 Same Day Service Available On Pumps Filters Heaters, Equipment Repair Pool Supplies I on any ! service call I expires 10/31/03 b 631 N. Orlando Ave (17-92) Maitland The Radisson Barcel6 Hotel & Resort Orlando is the perfect place for all of your family traditions/ Whether you are planning an intimate affair for 25 or a gala event for 350, let our Professional Staff assist you every step of the way. 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"When you look at our expla- nation for Iraq, overthrowing a ruthless dictator and bring- ing about a democracy--that may have been a reason, but not the only reason or even the critical reason." Extolling democracy leads to unrealis- tic expectations about a quick transition to self-rule and fur- ther reduces trust, Telhami said. Instead, he said, the United States should have ex- plained the war primarily in terms of its strategic interest Members of the panel trav- eled to Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Senegal, Morocco and Mus- lim communities in Europe. They also held video confer- ences with people in Pakistan and Indonesia. Reaction to the report in the Muslim world was muted, with some saying that the per- ception of U.S. arrogance runs too deep to be upended quickly. According to the panel, the crisis of perception stems from the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the belief that democracy had tri- umphed worldwide precipi- tated spending cuts of up to 50 percent in public diplomacy budgets. The U.S. Information Agency, an organization that thrived on disseminating in- formation, was rolled into the State Department, an organi- zation that thrives on hoard- ing it. That was a shame, Djerejian said. Outreach to the Arab and Muslim world accounts for just $150 million of the $500 mil- lion budgeted for public diplo- macy---even though, since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, it's clear that Arabs and Muslims are probably the most urgent targets for such diplomacy. "Remember, this is 1.5 bil- lion people in the world," Djerejian said."And then when we parsed it down and looked at salaries and overhead, we realized that what's left in pub- lic diplomacy outreach is $25 million--which is, as we put in the report, absurdly inad- equate." The report showed that other nations were far more successful, spending far less money, in making the case as a friend to the Arab world. "The Japanese seem to get more credit for building Cairo's opera house than the U.S. does for building the city's critical infrastructure," in- cluding sewer, drinking water and electrical systems, the re- port said. Making matters worse, Ar- abs see U.S.- and Israel-related news every day on Arab TV stations l ikeAI-Jazeera, which often present the news with a pronounced bias and without context or explanation of the U.S. perspective. That's not because the Arab stations are unwilling to host Americans; its because of a paucity of Americans capable of appearing, the report found. "Foreign Service officers who are fluent in Arabic im- mediately convey a sense of respect for and interest in the people to whom they speak," the report said, "and fluency prevents the distortion of translation." "We're urging a total reinvigoration of lan- guage training in the Foreign Service," Djerejian said. The report recommends hiring at least 600 Arabic speakers, including 300 pable of appearing on deb# shows. Currently there arc only five, Djerejian said. Even apparently benign ex" amples of American culture can pose problems, the says. "In Damascus prised to find 'Seinfeld' twice daily," the report saidi~ a footnote. "A Syrian asked us plaintively for help explaining American life to her students. 'Does 'Friends' show a family?'" The panel's record" mended remedies include dra" matic increases in fundinb greater monitoring of Araba~d Muslim media, and educe" tional exchanges. The report excoriated tlae "feel-good" outreach that go.~ ernment agencies nated after Sept. 11, ing TV ads showin praising their lives in United States and Radio Sa~ ~ a recently launched Top-40 radio station reaching rnoS* points of the Arabic-speaki~ world. If the Bush administrati0~ takes the dations to heart--and the partisan welcome for the re- port suggests that it willI there still will be differences of opinion over which reco~" mendations deserve empM" sis. The panel wants to expa~l existing educational outrearia' while Satloff worries that tile United States has sometime~ sent out lecturers who dis" agree with U.S. policy. Djerejian said that 80 pe " cent of America's image prow" lem in the Arab world had t do with U.S. policies - - to, example, on Iraq and Isra :,e~" But he noted that overhaulir$ the 20 percent that has to .~, with public diplomacy cool dO temper resistance to IJ.S. policy. "When you try to unde!" stand where the other side:~s, coming from," Djerejian ~ " nowle you have a body of k that can help craft more herent and intelligent POI!: cies. Arab diplomat Hesb,~ E1Nakib, director of public io" formation for the EgYP!! Embassy, said policy dill.e~ ences will never be obscur~: by public relations, no how effective NevertheleSS, la. said, there was room for sor~ improvement. "The State Department ~ exerted some effort, but more efforts need to be oy,: when it comes to, the ences in cultures, he sal : e Some worried that panel's mandate, which itly excluded commenton ^~ rent policy, was too narr~0f Daniel Pipes, the direct~l~0 the Middle East ForUm ,~ recently joined the federV'J mandated U.S. Institute for Peace, salu administration's relucta" t# address radical Islam rnu~' effective diplomacy. "If you don't Pipes said. "They tal~ terror. Terror is a an enemy. It would be 1941, declaring war prise attacks." Still, among that the Arab-Musli is ripe for tilling. "an i0" As one of our Iran M~ terlocutors put it, '~, .~t ' "e IIV=%P anything against hf~, . ~? and the pursuit ofl~Ppl "the report asked.