Thursday, August 31, 2006

Reverse spin on Israel

Dr George Bisharat, a UC law professor of Palestinian descent, gave a talk at our local Muslim center a couple of weeks back. The theme for the evening was the then-ongoing war in Lebanon, so it was rather surprising that Bisharat took the opportunity to announce the birth of a organisation called IMEU (Institute for Middle East Understanding), and dedicated all of his talk to it.

IMEU is supposed to be a one-stop shop for American mediapersons wanting information on the Middle East, specifically the Palestinian/Arab viewpoint, and Bisharat made a pretty convincing case for IMEU to exist. According to him, American and Western media has long suffered from a slant towards Israel and this has been largely because of the fact that while Zionist Americans are very media-savvy, Palestinian Americans are not. Apparently, there are dozens of Zionist media groups who overwhelm reporters with the Israeli angle on Middle East happenings and bombard newspapers with pro-Israel articles, while Palestinian/Arab Americans groups to their loss have never had a cohesive media strategy. Bisharat announced that in the short time since it has started operating, IMEU already has to its credit about three dozen pro-Palestinian op-eds "planted" in national and regional newspapers.

That said, the idea of an organisation like this being "successful" sends a chill down the spine. One it tempted to compare IMEU's potential with the unbridled and unscrupulous clout that AIPAC holds in American polity. AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), rich in funds from American Zionists, is supposed to be the most powerful lobbying group in Washington. By funding campaigns of politicians on both sides, AIPAC ensures small victories (e.g., the 410-8 Congress vote supporting Israel's invasion of Lebanon) as well as momentous historical acts (e.g., the invasion of Iraq) in Israel's favor (read The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy). Undoubtedly, AIPAC is as much of an idol as a bane for Palestinian activists.

In a nation where mass media flaunts tremendous control of public policy, and the footfalls of which policy cause termors across the globe, an organisation with sinister spin-doctoring objectives like IMEU spells dark forebodings. I hope I never have to recount to my grandchildren how one warm August evening, I saw the birth of a monster.

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