Egypt is the undisputed leader of the Arab world. It has a rich culture, an ancient history, a powerful army, and world-renowned educational facilities. It was the first Arab country to make peace with Israel, and it is considered to be the United States’ leading Arab ally.
Unfortunately, Egypt also has a press that is blatantly and consistently racist, anti-American, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic. The shame of Egyptian journalism is compounded by the fact that much of the press is government-sponsored.
Take, for example the February 27 editorial in the government-backed Al-Akhbar newspaper, discussing Secretary of State Colin Powell’s recent visit to the Middle East:
The American Secretary of State did not hesitate to demonstrate humiliation and submission when he recently visited Israel. He stood humble, a Jewish yarmulke on his head, in front of the memorial of the false Holocaust of the Jews in WWII. He also sat in front of the new Israeli leadership like a student listening to the opinions of that same leadership that opposes the American role in the peace process, without being able to answer! Furthermore, he praised Sharon and attacked Arafat with unjustified cruelty.
Editor-in-Chief of Al-Akhbar, Galal Duweidar, continued the attack on the American Secretary of State:
I can swear that the Jewish yarmulke that Powell put on his head during his visit in Israel was the reason for his surprise [at the Arab reaction to the bombings in Iraq]. Certainly this cursed yarmulke causes whoever wears it to lose his righteousness, to forget justice, and to free himself of any wisdom or logic.
Another Al-Akhbar columnist, Muhammad Abd Al-Muni’m Murad, wrote on March 11:
With this minister [Powell], the U.S. has become a joke and everyone has begun to say: ‘We miss you, oh Madeleine, in spite of all of your initiatives. Truly, you were a hundred times better than this arrogant general.’ We Arabs must restore this man’s wisdom, if he has any, and awaken him from his slumber, if he can be awakened. We must teach him a lesson so that he understands that his command of the forces that opposed the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait does not qualify him to be king of the Arab world and the Gulf.
(An excellent resource is www.memri.org, which provides up-to-date translations of articles from the Arab world.)
On March 13, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen gave his analysis of the Egyptian press:
Throughout the Arab world, the most ugly and ridiculous anti-American, anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic diatribes are routinely published in the press or aired on radio and television — and always with either the acquiescence or the prompting of the government.
The Holocaust is often trivialized. Israelis are often characterized as mendacious and devious Jews who live up to every imaginable anti-Semitic stereotype. Conspiracies abound, and they account, as they must, for the plight of the Palestinians and even the Iraqis who suffer under the U.N.-imposed embargo. Most of this junk is printed in government-supported newspapers since somehow, while the evil Israelis have a free press, the virtuous Arab world does not.
Cohen’s column is online at:
The Egyptian government has a standard response to such criticism: “The Egyptian press is a free press, and the Egyptian government has no influence over it.” However, according to the U.S. State Department’s “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” released last month, the Egyptian government maintains considerable control over the press. It owns stock in the three largest daily newspapers and appoints their editors in chief. The government also holds a monopoly on newsprint in Egypt and on the printing and distribution of newspapers.
See the human rights report at: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2000/nea/index.cfm?docid=784
If you believe that the Egyptian articles contain dangerous rhetoric, you can write a letter in your own words to the following public officials, or use our pre-written letter below. As always, please be respectful in your correspondence.
President George W. Bush – firstname.lastname@example.org
Vice President Dick Cheney – email@example.com
Secretary of State Collin Powell – firstname.lastname@example.org
Your Senator – find e-mail address at www.senate.gov, or write to:
Your Congressman – use the form at http://www.house.gov/writerep/
– Foreign Minister — ForMin@idsc.gov.eg
– Nabil Fahmy, Ambassador to the U.S. — Egypt-Embassy@usa.net
– Consul-general in San Francisco — email@example.com
– Egyptian Embassy in London — 26 South Street, London England W1Y6DD
– Al-Ahkbar — 6 Al Sahafa Street, Cairo, Egypt
Finally, send your support to Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen at:
Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.
The United States serves today as Egypt’s strongest ally, providing Egypt annually with billions of dollars in economic and military aid. Egypt’s army is now equipped with the most modern American planes, tanks and weapons systems. I am therefore concerned over recent articles in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Akhbar that attack and ridicule America’s Secretary of State Colin Powell.
A large part of American aid is based on Egypt’s commitment to the peace treaty it signed with Israel, another American ally. I am therefore also concerned over the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic articles that appear in the Egyptian press, including those that deny the Holocaust of six million Jews in World War II.
The U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Report states that the Egyptian government has considerable control over the Egyptian press.
The latest Palestinian violence illustrates the tragic consequences of a government authority failing to prepare its people for peace. Incitement in the Palestinian media clearly set back the peace process. I urge you to work to ensure that the promotion of peace takes on primary importance in Egypt and throughout the Arab world.