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The Anti-Arab Ad that Appeared in the IHT | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The Anti-Arab Ad that Appeared in the IHT

The Anti-Arab Ad that Appeared in the IHT

The Anti-Arab Ad that Appeared in the IHT

Asharq Al-awsat-Anyone reading the International Herald Tribune on 15 th June 2005, could not have missed the full page advertisement entitled “What does it take to make peace?” and including four pictures, each with a caption illustrating a different period of the Arab Israeli conflict.

According to the ad, repeated Israeli peace offers, throughout the years, have been met with Arab hostility. In the first picture, a Jordanian soldier holds a gun, another shows the late Egyptian President Jamal Abdel Nasser giving a speech. The third photograph features armed and veiled Palestinian gunmen. The last picture a big question mark ponders the aftermath of Israel ’s planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The ad suggests that “only time will tell” how the Palestinians will react, as “it takes two to make peace.”

Funded by the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the advertisement notes that, since 1979, Israel has signed a peace treaty with two Arab countries: Egypt and Jordan . It also calls on the readers to ask themselves, “When will Palestinians finally seize the moment” and choose to “disarm the terror groups committed to Israel ’s destruction and end the anti- Israeli, anti Semitic incitement”. It asks if the Palestinian leadership is ready for peace or will it continue, as the Israeli diplomat Aba Iban said to “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”?

What the advertisement refrain from saying, however, is more important than what it does mention. For example, the AJC sponsored ad brushes over the Balfour declaration in1917 or continuing Israeli brutality against Palestinians living under occupation. It also doesn’t dwell over Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz’s peace initiative, as endorsed in the Beirut Arab summit, in March 2003. The ad doesn’t recount the Israel response and the siege of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s compound in Ramallah nor does it mention the ensuing massacre in Jenin.

More recently, there is no reference to the separation wall the Israeli Army is building to cut Palestinian towns and villages.

According to an AJC member, the latest advertisement aims to “encourage Israeli citizens to shoulder part of the responsibility in peace making, even if it remains a unilateral effort! The Committee also wanted to reaffirm its commitment to the two-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians live peacefully side by side.”

In response to a question by Asharq Al Awsat on the timing of the ad, AJC Public Relations Manager, Keith Bundler said, “It coincides with the upcoming unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza .” He indicated the Committee “wanted to encourage Israeli not to object to the plan and to remind them that the [Palestinians] have been reckless with regard to its responsibilities toward peace the founding of the state of Israel until today.”

Bundler added that Israeli public opinion was currently divided on the unilateral plan “but the AJC supports the retreat from the Gaza Strip as well as other peace efforts. We want to remind the world that there is a new opportunity for peace, after the death of Arafat. Of course, peace requires bilateral efforts. Since 1948, time has told us that peace is not guaranteed.” As for disregarding the Arab peace initiative in 2002 and other overtures, Bundler replied that since no negotiations had actually taken place, “the initiative was irrelevant to the subject of the advertisement.”

For her part, US journalist Jane Novak explains that the “ US market welcomes advertisements from any group. It is for parties who feel they’ve been wronged or unfairly accused to seize the initiative and announce their points of view or inform the public of the facts.” Novak, who writes for a number of newspapers in New Jersey , adds, “The Palestinians need to understand that the US press is no academic institution teaching history. Rather, newspapers are, above all, profit making companies that publish advertisers’ opinions and their interpretations of history and politics. Accusing the press of bias is nonsensical; it is the duty of the concerned party to taken action to clarify the situation.”

According to the AJC, the advertisement appeared in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the International Herald Tribune, all part of the New York Times publishing empire.

Robert Jensin, Journalism Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, spoke of the rules in US journalism that prohibit the publication of false or misleading advertisement. While these laws are mainly used for consumer goods, they can also be applied in the case of the latest AJC ad. However, the First Amendment in the US Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and the freedom to publish any political opinion, including a specific understanding of history.

Of course, newspapers aren’t obliged to advertise everything that is asked of them; rather, some newspapers follow their own set of rules. Any newspaper has the right to decline ads without any explanation, especially if editors believe its content contradicts the truth.

The Arab League is the last to know!

Asharq Al Awsat has learnt that the League of Arab States, based in Cairo , has no media monitoring division. This unfortunate fact was confirmed by Deputy Secretary General for Media Affairs, Talaat Hamed, who revealed that the existence of a Media Department to gather published information on the League and its activities. Hamed said that he is the official that would reply to offending articles in the media that are submitted to him by the Secretary General Amr Moussa who is first to review the press.

When asked about the latest AJC advertisement, Hamed expressed his surprise and asked Asharq Al Awsat to “please send a copy to see what [the league] can do in this regard” which we promptly did. Ultimately, Hamed added, “the matter is in the hands of the Secretary General. It is up to him to decide whether the issue is worthy of debate. If he thinks so, I will handle it.” He refused to be drawn into an argument about the veracity of the ad’s message, noting that “I need to examine the context and then decide.” After much probing, Hamed said the basic premise of the advertisement, namely that the Arab World wasted several chances to make peace, when for example it refused to accept UN resolutions in 1948, is incorrect. In fact, he added, the Arabs recognized two different states as early as 1949.

Commenting further on the claim that Israel ’s peace offer in 1967 was rejected by its Arab neighbors, Hamed noted the Jewish State was “the one who occupied Arab land in 1967. How can it possibly claim that it offered peace when it was the occupier?” He also said that different Arab countries tried to reach a just and comprehensive peace with Israel , citing the Camp David negotiations in 2000, attended by Arafat, where “the Jews tried to deceive Arabs to give up all their rights, driving the Palestinian leader away from peace.” Asked whether the League will publish a counter ad, Hamed indicated that the organization’s bureaus abroad will have to draft a reply. Currently, the Arab League has an office in London and in Washington DC who could refute the advertisement.

In the end, Hamed reiterated that “Arabs are interested in peace as a strategic solution” adding that the AJC advertisement lacks credibility. Surely, he said, “you realize that these claims are all false!”