Tags: Losing | the | battle | the | Middle | East

Losing the PR battle in the Middle East

Monday, 13 December 2004 12:00 AM

Even more than the anti-U.S. television station al-Jazeera, the terrorist organization Hizbollah’s al-Manar station is seen by over 10 million viewers throughout the world and is the most preferred by Muslims, according to a poll taken in Jordan in 2003.

With “news” correspondents stationed in foreign countries, their broadcasts are influential not only in the Middle East, but they have also gained converts in Europe, South America and even in the United States. Al-Manar is considered among the top five stations in the Arab world.

What should be of concern to all Americans, and indeed, all who believe in democratic government, is the unbridled and unremitting hatred used to further the goals of the station. The backbone of their broadcasts is the mindless hatred of Israel and Zionism and their calls for the complete destruction of the State of Israel, which is simply dismissed as “Western expansion into Muslim lands.”

Al-Manar’s stated objectives are to “wage effective psychological warfare against the Zionist enemy,” along with the promotion of Hizbollah’s image and its revolutionary Islamist worldview.

With a 24/7 broadcasting schedule, al-Manar programs news and talk shows, documentaries, children’s shows, dramas and music videos — in slick, professionally scripted productions that are designed to win the “hearts and minds” of the viewers.

Cheering over the destruction of the Twin Towers on 9-11, al-Manar’s aim is to delegitimize the U.S. as a world power, and it never misses a chance to picture the “Great Satan” America as a hegemon, an occupier and a sponsor of state terror, “a beast that is hungry for power and hungry for blood.”

Constantly run videos depict the Statue of Liberty as a knife-wielding ghoul drenched in blood. Jihadists are exhorted to “slaughter U.S. soldiers in Iraq,” Images of George W. Bush are juxtaposed against those of Adolf Hitler, with captions that read, “History repeats itself,” or Bush and Ariel Sharon on flip sides of a coin labeled, “Two faces of evil.”

The damage that this venom causes is almost incalculable, considering the task that lies before us in attracting millions of Muslims who might be persuaded to try the democratic experiment in their own countries. Just the opposite result is encouraged by al-Manar: it legitimizes suicide bombings and terrorism; it sustains a culture of resistance, especially among young adults and children; it canonizes Muslim “martyrs,” and actively recruits more terrorist militants.

There is no excuse for the U.S. and other Western democracies to do nothing while this propaganda station continues to spew this venom. In Beacon of Hatred: Inside Hizbollah’s al-Manar Television, published in October by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, author Avi Jorisch outlines a number of positive steps our government should take to counteract this assault on civilized values.

One way to shut them down, Jorisch argues, is to shut off their sources of funds. The U.S. Treasury Dept. should sanction the station and designate and monitor banks that harbor Hizbollah accounts. Existing laws should be enforced against U.S. companies that advertise on the station; against American citizens that work for al-Manar; and against media outlets that purchase their programming.

In addition, Jorisch says, the U.S. should pressure foreign governments to remove the station from its airwaves, along with its bureaus, correspondents and corporate sponsors.

The nub of public relations is communications: to reach, understand, and influence others. Because what people see, hear or read is a primary force in shaping their opinions, there is an inevitable struggle over what information they shall have access to. It must be understood that if we cannot persuade millions of Muslims favorably to our cause, we will fail in the long run, regardless of our military and diplomatic efforts.

Our first priority must be to shut down the hateful lies and propaganda of the terrorists, and we should, pari passu, redouble our own efforts to gain traction with messages of freedom, tolerance and democracy in this troubled region.

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Even more than the anti-U.S. television station al-Jazeera, the terrorist organization Hizbollah's al-Manar station is seen by over 10 million viewers throughout the world and is the most preferred by Muslims, according to a poll taken in Jordan in 2003. With "news"...
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2004-00-13
Monday, 13 December 2004 12:00 AM
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