Why is the Super Bowl in the center of another anti-Arab controversy?
By Ray Hanania
“Don’t the Arabs have a moral obligation to do more than just complain? I think we do.”
The Super Bowl is an invention I witnessed being created on Jan. 15, 1967, after rushing out of Sunday School to watch the Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs.
That same summer, Israel launched an attack against its Arab neighbors seeking to expand its narrow landmass to include the remaining portions of Jerusalem it tried but failed to occupy in 1948, the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Sinai desert and the Golan Heights.
It was a bad year for Arabs.
But I never thought the Super Bowl would some how become a poster child for anti-Arab racism. It has.
Over the years, the Super Bowl has become the place to launch ad campaigns because the football games audience is massive. But not all of its Ads contribute to the betterment of society of this world. And many have been criticized as being anti-Arab.
Last year, the Super Bowl ran an ad placed by Coca-Cola, the pop company that has done more to contribute to unhealthy living than most other mainstream food products.
The Coca-Cola commercial showed an Arab walking his camel through the desert. He sees cowboys, Las Vegas showgirls and a motley crew fashioned after the marauders of the apocalyptic “Mad Max” film race by him to reach a gigantic bottle of Coke.
The ad urged the millions of Super Bowl viewers to go to their online website and vote to see who would win and get to the giant bottle of Coca-Cola first, the cowboys, the showgirls or the marauders.
It wasn’t really that racist but it certainly was based on racist decisions that view Arabs as a “negative” in advertising campaigns and therefore the Arab was excluded from the race.
This year, the Super Bowl showcasing anti-Arab campaigns continues, this time with the beautiful actress Scarlett Johansson struts her stuff to promote SodaStream, a company which has a large factory in the Mishor Adunim industrial zone in the illegal Jewish settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, the third largest settlement in the Israeli military occupied West Bank.
Israel’s settlements are racist as they exclude Christians and Muslims and are Jewish-only, and are built on lands taken by Israel from Christian and Muslim Palestinian Arabs, whom Israel is seeking to expel from their state.
That racist practice doesn’t seem to bother Johansson who recently gushed in an interview that she loves SodaStream for “ethical reason,” noting the company eliminates the need for plastic soda bottles.
Not bothering Johansson is the fact that Palestinians have been kicked off of their lands, are being threatened and oppressed by Israel’s occupying military and by settler terrorists who have murdered dozens of civilians in the hopes of forcing the non-Jews to leave.
Johansson’s mother is an Ashkenazi Jew and her father is Danish, so she definitely has the knowledge of the principles pushing the Palestine-Israel conflict.
The Arab activists, who can’t seem to achieve anything positive but are very good at brow-beating, name-calling and threatening anyone who disagrees with their oftentimes extremist reactions to things like the Johansson endorsement of the Occupied West Bank Products, are up in arms.
For Arabs, they are always stuck between a rock and a hard place with no where to go except scream, stomp their feet and complain. They can’t do much else. They have no leverage over the Hollywood Movie industry where Johansson earns her living. A boycott of her movies would flop, mainly because Arabs have so little leverage in America.
They have even less leverage over the Super Bowl and football in general, although there have been a few Arabs who have played professional football with some success like Doug Flutie and others who are American who have converted to Islam and taken Arab names.
I’m always brought back to the same place in these debates, though. The fact is the Arabs are so wealthy. They have an oil wealth that is unmatched.
One Arab sheik, Al-Waleed Bin Talal, who commissioned a flattering book about himself authored by Rez, owns a $500 million mega-yacht, dozens of airplanes, and even a diamond studded – yes real diamonds — SL600 Mercedez sports car that is valued at more than $48 million. He charges people $1,000 just to touch it.
Sheik Bin Talal has donated money to many Palestinian and causes that are Arab and non-Arab, so I can’t say he hasn’t been generous. But he’s just one of a thousand or more super-wealthy sheiks.
A recent study showed that 40 percent of the Middle East’s wealth is held by the top 157 richest Arab sheiks, including Bin Talal, estimated at more than $354 billion. (Click to read story.)
That’s an amazing number.
I’m not saying Bin Talal and the others should stop helping the needy and the poor. But I am saying, a Super Bowl commercial only costs $1.5 million for 30 seconds.
Are you telling me that one of those top 157 billionaire sheiks can’t spend a few measly bucks to produce a commercial broadcast during the same Super Bowl event that might help change how the millions of Americans who watch the game see the Arab-Israeli conflict?
Arabs don’t believe in Public Relations and communications spin, though they do believe in the power of the Almighty Dollar.
Yet it is hard to yell and scream ant Scarlett Johansson for doing something she believes will benefit the environment by eliminating plastic bottles, even if it is located in a racist, anti-Arab settlement that happens to employ not only Jewish workers by Palestinian workers, too, when the Arabs do so little to counter that image challenge.
Because that is what Johansson is really doing. It is an image problem. She is helping to reinforce the success of the illegal Israeli settlement by loaning her huge public popularity. Americans love Johansson. She is a fabulous movie star. I wish she could see the unethical nature of what she is doing, but not everyone will.
There is nothing of substance countering the pro-Israel and anti-Arab push in the media today.
Having a diamond studded sports car certainly doesn’t endear any Arab sheiks to American hearts and minds.
It’s one thing to complain about someone who is doing something. But to be so silent against those who are doing nothing, like the wealthy Arabs to effectively and strategically change how Americans think and understand the Arabs, is such a larger act of unethical conduct.
Don’t the Arabs have a moral obligation to do more than just complain? I think we do.
Ray Hanania is the Managing Writer of the Arab Daily News online news site. He is an award winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist who covered the beat from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley). Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions.In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also writes for Al Jazeera English. Hanania has written for the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.
Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.