Another worthless “Arab Summit” of rhetoric
The Arab World is in bad need of a public relations and communications strategy, but the organization that should be leading that drive, the Arab League, doesn’t even understand why its important. The old saying that “the Arabs have the best cause but the worst lawyers, while Israel has the best lawyers and the worst cause” has always been misinterpreted. It’s not “lawyers.” It’s “PR Strategists!”
By Ray Hanania
It’s pretty hard after years of observing the Arab League to expect anything of substance to come from its planned Arab Summit this week in Jordan, the host country.
Since it’s founding in 1945, the Arab League has waffled between unified substance and divisiveness. But the proclamations and the emotional energy have always been greater than its record of achievement.
There was one year when the Arab League talked about spending $1 million to underwrite a communications strategy to improve the international image of the Arab people and Arab culture, but of course, that came at the height of the worst assault on the Arab people, weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Worse is that nothing came of the idea, which was proposed by Amr Moussa, the Egyptian diplomat who became the Secretary General of the Arab League five months before Osama Bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda terrorists decided to try to destroy Islam and Arabs with an outrageous act of mass murder in New York. Fortunately, Bin Laden failed, but so did Moussa, who decided not to hire anyone to do professional public relations.
Moussa pretty much fell into the modus operandi of all Arab Leaders, who don’t believe in delegating responsibilities to qualified professionals, especially in the area of public relations. In PR, a cause selects a person to be the main contact to intercept and redefine queries from the news media. But the tyrants and dictators who control most of the Middle East don’t like it when one of their underlings ends up getting more face-time in the Western media than they do.
Moussa wasn’t the first Arab League Secretary General to realize that the extremely poor public relations of the Arab countries actually undermines their legitimate claims to justice. Ironically, 20 years earlier in 1981, Chedli Klibi, the Secretary General from Morocco, proposed the same thing.
The Arab World opposes public relations and communications strategy in a large part because the 22 member governments of the Arab League resist, to varying degrees, fundamental aspects that make PR and communications strategy, like free speech, public dissent, free expression, and political democracy.
They fear openness because they believe that if the people were ever to think for themselves, they might thrown the leaders out. Now granted, some of the countries like in Syria, should toss out their leaders. But as we know, tyrants and murderers like Bashar al-Assad are not easy to remove from office.
The weak ones like depose Egyptian “President” Husni Mubarak was relatively easy. Other countries are trying to balance free speech and freedom with their religious culturalism, like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. They realize that by encouraging a moderately free media — they still maintain controls by creating red lines and restriction on local criticism — they can relieve the pressures from their populations.
For those who attack these Arab World countries claiming that they oppress their people and control their media, they have not been honest about their own media. The media in Israel is one of the most controlled media’s in the world. Israel has societal and political pressures, and laws, that prevent any journalist from going over the deep end in covering criticism of Israel.
For example when an Israeli murdered an injured Palestinian by shooting him in the head in cold blood, none of the media called it a cold blooded murder. The Israeli soldier was glorified by most of the Israeli media and that allowed Israeli society to accept the fact that he murdered a non-Jew. He got 18 months for murder, a tough sentence for an Israeli, but there is a movement to get him released sooner.
And the US Media is even worse. The mainstream American news media has more independence in criticizing and confronting and exposing government corruption, but racism prevents them from opening their doors to unfavorable minorities like Arabs and Arab Muslims and publishing their views and opinions, especially if they are critical of Israel. Pro-Israel extremist activists in America receive huge funding and grants from Israeli and other pro-Israel institutions to bully anyone who dares to criticize Israel, especially if that criticism gets coverage in the mainstream American news media.
So let’s not pretend that censorship is only a problem in the Arab media when in fact it is a major problem in the US and Israeli media, too, with only some exceptions.
So as we watch and listen to the leaders at the Arab League address the many issues, don’t expect much to change.
There will be a lot of bluster and empty threats to confront Israel, but in reality the Arab World has been conquered by Israel’s Communications Dominance and its alliance with the United States.
They will dust-off and tout the 2002 Arab League peace plan, which on its face is one of the best offers ever made to Israel in the history of the Middle East, far more generous to Israel than any of Israel’s so-called best offers have been to the Palestinians. But the truth is Israel doesn’t want peace through compromise. It wants peace through submission and disappearance. Israel wants the Palestinians to disappear.
The Arab governments, tired of 70 years of embarrassing failures — and being caught and exposed as liars in the court of World opinion — have decided to quietly accept Israel into their fraternity as long as they pretend to be Arab wearing a thaub and a kiffeyah on their heads. (They’ve done that already many times.)
This will be the 28th Arab summit examining Middle East peace, and probably the 28th redundancy of its past failures.
The Secretary General of the Arab League today is Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, from Egypt. And he needs to make some changes.
What the Arab League should do is the following, but they won’t:
1 — Hire a Professional PR Agency to recast the image of the Arab People, the Palestinians and Arab Muslims in their true light
2 — Start writing the Arab Story (News) through press releases and then distribute those press releases to not just the Arab World media in Arabic, but to the Western World in English.
3 — Hire a professional spokesperson who looks and sounds American — that is the mold of a successful PR person in the West — and allow that person to engage and work the news media to pressure them to run your stories, correct errors and serve as a filter to find out what reporters want before they ask the questions of Arab leaders. (A good spokesperson is a buffer that gives their client an extra step to determine what a “journalist” is really interested in asking. When you know what they want you can respond to them in your own best interests and not fall into the media trap of controversy.)
4 — Spend money on a marketing campaign to rebrand the Arab World, Arab people and Palestine in their true positive nature.
5 — Create and fund an Opposition Research Department to dig up dirt and the truth about those who criticize and attack the Arab League, the Arab people and the Palestinians — (I’ll give you a hint, extremist, radical Israeli fanatics) and use that research to define your strategy, and help you determine what messages are needed to counter the Israeli lies. (Remember what Sun Tzu said, from Goodreads):
“If you know the enemy and know yourself,
you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
“If you know yourself but not the enemy,
for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
“If you know neither the enemy nor yourself,
you will succumb in every battle.”
6 — Stop being stupid. Don’t do what Israel does thinking you can counter their violent nature and defeat them. Just because Israel censors Arab journalists all the time doesn’t mean the Arab World should censor Israeli journalists. Meet with them, do interviews with them and when they twist and distort the facts in their reporting, have your PR Machine confront them and expose them. Don’t allow them to hide behind their claim that the Arab World censors Israeli journalists.
7 — Create a budget from each of the 22 Arab countries to fund this media and marketing campaign.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American columnist and author, and former Chicago City Hall political reporter. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)