Expulsion at NYSE: Are we trading in hatred?
The New York Stock Exchange expels a journalist because he is Arab and because he works for the AlJazeera Network in 2003. It’s an example of the racist, anti-Arab sentiment that flourished in the years after the terrorist attacks that took place on Sept. 11, 2001.
By Ray Hanania
I remember reading about how businesses and government agencies expelled people because they were Jewish. But that was by the Nazis during their rise in Germany in the 1930s.
It’s sad to see that happen again, today.
The New York Stock Exchange, not known for its compassion about public concerns, ordered an American journalist of Arab heritage who was freelancing for the Arab language satellite channel Al-Jazeera (Aljazeera) to turn in his credentials and leave the building.
Ammar Al-Sankari, a Lebanese-American immigrant, began reporting for Al-Jazeera in 1999, doing two-minute reports each morning on business news. Also booted out of the NYSE building was Al-Sankari’s colleague, Ramsey Shiber, also a freelance reporter for Al-Jazeera.
I understand the anger and even the hatred that is sweeping this country. Nearly 3,000 people, including many non-Americans, died when Osama bin Laden’s terrorists destroyed the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. And, American soldiers are dying in a war against Iraq, a war some Americans feel is justified and many others feel is not.
I also know that there is a little bit of Adolf Hitler in all of us, evidence of which I am beginning to see more and more often. Yet, I am still surprised when people can’t control that ugliness.
There is no doubt that Al-Jazeera is being targeted. It is Arab-owned. Its journalists are of Arab heritage. Its broadcasts are in the Arabic language, although the station recently opened an English-language Web site.
A NYSE official was quoted recently as saying, “We’ve focused primarily on those [broadcasters] who investors look to for business and financial news and unfortunately at this point that means we can’t accommodate Al-Jazeera. Over time we have had to limit the number of [reporters] broadcasting from here because of security precautions.”
The real motivation is that Al-Jazeera, like many other American media outlets, began broadcasting video of Iraq soldiers interrogating American prisoners of war. The interviewing of POWs is strictly prohibited by the Geneva Conventions, but no one seemed to care when those interviewed in this war, and in prior wars, were Arab prisoners held by American soldiers.
Still, the Geneva Conventions do not apply to news outlets that report the news.
The fact is that Al-Jazeera is providing news coverage that many American news outlets are afraid to provide. News coverage that is objective and provides both sides of the conflict, not only the war against Iraq, but also other wars against Arabs, including extensive footage of Israel’s brutality against the Palestinians it occupies.
I first saw the images of the American POWs not on Al-Jazeera but on a cable news network that later stopped showing them. I saw the same photographs taken from the videos days later in a local Chicago newspaper.
This isn’t about the showing of the video footage of the POWs. It isn’t about fair reporting. It isn’t even about issues that are “unpatriotic” or morally wrong.
It is about racism. Many Americans simply hate Arabs. But this hatred didn’t just start after Sept. 11. It began long before.
Rather than stand up to defend the rights of other Americans who work for a news network that happens to broadcast in a foreign language, most Americans will sit at home and relish in the NYSE’s actions. As other similar acts of bigotry and racism take place, as they surely will in this country in the coming days and weeks, they will enjoy those moments, too.
But in their glee, the hatred that moved bin Laden burns brightly. And the NYSE and Americans who support their actions are handing bin Laden a victory he could never have hoped for.
Hanania is a veteran journalist and syndicated columnist based in Chicago. This column was originally published in the Houston Chronicle on March 27, 2003