CAIRO: An Israeli media watch group is accusing Egyptian television of promoting anti-American messages on its airwaves. Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), a right wing organization based in Jerusalem, is reporting that the Egyptian Channel 1 program Man in the Era of Globalization, starring Egyptian actor Salah El-Saadani, carries anti-American hate propaganda. In its advisory, PMW highlights one recent episode from the Egyptian drama where a father and son are discussing their role in protecting Arab assets. The father, comforting his disheartened son, references the time of the Crusades when Arabs spent more than 200 years resisting domination. Ariel Sharon knows how to take advantage of 9/11 . The Zionists are the ones who benefit from these events. Aren t they the ones who attacked the World Trade Center, to cause what is happening? the son asks his father. Don t forget that the Zionists aren t everything, the father tells his teenage son. Today America is playing the role that the Roman Empire played in the past, when it controlled the whole world through its influence and power. According to PMW, references to the Roman Empire and the Crusades encourage sentiments of oppression and hate among viewers. The group notes parallels in a Palestinian music video broadcast repeatedly during the war in Iraq glorifying heroic fighting by Iraqis and celebration of U.S. and British causalities. The song ends on a clip of a coffin draped with American and British flags. The effect of this pop culture programming is significant because it is part of an ideology and serves to reinforce it together with the videos clips, says Itamar Marcus, director of PMW. By itself, it might not be so significant but as part of an ongoing message of blaming the U.S. for their failings, it is one more piece in the puzzle reinforcing the ideology. Palestinian television has long been criticized for the promotion of hate messages, specifically during the Second Intifada. Programs and commercials encouraged young children to embrace the glories of martyrdom, telling them to, in one instance, Drop your toys. Pick up rocks. Officials with the Palestinian media have long defended their actions, saying it serves as a government mouthpiece in the struggle with Israel. Of course, you will find critical debates airing [on Egyptian television], even phone calls from mujahadin (freedom fighters), explains Emad Gad, political scientist and director of the Egyptian organization Arabs against Discrimination (AAD). You find that if the mood of the country is anti-American, of course it will reflect in the programming. We can t say, however, that Egyptian television is generally anti-American or anti-Israeli. There are plenty of programs that show the other point of view.
PMW adds the program depicts Iraq positively as the innocent victim of American imperialist occupation for the purpose of stealing Iraqi oil. The group notes that Channel 1 is under the control of the government owned and operated Egyptian Radio and Television Union.
Generally, Egyptian television is politically oriented like any other media, points out Ibrahim Saleh, a professor of journalism and mass media at the American University in Cairo. Aren t we talking about freedom of speech? It s part of the process of democratization to allow different view points, but we don t have to make generalizations.
As far as free speech [is concerned], of course they have the right to publish this, says Marcus. The question is, does the U.S. want to have its own U.S. tax dollars promoting hatred of America in Egypt?
Egypt receives nearly $2 billion annually in economic and military aid from the United States and is second only to Israel. This financial assistance is believed to serve not only toward bolstering Egypt s stability, but also for supporting U.S. policies in the region, America s access to the Suez Canal and ongoing relations with Israel. Several critics in the West have questioned the effectiveness of economic assistance to the Arab world s most populous nation as America seeks greater support from its allies in its campaign for promoting democracy in the region.
The image of the U.S. as the imperialist bully is almost axiomatic in many parts of the Arab and Islamic world, believes Marcus. It has become a part of the ideology to blame all their shortcomings on the West.