The Institute for Middle East Studies held its inaugural event at the Elliott School last week with a discussion on perceptions and misperceptions among United States and Middle Eastern media.
Marc Lynch, a GW professor of political science, moderated a panel discussion between Hafez Mirazi, former host of From Washington on Al Jazeera, and Robin Wright, a Washington Post correspondent.
Mirazi said Arab media does a good job explaining U.S. media coverage to Arab viewers. As an example, he discussed the amount of time Al Jazeera spent covering 2004’s presidential campaign.
On the other hand, Mirazi said, and Lynch agreed, that American media in the Arab world is not effective or well-received because it is too stereotypical. On example of this type of media outlet is Al Hurra.
“We still exclude our Muslim population as being different,” Mirazi said. “Conservative talk show hosts . are so sensitive about Christianity or Judaism, but they feel there is a sanction for anti-Muslim views.”
Mizari also discussed the difference between the political systems in the United States and Iraq. The American political system promotes compromise and allows small nations to thrive amidst larger neighbors, while the Iraqi political system is un-American and based on ethnic divisions
Another point of contention for the panelists was the fact that both the US and the Arab media have done a poor job of reporting on Iraq.
At one point, Wright conceded that the Post has been “sloppy” with its language regarding Islam and the War on Terror. She also estimated that the US now has a six-month window in being able to diffuse the situation with Iran, though forces may already be “unleashed,” because that nation has become increasingly tied to Iraq due to the continuation of arms shipments crossing the border.
Former US Ambassador and Kuwait Professor of Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Affairs, Edward “Skip” Gnehm, spoke last and launched a scathing attack on the policy behind the war in Iraq.
“There is no substitute for good policy,” he said to an appreciative audience. “And there is no substitute for doing it professionally.”
Gnehm cited the changing objectives associated with the war and the potential for conflict with Iran as issues that must be addressed, but felt the US still has a chance for success if it reforms its strategy in the region.
Former GW President Lloyd Elliott, for whom the Elliott School is named, was present at the event and said that he felt the night was a success.
“It’s a great program,” he said. “These are the types of activities that can be beneficial to both the school and faculty. The more I see of them, the more I like them.”