Skip to main content

tv   Book TV After Words  CSPAN  November 27, 2010 10:00pm-11:00pm EST

10:00 pm
here is a portion of one of our programs. by. >> why we may hear the president and others talking about the fact that we must make government efficient for the people did our founding fathers actually designed the government to be an efficient? ask yourself that question. because this is a model for inefficiency. but it was done deliberately. why? because, in order to have basic liberties, you have to have the government with very little power. the more efficient the government is, the more
10:01 pm
liberties the individual has to give up to get to them. they cannot do their job efficiently unless they have the power to tell you what to do. .. ♪ >> coming up next, booktv presents "after words," an hourlong program where we invite guest hosts to interview authors. this week the senior adviser to
10:02 pm
the polling firm zogby international presents a comprehensive study of arab attitudes in the post-9/11 war on everything from stereotypes to the war on terror. the founder and president argues his findings should be used to craft policy based on what he calls the real world. he discusses his polling results with former washington times assistant managing editor for world and national security barbara slavin. jim, it's a pleasure to be here with you. we've known each other a long time, and i must say i really enjoyed reading the book. there was a lot in it that i knew, but there were some things in it that surprised me, and i want to give you ample opportunity to talk about how you came to a lot of your conclusions, but i thought i'd begin a little bit with where we
10:03 pm
are right now because, obviously, all of this effort began after 9/11, an effort to explain the arab world to the united states and vice versa. where do you think we are right now? because there have been some really l disturbing innocents, you know, threats to burn the koran, the whole controversy over the so-called ground zero mosque, have we really made progress over the last ten years in terms of mutual understanding? >> guest: yes and no. i mean, there are, there clearly are signs of progress on some levels. my community, arab-americans are, i think, have institutionalized themselves in a way they weren't 30 years ago. those institutions who work toward understanding have reached, i think, a level of maturity. middle east institute and the like, i think, are doing wonderful work. within the jewish community there's a tremendous new
10:04 pm
development in the way organizations that are advancing jewish/arab communications and dialogues all across the country. i mean, the reception that the book is getting is wonderful and indicative of the fact the people are wanting to reach out. at the same time, there is on another level, i think, a hardening of attitudes here. and it's the same in the arab world. you know, i look in the book at corporations that are doing marvelous work of being good citizens, projecting america in the middle east. i think our state department has reached a better approach, come to a better approach to doing the work that they do in the region. we certainly are way beyond where we were in the charlotte bierce era. but at the same time, you know, there's stuff going on in the arab world that's just horrible. and so, yeah, i mean, but, you know, it's kind of an uneven development where there's good stuff and then there's really bad tough.
10:05 pm
on balance i think we're probably better off than we were a decade ago, but i also think we've got some really difficult problems to solve that are not getting any easier. >> host: you mentioned charlotte bierce. i had to be reminded of this incident after 9/11. tell us who charlotte bierce had been before she came into the state department and what her idea of public diplomacy was. >> guest: well, she was a great advertising executive. legendary. uncle ben's rice, etc. she was somebody who when she got the job to sell america abroad, some folks in our work said, oh, my god, why are they appointing her? this and i thought, gosh, if she's as good at doing this as she is in doing her other stuff, let's give her a chance. went to see her, and she said, what should i do? i said, listen. she wasn't a good listener. her idea of marketing brand america without paying attention to what people were actually
10:06 pm
thinking, what they were saying, engaging on the level where people's discourse was was a fayal flaw -- fatal flaw. she thought she'd buy advertising and change attitudes, and the wanted dead or alive poster really played into al-qaeda's hands as did some of the commercials where they were offering the networks, you know, huge amounts of money to carry them, and it looked like america was trying to buy friends. didn't work, and it was unfortunate because that was the moment when people were asking really important questions on both sides, and i think we squandered that, that opportunity to reach people. >> host: i remember these infomercials about the wonderful lives of muslims in the u.s. and, of course, i mean, in my experience traveling the middle east and so on most people there know that people have a good life here, muslims have a good life here. that wasn't the issue, and i don't think it ever has been. >> and in addition to that, those stories were coming out and being trumped by the banner
10:07 pm
on the bottom of the television set about -- i was actually in the middle east when this was going on, you know? they were talking about her work on one level, then i was looking at the bottom level, and it was about the people who were being detained, and the numbers were increasing as you recall in those first few weeks, every day the numbers were getting higher, and then the round-ups of 5,000 and 3,000, and then the stories about the detentions that were taking place abroad and here. there was no thought that, you know, if you're doing this on one level but trumping it on the level of real policy, you're, you're just wasting money. >> host: now, after charlotte bierce left, they brought in karen hughes who had been so close to president bush, and she went on listening tours of the middle east, but she did a lot more talking, also, than listening. i remember her -- was it in saudi arabia where she was lecturing the women about how they needed to be able to drive? [laughter] >> guest: actually we had had a conversation about that, she and
10:08 pm
i, before she went on the trip. >> host: did she accomplish mig? >> guest: she actually did. and charlotte bierce did too. again, made mistakes, but one thing she did was open that office in london and the rapid response unit was smart. but on balance i think she failed. and karen hughes in the same way did some smart things. one of the things that she, i think, lasting accomplishment was changing some of our programs to more demand-driven programs and to sort of enhancing the visitor program aspect. >> host: uh-huh. >> guest: because people want to come here, they want to study here. it was becoming more difficult to do so. she changed some of the aid programs in the mepi outreach effort that brought students here, that brought mid-career professionals here, and i think karen hughes actually did some good work on that level. where she failed was talked too
10:09 pm
much and boasted too much, and at one point i remember her saying to an audience and we've done this, and we've done that, and an arab woman in the audience sitting next to me said if you really are doing good things, our culture says don't talk about it so much. [laughter] it doesn't look right. >> host: yeah. >> guest: but i think the temptation of translating the politics that she did in america to doing that kind of work in the middle east, it wasn't an easy, an easy shift for her to make. >> host: one aspect that you look at in the book and to what extent americans are now understanding the muslim world, the arab world, and you had some statistics that i thought were a little bit distressing. if i can confine them here. you know, that only 370 u.s. colleges offer arabic and that there, at least at the time you wrote this, only 2,400 students in advanced arabic in the u.s. what happened? i thought there was going to be this big interest in the united
10:10 pm
states in americans learning arabic. >> guest: well, there was. and if you look at the numbers before 2001, it's a dramatic increase. >> host: that's a dramatic increase? >> guest: well, from where it was. >> host: okay. >> guest: the problem is that the resources aren't there, and the professors aren't there to do the teaching. colleges don't have the money to hire. what we need is is to take a program like eisenhower's national defense education act and redo it. congress did appropriate some additional funds for the critical language program, but 10, 20 million dollars is not enough to cover the need that's there. so you have a tremendous demand from students who want to take arabic, colleges don't have the teachers, they don't have the resources to hire teachers. so a lot of schools will bring in a local arabic speaker to do a course here or there but not enough to bring students up to the level of proficiency so they actually can either qualify for a degree or pass a test that
10:11 pm
would get them to the next level. so demand is is there, supply's not. >> host: is the trend line still for more demand? this. >> guest: the trend line still appears to be for more demand especially since business, law enforcement, government agencies want it. >> host: intelligence, yeah. >> guest: but the number of qualified speakers aren't there. and so what i'm looking at is is the fact that we need to put resources into this, and we're not doing it. >> host: yeah. when you, when you talk about studying arabic and so on, there's one incident you describe in the book. obviously, it's helpful if you can begin studying at a younger age, and there was a school that was set up in new york that was supposed to teach arabic from the very beginning. talk about what happened to the hah legal kabron academy in new york. >> guest: yeah. the story of the academy in new york was almost a precursor of the park 51.
10:12 pm
>> host: yeah. >> guest: mosque explosion. it was the same cast of characters. started a campaign, and it exploded just like park 51. it got localized in new york, but the headlines in the new york post was -- [inaudible] grows in brooklyn, al-qaeda comes to new york, you know, that kind of thing. and creating real fear. it was the same people, it was pam geller, daniel pipes. pipes wrote an article in the new york post saying that just studying arabic would lead people toward, toward islam and extremism -- >> host: daniel pike's not arabic? >> guest: maybe he has inoculated himself so he's immune from are it. laugh half -- from it. [laughter] people obviously were afraid and believed it. the campaign reached a level of hysteria. the poor woman who -- i think an extraordinary woman -- who was the person put in charge of the
10:13 pm
school had been at an event where students were wearing a shirt that had the word indeffata new york. it's sort of a coming out, a peeling off of sort of the young generation rising up in new york and doing great things -- >> host: right. >> guest: but "the new york post" played it as a call for insurrection and violence, etc. , and she wanted to define the word literally which only infuriated pipes and company more. and by the end of the uproar, mayor bloomberg and others in new york were saying to her you've got to step down and leave the job. by then it was over. they had so tainted the public discourse about the school that by the time it opened, it was no longer an arabic school, it was no longer, you know, meeting the very special need that the school was going to meet, and
10:14 pm
it's today a rather weak imitation of itself. >> host: now, this was in the mid part of the decade, yeah? >> guest: yeah. >> host: what do you think's going to happen with the community center in if lower manhattan? this. >> guest: you know, i don't know. the dust has settled a bit. i think people are calmer. the question now is, you know, will the imam there be able to raise the money, or will people be sort of scared off from supporting -- i just don't know. i think, though, that the repercussions will be with us for a long time. the, clearly, this has had a greater impact overseas than almost anything that we've done in the last, last several years. and as i say in the book, i mean, people don't judge us by what we say about ourselves, they judge us by how we behave, and we behaved very badly on this one. literally every presidential candidate on the republican side with the exception, now, of
10:15 pm
chris christie who appears to be somebody who people would like to be in the running came out not only spoke about the mosque, but said some pretty horrible things about islam. gingrich's comments were awful, palin, huckabee -- >> host: yeah. >> guest: it really was rather shameful. >> host: a couple of things that come up in light of this. you talked about daniel pipes and pam geller and so on. all the so-called experts on islam, even someone like tom friedman. is it, is it partly because we have this insatiable immediate for talking heads to, you know, simplify things and boil them down? is it because some people are making money off this sort of has become an industry now, talking about muslims and arabs in this way? is there anything we can do about it? >> guest: in the case of some i think there is a cottage industry and that it's been around a long time, the
10:16 pm
anti-arab, anti-muslim crowd that has done quite well for themselves. stories recently about sort of comingling of nonprofit and profit money on the part of some of these characters, really quite disturbing. and, you know, there was some other political groups on the israel side who while they did not engage in the activity, turned a blind eye to the fact that, look, if daniel pipes or steve emerson were, you know, battering and tarnishing the image of the arab-american and muslim groups, well, just let him do it, and so with a wink and a nod they sort of use their work and would never stand in the way of telling them or go to them and say, stop, this is not in the interest of building harmony between peoples. you know, the networks, i think, have a real problem. and they have failed miserably. their rolodexs got thinner and
10:17 pm
thinner and thinner instead of fatter. >> host: but they're people like you, and there's so many good people who -- >> guest: i simply stopped getting called at some point. >> host: really? >> guest: yeah. i don't know why. just the fact maybe i told o'reilly to stop one too many times, and he didn't want me back on. it wasn't something that i enjoyed doing, you know, the kind of sort of dark alley, late night fight that you get into for, what, entertainment purposes? i mean, news stopped being news, and discussion stopped being serious. and i think that they like the folks that they go to because they're probably good for ratings, or they're sensationalist enough. >> host: yeah. >> guest: you know, you take a steve emerson who was wrong about the world trade center, wrong about oklahoma city, wrong so many times, but he's a good talker. and that's what they want. i had one little episode with one of the networks that i
10:18 pm
thought was comical. they called me, and they said we want you to come on about afghanistan tonight, and i said, i don't do afghanistan. and she laughed, and she said, nobody ever says that to us. [laughter] but we don't really want you on as an expert, you're a good talker. and i said, i don't do that, sorry, and hung up. and i thought to myself, that's what it's become -- >> host: it's a blather industry. >> guest: you've got people who are good at quips here and there, and let's put 'em on. the damage when you have some of these folks defining the middle east, a daniel pipes defining an entire culture and an entire religion of people, it's horrible. and it's taken a real toll. people ten years ago when you asked the question do you want to know more about arabs or muslims, 75% of the american people would say, yes. today that's down to 60%. more than half, actually -- >> host: they're shutting down. >> guest: they're saying, i know. i know enough, i don't need to
10:19 pm
know more. and be on the republican side it's almost 80% now think they know enough and don't need to know more. what that means is is they're watching fox, they've become educated, but they've become educated in the stereotypes, the myths and a lot of horrible things about arabs and muslims which aren't true which is why i wrote the book. >> host: let's talk about some of the language that was thrown around. you describe in the book in the mid '70s, i think it was benjamin netanyahu got some advice about how to brand palestinian militants and really all palestinians, to brand them as communists. >> guest: yeah. >> host: because that was the boogieman at the time. soviet. yeah, it was both together. >> host: yeah. now, of course, we hear the israelis, they're a branding the iranians as religious fanatics. you write in the book that
10:20 pm
president bush actually used this at a press conference. >> guest: yeah. used it once. >> host: and then maybe somebody pulled him aside and said, this isn't the right term. but that terminology, unfortunately, is still with us in a lot of places. >> guest: yeah. >> host: i mean, how can you conflate islam and fascism? >> guest: you know, on a couple levels i found it really disturbing. one is, of course, you're taking a religion and using it in that way was quite distressing to people of faith on the muslim side. i also thought that the way that during the bush administration they conflated iran in particular as the sort of the headquarters of the common turn and tried to sort of match it up against the old sow yet empire -- soviet empire was really quite distressing in that iran will never be more than a third rate power at best. it'll never be, you know, nazi germany or prussia in their wildest dreams. they'll never reach the level of
10:21 pm
power -- >> host: because they're not invading their neighbors lately. >> guest: and don't have the capacity to. their army's been destroyed, their air force is gone, they are at best a weak state struggling along. they have a leader who makes outrageous comments and loves to provoke. i think he's a little more farrakhan than anything else. he likes to be outrageous, it gets him good press at home. >> host: it doesn't get him such good press at home, but it does get him attention, which he loves. >> guest: and that's it. and also in the broader region people who are angry at america look at it and say, if they're attacking him, i like him. so when president bush wouldp give a speech seeing this as a global empire and the call fate and, you know, i think to myself, that's not helping people understand what's going on here. and far more thoughtful was the way, for example, jim baker when we were going into iraq sort of kept it in perspective. this is something that cannot
10:22 pm
stand, but let's not blow it out of proportion. this is not, you know, a global empire in the making and our very existence or our survival as a free people is at stake. i think that was a horrible exaggeration that actually has done real damage to our political discourse. >> host: let's talk a little bit about what arabs really do think since that is the heart and soul of this book. >> guest: yeah. >> host: the polls that you, that zogby, your brother has done -- >> guest: yeah. >> host: what do arabs think, want, and how different is that from the stereotype that's being promoted? >> guest: i say the stereotype is this: people will say to themselves, those guys go to bed at night hating america, wake up in the morning hating israel, spend the day watching, you know, one of the arab networks and fueling their hatred or sitting in a mosque listening to an imam who's getting them even angrier.pp the reality is they go to bed at night thinking about their jobs,
10:23 pm
worried about their kids, thinking about their health care, get up in the morning, think about whether or not their kids are going to have an opportunity to advance their lives, and during the day they work hard at their jobs, they come home and they watch television, and the number one rated shows are movies and after that are soap operas and dramas and entertainment. arabs watch television for the same reason we watch television, it's for the entertainment. i had a funny experience last weekend, i was in the middle east, and i was with a number of folks including some very prominent american jewish leaders, and we were at a conference, and in -- one night after the dinner there was entertainment, and it was an egyptian woman singing songs a la -- [inaudible] and one of the jewish leaders i was standing next to was just marbling at the -- marveling at the woman, and then he looks over at some of the palestinian
10:24 pm
leaders who were there, ministers and some of the government officials, and they were clapping along and moving their hands and so enthused over it, and he said i'm seeing something different that i never saw before. and i thought one thing i'd said about this whole discussion is that the experts, you know, were guys who knew five words in arabic and could use two in a sentence. and actually the words that they needed to know were albi and lili, and words about love and seeing you in the night and thinking of you, and this is what was moving this culture. but i don't think we understand that these are people just like us. and the only picture we see of arabs are the young guys shaking their fists or the angry faces of protesters, but that's not who people are. it's sort of like a story i tell when i was living in central pennsylvania. i'd lived in philadelphia for
10:25 pm
about ten years before then, and we were then out in this small little town, i was teaching at a state college, and the next door neighbor came to me and said, did you really live there? and i said, yeah. [laughter] and he said, with your family? yeah. he said, weren't you afraid? the i said, no, not really, why? he said, because people get murdered there every day. and i thought, that's all he sees in the newspaper, and that's the only story we see about arab world here or the story about iran here.p so the fact that there's normal life, that people in be egypt are actually happy and pleasant and fun to be with is something that would be beyond americans'w kin. they couldn't understand it because they never see it, so i wanted the book to sort of tell the story of these are the people as they are. they've got kids and jobs and hopes for the future, and we need to understand that like they need to understand us as we really are. >> host: i think one thing that
10:26 pm
upsets me, my husband and i were based in cairo for four years in the '80s, and i wrote lots of features about life, ordinary life and the egyptian sense of humor and all the rest and how holidays are celebrated, and you don't have so many foreign correspondents from the united states anymore. >> guest: yeah. >> host: so that the only kinds of stories you're getting are from war zones. >> guest: right. >> host: because the youngsters who go to report these know they can sell these stories, and it may be more difficult to sellp the soft feature that used to be a staple. >> guest: and without sort of get boog the arab/israeli conflict, the fact is that israelis are understood as people here. >> host: yeah, they are. >> guest: so that we see them as people like us. but we see arabs as either an object or an abstraction and largely angry and just not like us. and so in some ways the absence of the foreign correspondent now, the absence of people who will tell the full story doesn't hurt the israeli side as much
10:27 pm
because they've already established themselves in our culture. and the arab side never really did. they went from invisible which is where they were before the '67 war to the -- >> host: the enemy. yeah. but there's this campaign that the israelis talk about the delegitimization campaign. >> guest: yeah. >> host: don't you detect that the israelis are having to defend their society, their policies a little bit more these days? i think particularly after the flotilla incident with the turkish ship. >> guest: defend their policys, yes, and they ought to because they're indefensible. but defend their people? i don't think so. like i said, i think that they have ingrained into our culture is the sense that they're the people like us. i mean, it goes back as i write in the book -- >> host: paul newman in exodus. >> guest: exodus. it was a very clever sort of overlay of the i railly/arab story on the cowboy and indians
10:28 pm
story, and this is before wep knew that the indians were actually good guys too. we watched it, and we said, god, i understand them. they're just like us. they want to be free, and can they want to be happy, and those savages are doing everything they can to block them. and it worked. i mean, that's, i think, this this day we identify the arab/israeli conflict as the israeli people wanting to be free versus the palestine p problem. and at best it's a problem to be solved, but not real people to care about and identify with. i think if you ask people think of israel, they can think of people. think of palestinians, they can't think of people or people like us. >> host: somebody like fayyad has not been sufficiently marketed in this country. >> guest: no, right. right. and part of it is a palestinian problem and an arab problem, they haven't done the marketing. but it doesn't matter whose fault it is. we have a job to do, and that is we're too mfsed in that region,
10:29 pm
we have too many lives at stake, too many interests at stake, we've spent too much money and expended too much political capital. we have to now -- if arabs aren't going to do a good selling job, we have to go over and do the learning ourselves. >> host: we're going to take a break in a minute, so i'm not going to get too deep into u.s. policy, we'll get into that soon. but just tell me briefly how, how you became who you are. i mean, you're sort of the professional arab. you're christian, you were born in this country. why this? how did this become your mission in life? >> guest: you know, actually i always felt close to the culture. i mean, i grew up in that era. it was who i am. but -- >> host: were you raisedx speaking arabic? this. >> guest: yeah. actually arabic before english as a child. >> host: uh-huh. >> guest: a mother who was an extraordinary and gifted person who valued learning and was, as
10:30 pm
it shows in some of her letters in the book -- was, you know, so determined that we be proud of who we were and of our heritage. i was doing my graduate work, and i was very active in the civil rights and anti-war movement. and in the middle of all that i got a fellowship from temple university to go to the middle east and do some research. i was working in be religion and revitalization movements, and i had the idea of studying the refugee camps ask seeing what was going on -- and seeing what was going on with the trauma of the experience of being in the camps for as many years as palestinians had been. i collected all the stories in one camp. it was in the south of lebanon. and the day i left a woman grabbed my arm. she's the woman who actually had introduced me to many of the people, and she steered me down, and she said, we've told you everything. now, what are you going to do? and i remember sitting next to
10:31 pm
my wife on the way home and said, you know, we said to each other, our lives are never going to be the same again. i mean, this was a transformative experience in that i found out about something i didn't know about, and and i learned about it in a personal way. i could put faces on these people. i had their stories. i knew where they'd come from, what they were experiencing and how desperately they wanted to go back to the lives that they'd been forced to leave. and it was just a few years later that i started the palestinian human rights campaign. >> host: uh-huh. >> guest: and, you know, it was funny because i was involved in anti-war stuff, and i remember speaking at a rally, and it was about vietnam. and somebody from the jbl, why are they letting the arab guy speak? >> host: oh, my. >> guest: and i'm like, who's that? i was arab-american, i i was of arab descent, but i thought arabs were people from over there, and i was an american. once i started the palestine
10:32 pm
human rights campaign, it was over. i mean, i was like the arab guy. so part of it just happens to you. it's sort of like, you know, a gay person coming out. people don't look at you the same anymore, and that's what happened to me. i was proud of who i am, still proud, wouldn't have done a thing differently in my life. i'm glad i do the work i do. it's important, and i feel good about it. >> host: okay. we're going to take a quick break, we'll be back in just a couple of minutes. >> guest: okay. >> "after words" with james zogby and barbara slavin will continue after this short break. >> every weekend on c-span3 experience american history tv. 48 hours of people and events telling the american story. hear historic speeches by national leaders and eyewitness accounts of events that shaped our nation. visit museums, historical sites and college campuses as top history professors and leading historians delve into america's
10:33 pm
past. american history tv all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. >> "after words" with james zogby and barbara slavin continues. >> host: jim, we were talking about how you got into this. you started in the early '70s, and this must have been an incredibly challenging time. i mean, this is when we had palestinian terrorist attacks, black september. how did you manage it? >> guest: well, you know, we didn't deal with the issues of that sort, although we were very clear in condemning terrorism and actually pretty harsh. i sent some pretty harsh letters to people in the different palestinian movements condemning what they did and was very public about that. but we focused on human rights. we focused on people who were being tortured under occupation,
10:34 pm
and we focused on some of the problems that refugees were having in different countries. and so by not overtly being a political organization, ie, you know, we didn't take positions on a range of political issues, but we talked about individual cases. we were doing, basically, what amnesty international wasn't doing. amnesty, at the time, was not taking cases in america for adoption because they were afraid of losing support here. so only london amnesty took palestinian cases. so if we came across a woman prisoner who'd been tortured in prison or a young arab-american who had been detained for months and forced to sign a confession in if hebrew without ever having read it, we picked individual cases or house demolition cases, etc. people in the camps who were being treated badly by lebanese authorities, etc., that's the stuff we did. in some ways we weren't the --
10:35 pm
we weren't the palestine solidarity committee. that existed. we weren't the plo friends of the plo group. that existed. we were a human rights campaign, and so some of those issues didn't effect us, but we were clear in condemning that stuff and made it very clear that it was not only was truckive of -- destructive of human life, but it was destructive of people's understanding of palestinians on the other side. it was bad for both. >> host: talk about the centrality of the palestinian issue for arabs. you do, i think, a very good job in the book of explaining there isn't, in a way, no such thing as an arab world, that there are vast differences from morocco all the way through many of these countries are quite dissimilar. but the palestinian issue does loom large. why is it? >> guest: there isn't an arab world on the one hand, but there is an arab world on the other hand. it's sort of like, you know, there are catholic
10:36 pm
sensibilities, there are distinctly arab sense abouts, and one of the key issues is palestine. it, i call it the wound that never healed. it, in some ways there's an existential identification that arabs have with that question, and there are people like them who hurt, who remind them of their vulnerability, their loss of history, a sense of betrayal by the west. i say and some folks don't quite get it but if they hear me out, i think they will, the role of palestine in the arab consciousness is not unlike the role of the holocaust in the jewish consciousness in if america. it's not a holocaust, to be sure. it's not six million people who have been exterminated, but it's a people like them who are vulnerable, who remind them of their own vulnerability and who hurt and who, therefore, make
10:37 pm
them hurt for themselves and for -- i've had ministers call me and say, you know, guys who hate hamas and everything they stand for but will call me and say, i saw what was going on in gaza. those kids look just like mine. what can i do? the i feel so powerless. and that sense, i think, is it looks large, you're right, in the arab consciousness, and we ignore it at great risk. >> host: yeah. well, as you have said many, many times, it's the policy stoop. >> guest: yeah. >> host: all these efforts to sell america to the arabs and so on, basically, do not work when the united states is seen as somehow powerless to resolve this terrible conflict, to do more than put a band-aid on -- >> guest: and if you understand the arab narrative which americans don't -- >> host: no, they don't. >> guest: -- it's like the native american narrative, you know? they were living in that region, foreigners came, carved it up,
10:38 pm
states were created out of the whole cloth, regimes were put in place, the land was promised to another people who then came in and said we're going to modernize it and make it ours, and it was like, you know, what about us? where do we fit in this story? and that sense of losing control has been so critical in the arab, in the arab consciousness. and continues to be felt every day when gaza happens or when lebanon happens or when new settlements are built. this inability to control anything. the false promise of the terrorist who promises control by dealing a blow is, does, in fact, make some people say, good, get him. but it's, it's a product of the same, the same crisis in continents, the same crisis in history that has shaken the arab world now for so long which is why the more we do to restore to
10:39 pm
palestinians a sense of dignity and an ability to realize their ambitions, it will reverberate beyond that and make people feel that international justice works, that law does work, that nonviolence does pay off, that those who want to negotiate actually can accomplish something. but to date the negotiators have been the ones who failed, and can people in the arab world feel that. they feel people aren't listening to us. what else can we do? it's a sorry sate -- state of affairs. >> host: talk about the current state of the so-called peace process. where are we, and what happens if it just dribbles out the way it seems to be now with the israeli prime minister refusing to extend a moratorium onset elements and the palestinians refusing to come back to talks? >> guest: i feel bad for barack obama in the sense that i had the opportunities to talk with him when he was in the senate. he truly understands the issue and feels that, i think and
10:40 pm
wants to soft it, it's important to him -- solve it, it's important to him, but he gets elected in the middle of the gaza crisis and takes office at the very end of it and ends up with a prime minister who i personally feel is not at all committed to peace and has, if you look back at his record in the '90s, is a master maneuverer and is never tired of trying to outmaneuver and throw feints in one direction while he's moving in another direction. i mean, how many times do we believe, will we believe him when he says i had no idea that they were going to make that announcement? [laughter] it's almost as if every time a u.s. official is going to meet with him they come up with an announcement. he's covering one flank while moving in another direction, but the net result is that there's no constance in his commitment to peace. and if he wanted to make a new government, it is there for the
10:41 pm
asking. he has kadima in the wings, he could form a government that would support peace. he doesn't want to support peace and, therefore, he wants to continue to have the guys in his government who don't want peace so he can complain to the americans, i can't do it. it's too hard. you have to help me cover my right flank. he could dump those guys and bring on people who want to work with him. he just doesn't want to. and i think, you know, clinton did a great job of, ultimately, helping ease him out and bring barack in the just like baker and bush before him helped get shah -- shamir out. the question is will barack obama be able to do the same? i don't know. he's been demonized so much by the right here and there. >> host: should he go to israel? one of the complaints, he's been to so many muslim countries, he's been to turkey, egypt, saudi arabia, he's been in indonesia, he's, you know, given all these speeches of outreach to -- should he be trying a
10:42 pm
little harder with the israelis and with the jewish communities? >> guest: i think, you know, he looked at the deep hole we were in at the end of the bush term where we were in a crisis all across the arab and muslim world. and it was, i mean, you know from the work that you do that there was just no way you could underestimate the severity of that crisis from two unfinished wars, a peace process that was characterized by neglect and/or recklessness on the part of the bush administration, enmity all across that region, and the first challenge that he faced was how do i get out of this hole? and the first place to get out of the hole is to try to rebuild ties in the arab and muslim world. now, he had gone to aipac twice, he had given these remarkably pro-israel speeches -- >> host: yeah, but he was running for office. >> guest: but, believe me, every word in those speeches were listened to in the arab world. his commitment to them on jerusalem, etc., reverberated
10:43 pm
strongly. a very difficult balancing act. and i think they made the judgment let's start here. let's start with the wounds of gaza are still with us. how are we going to move forward? and so they appointed mitchell, they did outreach to all the arab countries, he did the interview and then tried to convince the arabs to join, i guess maybe taking for granted the fact the israelis would be onboard. at this point i don't know if there's a net gain in going to israel or a net loss on the arab side. it's become very polarized, and i think he's in a difficult bind. i'm not advising him. >> host: what's the next move? i mean, if i could? >> guest: i actually think they should have been tougher and still should be tougher with netanyahu. there's no, there's no loss to putting more pressure on him and sending a message of absolute displeasure. only the possibility that -- and i think that in israel the
10:44 pm
israelis do not want to risk forfeiting the american friendship. and -- >> host: but that's not going to happen, let's be realistic. >> guest: i mean, look, he did it twice. when they tell me in the white house, no, no, we really weren't as tough with him as you think mrs. or secretary clinton say an insult to the united states of america over them not one building, not one stone the first time, they were pretty a meandering. they've gone from tough to a warm embrace, and nothing's changed in the process. and so if they're going to be tough, they need to be consistently tough. or just give it up. you know, you have an abused spoiled child, tom friedman's right, on the israeli side. and there are two pat tholgs playing out. and in the middle of all that, your behavior has to be very consistent or else both sides
10:45 pm
will only reinforce their pathologies and go nowhere. and what we've done by meandering is we've confused the abused child, the spoiled child, and the process has gone absolutely nowhere. >> host: we've just had our midterms and, you know, obviously, a lot of people thought, well, obama won't do terribly much in terms of pressure, but now we've had the midterms, the republicans have taken the house, they've strengthened themselves in the senate. what are the implications of that for the u.s. policies toward that part of the world? are you concerned that it's going to make it even harder, that we're going to see efforts to prevent more prisoners from being transferred out of guantanamo, you know, very strident pro-israel rhetoric? what's going to happen? >> guest: yeah. i think on the guantanamo issue that, unfortunately, is -- that was one of the issues when we first polled in the arab world that he got the highest points for was ending guantanamo and stopping torture, and ending
10:46 pm
guantanamo's the thing he's finding most difficult to address. so i think that issue's over -- >> host: although they have moved a lot of people out of there. >> guest: we're not going to be able to close it down anytime soon, and that's a problem. the symbol of it remains a scar that will not go away. on the arab/israeli conflict, the thing i fear most is today the press accounts of secretary clinton announcing more aid for palestinians. i think the republican congress is going to be very tough on aid, aid issues, and they're already looking for ways to maneuver to get the israel aid separated from the palestinian and other foreign aid programs so they can cut them and keep the israeli aid protected. however, i think one thing good that's keeping the senate even with a small margin and with the leadership on the foreign affairs committee of kerry and senator lugar this president will not have to deal with what bill clinton dealt with which were the compliance act that
10:47 pm
went through that really inhibited the peace process -- >> host: what was that? remind me. >> guest: it was an act that required the state department to by these regular reports on plo compliance to terms that they set up that were just outrageous terms that no aid recipient could actually meet. there was even a provision that no u.s. official could meet with any palestinian in jerusalem. there was the jerusalem embassy relocation act, there was the religious freedom act that was clearly designed, targeted to arab and muslim countries. that was the first step in getting us embroiled in that regime change issue. so many things ended up on the president's desk with veto-proof majorities that he had no choice but to sign, and it con trained -- constrained diplomacy severely. that won't happen right now. the one thing i fear is aid, but i believe that the president has still the power to change
10:48 pm
opinion here. and change opinion there. and i think he ought to make a little better use of bill clinton who i think could be an extraordinary salesman. >> host: yeah. >> guest: and i think he himself can be more vigorous and more -- i think more consistent. the meandering has taken a toll. >> host: what about the rumors that bill clinton might replace george mitchell? >> guest: look, i think george mitchell is a remarkable person, and i would follow him to the ends of the earth. but i think that the quiet diplomacy, the approach he used in ireland where as one of the irish principles involved in those negotiations told me, george's secret is he lets you talk yourself to death. and when you're so bored hearing yourself, he says, okay, are you ready to listen? the arabs and the israelis -- >> host: they'll never be tired of talking. >> guest: no. [laughter] they're immune to that. >> host: either is bill clinton.
10:49 pm
>> guest: bill clinton, i went with him to gaza and bethlehem and jerusalem in '98. i saw him go over the heads of the leadership in the both arab and israeli -- the palestinian and the israeli sides, get people to do what they would not do on their own. he has an incredible ability to move public opinion. and right now we have to, we have to change opinion on the palestinian side and on the israeli side. we have to change policy here, but you have to change opinion there. and if you can change opinion, and bill clinton can do it, george mitchell, that's not the style he brings. they would actually be a great team. clinton to sort of leaven the dough and spice it up a little bit and change the dynamic, and mitchell to actually sit and bring the people together. >> host: yeah. it's a priority for the president, so one assumes he's going to continue with this. let me go back to the book and a couple of things in it that surprised me. just things that, you know, even covering this and so on that
10:50 pm
kind of went right by me. i didn't realize during the 2006 lebanon war that it was a u.s. official, state department official, paula dobriansky, sorry, no, not the lebanon war but after the assassination when you saw all these demonstrations in beirut, that it was paula who called it the cedar revolution and that it was actually the lebanese called it the independence which, of course, doesn't ring as well because of its association with the palestinian uprising. >> guest: yeah. >> host: i'm amazed, was this part of the sort of free testimony a-- freedom agenda branding that was being done at the time? >> guest: the freedom agenda branding was there and, i mean, president bush, i will never forget his, you know, forward march of freedom, afghanistan, iraq. and when we think back at it now, each place that those footprints on that march turned out to be a disaster. it was more like the giant squashing of people than it was
10:51 pm
helping them move forward. but i, i was as surprised as you in the research i did when i found out that the cedar notion came from here. >> host: uh-huh. yeah. it wasn't there because, of course, cedar is a lebanese emblem and so on. >> guest: yeah. and it certainly resonated well in this country. but i think, you know, the idea that they wanted it to have a name that would resonate like the green revolution or the velvet revolution or the, you know, the whatever was, clearly, an american issue. look, we handled it badly back then. i think we were right to do everything we could to get the syrians out. that was an important victory. but once they were out, we had an opportunity to help lebanon move forward, and we squandered it. >> host: well, the 2006 war, the monthlong war, came, you know, came right after that. >> guest: yeah. at the time even in between -- >> host: where we could have done it.
10:52 pm
>> guest: where we could have done more. all of the polling we do, look, one of the things that strikes me is is you will get on many questions a tremendous division among sects and partisan groups, but then there are issues that you find there's a national consensus. people want reform. they understand the political system has to be changed. people want national unity and reconciliation. they understand they cannot exist divided. people want emphasis on the economy, on health care, on education, etc. we don't ever talk about those things. what we end up doing is grinding ourselves down into things that people can't agree on instead of focusing on where they can agree. and i think that when the syrians were out was the time to move together with arab allies in the region and possibly bringing in the french to talk about, okay, how do we help the lebanese move forward and reform -- >> host: representative. >> guest: and implement the last piece of pie which is the national accord -- >> host: this is an agreement that was signed in 1989. >> guest: right. and one of the things id did
10:53 pm
was -- it did was it helped end the civil war, but it kept the syrians there, and instead of making the final changes they needed to make so they wouldn't have this sectarian conflict again, we never did anything with it, and it is a system crying for change. we have to help it or someone externally has to help it, and we haven't done that. >> host: saudi arabia, obviously, could play a role there. one of the things you left out of the book was the phrase that i will never forget during the 2006 war when so many people were being killed in the lebanon, so much damage was being done and condoleezza rice who was then secretary of state called it the birth pangs of a new middle east. why did you leave that out? this. [laughter] >> guest: i guess i'd taken enough shots at her during the book -- >> host: you decided that was enough? >> guest: i decided that was enough. you know, the line about -- the -- wasn't -- this is the new middle east, the old one wasn't
10:54 pm
so good anyway. >> host: yeah. >> guest: i thought enough on her already, but that one probably should have been there. >> host: yeah, that's -- >> guest: second edition it's going to be in. >> host: definitely one of my personal favorites. when i was writing my book about iran, i was told that after the u.s. invaded iraq, she told a bunch of very senior u.s. officials that the u.s. was going to do to the middle east what we did to europe after world war ii. that's another one of my favorites as though you can take a template from one area and put it down -- and, you know, the reason that's there is because they don't see them as just like us. we understand that we lost 3,000 people on 9/11, and that's a trauma that will be us -- with us a long, long time and ought to be with us. and people who don't remember that americans lost and are still concerned for security and angry about what happened will pay the price for not knowing that. but when iraqis lost a hundred
10:55 pm
thousand civilians, when the lebanese -- and, i mean, the palestinians lost the same number in gaza, and, you know, there'll be a killing on the west bank, and they'll write an article that'll say after a period of calm, but in that period of calm 100 palestinians and israelis died, people just don't understand that they live with this, and can they feel this hurt. and if we saw them as people like us, i think we'd behave differently and our diplomacy would work better because we would appreciate them better. i used the line from my mom that if you want someone to hear you, listen to them first. because that means you're respecting them as equal, and therefore, paying attention to them, and that's the way you communicate. >> host: we're almost out of time, but there were a couple of the -- i recommend this book highly for the charts that are in it, the tables which are very
10:56 pm
surprising. but a couple of things, again, that surprised me. when you say that, you know, arabs don't hate us, they don't hate our culture, they don't hate our freedom, and they don't even hate women's rights. >> guest: yeah. >> host: you found in one of the tables here that 81% of saudis like freedom and democracy and 76% of saudis think women should have equal rights. >> guest: yeah. >> host: i thought that was quite remarkable. >> guest: i think king abdullah's on the right side, and he's trying to move the country forward, but there are some entrenched groups, as there are in every country, that he's struggling with. there was a fatwa against women arabia as cashiers, but the superintendents have maintained, the courts have persists. that country has changed dramatically in the last 60 years. riyadh was 30 some thousand people 60 years ago, today it's
10:57 pm
four and a half million. there's incredible pressure when you have that kind of change, including the rise of fundamentalism with people being shocked by all that change. but i think the attitudes of most saudis today are on the right side of things. >> host: uh-huh. >> guest: they want us to leave them alone and let them work out their own change, and i think we can give them that kind of support. better for them to do it than for us to try to intrude. as i say in the book, you know, the swedes came over in the middle of our health care debate and said let us figure this out for you, and the japanese or the brits said your hand gum problem is out of -- handgun problem is out of control, we'd get angry. they have to reform themselves. >> host: what are some things that individual americans can do to educate themselves? this. >> guest: well, i have in the back of the book a last chapter, getting it right, and i talk about things you can do. the world affairs councils you can join or the great decision series run by the foreign policy
10:58 pm
association. it's a great way for communities to get together and do reading and study and engage in debate and vote on critical issues. and then there's web sites. i mean, every arab country now has either its major arabic paper translated into english and on the web or a great newspaper in english already that is read by so many people in the country, and there are great organizations here. i mean, if you go international crisis group or the world like my own, the arab-american institute, there's material available that you can -- i say if you pick one arab country and read their newspaper every day -- not just the front page, but the letters to the editor, the commentary, etc., you'll become so invested in them at the end of a month that you'll want to know what they're doing. and it's a great way to, you can comment on their op-eds and have others comment on your comments. you can engage in a conversation long distance. there's so many things you can
10:59 pm
do, and i think an enlightened citizenry is what we need today if we're going to make the changes and play the role in the world that we want to play. >> host: and -- >> guest: and you can buy the book. [laughter] >> host: you can definitely buy the book. what's your, what surprised you most in all the polls that you've done? what was the most unusual finding? >> guest: i think, you know, maybe because i know the region pretty well i didn't get surprised a lot. >> host: you weren't surprised -- >> guest: but i think the women, i think the women's issues were the ones that pleasantly surprised me, okay? this you want to think that they're moving forward, but i think the women's issues, the right to work, women in the three-quarter range and the equal rights one, i think, is quite striking. in all of those countries we asked the question, do women have equal rights, and they'll give you a not so, you know, not so yes answer. >> host: yeah. >> guest: but should they have equal rights and can the numbers go up. that,


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on