Posted by on June 21, 2012 in Blog

AAI President Jim Zogby participated in a four person debate panel today addressing the question of whether or not there is a double standard in the response to anti-Semitism against Arab Americans compared with the response to anti-Semitism directed against American Jews. The debate was the latest event in Ralph Nader’s “Debating Taboos” series, which takes on issues that are often too controversial to discuss in public settings. Professor Jack Shaheen, author of the book Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a PeopleJosef Olmert, adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina, and Kenneth Marcus of the Brandeis Center for Human Rights, joined Jim on the panel. The debate was moderated by Patrick Sloyan, former Newsday reporter and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism.

Jim began with a discussion of the history of anti-Semitism and argued that bigotry toward Arabs and Jews “has been cut out of the same cloth.” He cited the parallels in depictions of both groups in popular culture, drawing reference to cartoons which served to vilify both groups in a similar fashion. The depictions, he said, held similar intent: to paint Arabs and Jews as foreign and alien, among others.

Today, however, Jim argued, bigotry and violence aimed at Arabs rarely receives the same treatment and repudiation in public discourse as they do when aimed at Jews.

One example Jim gave was criticism of American educational institutions when they receive “Arab money.” Referencing an earlier comment from fellow panelist Josef Olmert, Jim delivered a strong rebuke of the notion that receiving foreign money from Arab governments to finance Middle East programs in higher education is sinister: 

When you say that the universities can’t be trusted because there is foreign money, and that it’s Arab, that’s exactly the point! The point is, is that it’s not the money - it’s what they do. You want to question what they do, talk about it. But the “Arab money” bit is the same as when people come back and say ‘there’s Jewish money in Hollywood,’ or ‘there’s Jewish money in Washington,’ or ‘there’s Jewish money in the banking industry’…Look at what they do, not who they are.

Jim also cited attacks which prevented the establishment of a proposed bilingual school, the Khalil Gibran Academy in New York. Until we address discrimination against Arab bigotry “with the same forcefulness that we address discrimination against Jews, it’s not going to go away,” he said.

Video segments from the debate appear below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

 

Update:

Read Jim Zogby’s latest column: Nader Is Right: Double Standard is Real

 

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