- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 18, 2004

Much coverage about the war in Iraq, the war on terrorism and other Middle East events appears daily in newspapers and on television news programs. What the public does not see, and what directly bears on our success in the region now and in the future, is the continuing public-relations war waged daily by anti-Western Islamist radicals.

Even more than the anti-U.S. television station al-Jazeera,the terrorist organization Hezbollah’s al-Manar station is seen by more than 10 million viewers throughout the world and most preferred by Muslims, according to a 2003 poll in Jordan. With a yearly budget of $15 million, al-Manar has been Hezbollah’s official station since 1992, run by former guerrilla fighters, has bureaus in Egypt, Iran, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, and is headquartered in Beirut.

With “news” correspondents in foreign countries, the broadcasts are influential not only in the Middle East, but have also gained listeners in Europe, South America and even the United States. Al-Manar is considered among the top five stations in the Arab world.

What should concern all Americans, and indeed, all who believe in democratic government, is the unbridled and unremitting hatred used to further the station’s goals. The backbone of the broadcasts is mindless hatred of Israel and Zionism and calls for complete destruction of Israel, which is simply dismissed as “Western expansion into Muslim lands.”

Al-Manar’s objective is to “wage effective psychological warfare against the Zionist enemy,” along with promoting Hezbollah’s image and its revolutionary Islamist worldview.

With a 24/7 broadcasting schedule, al-Manar programs news and talk shows, documentaries, children’s shows, dramas and music videos — in slick, professionally scripted productions designed to win viewers’ “hearts and minds.”

Cheering over the destruction of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, al-Manar’s aim is delegitimizing the United States as a world power, and it never misses a chance to picture the “Great Satan” America as a hegemon, an occupier and a sponsor of state terror, “a beast that is hungry for power and hungry for blood.”

Constantly run videos depict the Statue of Liberty as a knife-wielding ghoul drenched in blood. Jihadists are exhorted to “slaughter U.S. soldiers in Iraq.” Images of President Bush are juxtaposed against those of Adolf Hitler, with captions that read, “History repeats itself,” or Mr. Bush and Ariel Sharon on flip sides of a coin labeled “Two faces of evil.”

The damage from venom is almost incalculable, considering the task we face in attracting millions of Muslims who might be persuaded to try the democratic experiment in their own countries. Just the opposite is encouraged by al-Manar: It seeks to legitimize suicide bombings and terrorism; it promotes a culture of resistance, especially among young adults and children; it canonizes Muslim “martyrs,” and actively recruits more terrorist militants.

There is no excuse for the United States and other Western democracies to do nothing while this propaganda station continues to spew this venom. In “Beacon of Hatred: Inside Hezbollah’s al-Manar Television,” published in October by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, author Avi Jorisch outlines a number of positive steps our government should take to counteract this assault on civilized values.

One way to shut them down, Mr. Jorisch argues, is to shut off their sources of funds. The Treasury Department should sanction the station and designate and monitor banks that harbor Hezbollah accounts. Existing laws should be enforced against U.S. companies that advertise on the station; against U.S. citizens that work for al-Manar; and against media outlets that purchase their programming.

In addition, Mr. Jorisch says, the United States should pressure foreign governments to remove the station from its airwaves, along with its bureaus, correspondents and corporate sponsors.

The nub of public relations is communications: to reach, understand and influence others. Because what people see, hear or read is a primary force in shaping their opinions, there is an inevitable struggle over what information they shall have access to. It must be understood that if we cannot persuade millions of Muslims favorably to our cause, we will fail in the long run, regardless of our military and diplomatic efforts.

Our first priority must be to shut down the hateful lies and propaganda of the terrorists, and we should, pari passu, redouble our own efforts to gain traction with messages of freedom, tolerance and democracy in this troubled region.

BARRETT KALELLIS

Mr. Kalellis is a free-lance writer and a public relations executive in metropolitan Detroit and may be reached at kalellis@hotmail.com.

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