Ex-ABCer Heaps Praise on New Employer Al Jazeera As "Revolutionary"

March 1st, 2006 8:42 AM

In an interview with NPR's "On The Media," former ABC reporter Dave Marash, now signed up for the English-language version of al-Jazeera, goes almost faint singing the praises of his new employer:

Al-Jazeera in Arabic is, I believe, one of the most revolutionary and positive influences on the Arabic-speaking, mostly Islamic Middle Eastern world in, literally, centuries. It has opened up public discourse and it has brought American standards of reporting to an area that previously had nothing but really moronically state-controlled television and news operations.

Marash then defended al-Jazeera against the charge that they're a channel for radical Islam and Jew-hatred:

And to us in the West, the extremes of that context seem obnoxious or worse, even intolerable. But in that region, if Al-Jazeera in Arabic were politically correct and scrubbed the extremes from its debate, it would lose all of its credibility with its viewers, who know that anti-Israeli attitudes are prevalent in the region and flat, ugly anti-Semitic attitudes are also widely distributed. The only way that I believe that they can be combated is in direct intellectual combat, and you can't do that by excluding them.

When "On The Media" co-host Bob Garfield weakly notes the al-Jazeera name carries undefined "baggage" and might have trouble with bookings, Marash offers another valentine to his new paycheck:

I don't think the guest booking is going to be a problem, because most of the people whom we would want to book as guests know the Al-Jazeera brand does stand for editorial integrity and quality.

Garfield then asked about how al-Jazeera is owned by the Emir of Qatar, a state-controlled outlet (not "moronic," apparently, despite Marash's earlier sentiments.) Marash turned another pirouette of embarrassing spin:

In a way, that's one of Al-Jazeera's advantages, I believe, Bob. The state of Qatar has about 150,000 people in it. It has some oil, but not huge oil wealth...Qatar really has one national interest, other than its economic growth, and that would be survival. Beyond that, it can hardly pretend to have real national interests, and so therefore Al-Jazeera is almost perfectly clear of any national interest or any dictated political policy.

Garfield concluded by asking: "You're Jewish, and you've already taken some criticism of being a self-loathing Jew, anti-Semitic, anti-Israel. You've been called 'Marash of Arabia.' What's it like going through this experience and dealing with that portion of the American Jewish community that thinks you're a traitor?" Marash replied:

You have to just shake off what are basically hysterical, ignorant and ugly statements. I am proud to be a Jew. I believe if harmony is to be achieved between the Judeo-Christian West and the mostly Islamic Middle East, the first people who will be making steps towards peace on the Arab side are the modernizers, are the secularists, are the free market free speakers, in other words, the very people who started and back and, I believe, listen to and value Al-Jazeera in Arabic and hopefully Al-Jazeera International. I'm proud to associate myself with those on the Jewish side who do seek peace and harmony, and if that offends some of my co-religionists or fellow Americans, all I can say is it's a free country.

PS: Robert Redford as Betsy Ross? NPR concluded its show by explaining that the new DVD of "All the President's Men" notes that the secret ingredient in convincing Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein that the Watergate story was about them was Robert Redford, well before their book was finished. "On the Media" co-host Brooke Gladstone concluded with her own near-fainting spell:

So there you have it. Now for many, perhaps most Americans, the story of Watergate is just as much about the potential power of gumshoe reporters as it is about the corruption of a President, and it has shaped our perceptions, our expectations of journalism more than our view of the presidency. It's the icon of the Fourth Estate. It's the flag that it wraps around itself when the arrows fly. And the Betsy Ross who stitched that flag for future generations of news reporters and news consumers wasn't the duo known as "Woodstein." It was Robert Redford.