BBG: Broadcasting Israel-friendly “democratic values” to the Middle East (with American taxpayers’ money)
Norman J. Pattiz, American radio mogul and chairman of the U.S. government’s Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) Middle East Committee, founded Radio Sawa, which successfully “used music as a tool to attract a younger audience” — it’s listened to by over 42% of youth in a number of Arab countries, including Egypt. But how many of the 75% of Radio Sawa listeners who consider its news “reliable and credible” know this about its “founding father”?
Pattiz is also on the national board of the Israel Policy Forum, which is “committed to a strong and enduring U.S.-Israel relationship and to advancing the shared interests of the United States and the State of Israel.” Its Israeli Advisory Council is comprised of prominent figures from Israel’s military and intelligence establishment, mostly notably David Kimche, who was once described as “Israel’s leading spy and would-be Mossad chief.” According to a Washington Report profile, “The ‘man with the suitcase,’ as Kimche became known by colleagues in Israel, would appear in an African country a day or two before a major coup, and leave a week later after the new regime was firmly in control, often with the aid of Israeli security teams.”
While Pattiz’s efforts helped foster a more positive attitude toward the the United States among the region’s youth, former BBG Chairman Jim Glassman, later appointed Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy, was responsible for the “subtle work” of promoting “democratic change” through the use of social media networking.
Walter Issacson, Glassman’s successor as BBG chairman, commends its efforts to promote “a more hopeful, democratic world.” In a Feb 8, 2011 piece in Foreign Policy entitled “From Samizdat to Twitter,” Issacson writes:
Alhurra TV, the U.S.-funded international broadcaster, has also come of age during the crisis. Daily visits to Alhurra.com increased 540 percent between Jan. 23 and Jan. 30. Over the past few days, leaders of Egyptian opposition parties –Wafd, Ghad, and the Movement for Change (Kefaya) — have sought out the station to bring their messages to its viewers.
The United States finances Alhurra and other international broadcasters to support exactly the long-term goals of democracy and respect for civil society that are at the heart of protesters’ demands across the Middle East. It’s what the United States has been doing for 70 years, and what it needs to keep doing.
Issacson is also president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, whose board of trustees not only includes a close-knit network of advocates of democracy promotion in the Middle East such as Madeleine Albright, Condoleeza Rice and Vin Weber, but also staunch supporters of Israel, including major Obama backers James Crown and Margot Pritzker.