The Magazine

Hip, Hip, Al Hurra!

Explaining America to the Arabs--with no help from the State Department.

Nov 6, 2006, Vol. 12, No. 08 • By ROBERT SATLOFF
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From my first week on the air, I have tried to showcase senior officials, so as to build up Al Hurra's brand as the must-watch station to learn what Washington is thinking. Despite many promises, only two senior officials--Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and White House spokesman Tony Snow--have ap peared on my show. More important, only a paltry few have ever appeared on any Al Hurra show. Most exasperating is the fact that some senior officials seem to show greater deference to Al Jazeera than they do to taxpayer-funded television that declines to humiliate U.S. spokesmen or roll out the red carpet for disgraced Baathists.

For me personally, this is an irritant, not a show-stopper. There are enough fascinating people and provocative issues in our capital to keep Dakhil Washington on the air for a long time even without appearances by high-level government officials. But for the country itself, facing as it does the long-term challenge of confronting ignorance and distortion of America in the Arab world, it seems, to say the least, an opportunity missed.

Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, is the author of Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust's Long Reach into Arab Lands.