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Unopened Sesame: No Magic For The Tv Arab

February 05, 1986|HOWARD ROSENBERG

Global terrorism remains in the news. So it's not surprising that my Jan. 15 column on TV's Arab depictions ("Arabs on Television: An Unbalanced Picture") drew an overwhelming response from readers.

Most endorsed the column. It lamented the relatively light national media attention given the unsolved murder of Alex Odeh, an Orange County official of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. It quoted Southern Illinois University Prof. Jack Shaheen and his book "The TV Arab," which finds an anti-Arab bias on TV. The column also excerpted a "Cagney & Lacey" episode that Shaheen felt maligned Arabs.

The letters:

If you saw "Nightline," then you saw the thousands of Libyans outside in the street shaking their fists at Israel, at America. It was the same kind of demonstration we used to see outside the American Embassy in Lebanon.

To me, as an American and as a Jew, every one of those fanatics would just as soon kill me as look at me. They think we are the incarnation of evil. How can we not fear people who engage in those demonstrations and who have already proven to us that they are willing to kill innocent people and who think suicide in that way will take them to heaven?

Though we may have ideological differences with others in the world, none have shown that they are so uncivilized as to attack the Rome airport. The unfairness (in the media) is not based on paranoia, it is based on reality.


Santa Monica

Besides being morally and intellectually wrong, Arab-bashing is a lousy, low form of journalism, and those of us guilty of the "crime of silence" should ask ourselves who is being served when the murder of a man like Alex Odeh on Santa Ana streets commands less media attention than the same kind of terrorism halfway around the world.


Newport Beach

We've also had an Arabian female doctor and an Arabian social worker. We haven't had an Arab terrorist, a hijacker or murderer. So much for reality television.


Executive producer of "Cagney & Lacey"

For some time at the movies I have been made queasy at what is done not only to Mideasterners, but also to Asians. Any human body that is of a brown tint can be bounced off the pavement, splattered across walls and blown into bits with all the jolly good fun of a "Roadrunner" cartoon.

I have a niece engaged to marry a charming young engineering student from Burma, and among my friends from the Claremont Colleges are people from Korea, China, Malaysia, India and Kuwait. It is for them in particular that I am most embarrassed by these images in American movies.



So Howard Rosenberg, once again at a loss for the usual drivel with which he fills his column, has now decided to champion the cause of the poor, misrepresented television Arab. Mr. Rosenberg seems to thrive on his own ludicrously feeble attempts to create controversy where there is little or no basis for any. His chosen battles have ofttimes amazed me and with this one, he's just about outdone himself.

It's never bothered Mr. Rosenberg that there is rarely if ever a positively portrayed, identifiably Jewish character on television outside of docudramas (which usually deal exploitatively with the Holocaust). It has never irked Mr. Rosenberg that on those infrequent occasions when a character is identified as Jewish, he or she is usually an elderly person who speaks with an accent and spends a disproportionate amount of time dishing out scholarly advice.

Mr. Rosenberg doesn't bother with issues close to home, but that should come as no surprise to anyone who follows his column. I still remember all too well that Mr. Rosenberg objected to Ali McGraw portraying a Jewish woman in "Winds of War" because she didn't "look Jewish."


West Hollywood

A book like Jack Shaheen's could also be written about Russian characters on children's TV shows. We pride ourselves on being the world's foremost democracy, so why don't we teach our children that all people feel and love and hurt and bleed alike, and no one is "bad" because of his race, nationality, color, religion or personal beliefs?


Los Angeles

My extensive contacts with Arab people during my six visits to that region as well as with hundreds here in the U.S. find resonance with your remarks as well as with those of Prof. Shaheen. With few exceptions, I have found that Arabs portrayed in the media and those I've encountered are about 180 degrees different.

Also, I appreciated your reference to Alex Odeh, for years my valued friend and sometimes teacher, host and co-worker. He was a gentle and fair man, committed to a just peace and reconciliation.


Long Beach

I must express my consternation at your failure to suggest one of the possible sources of this bias: Or is it too "anti-Semitic" to point out the Jewish dominance over, not to say control of, American television?


El Centro

Are you aware that there are many Arabs out there that would rather see you dead simply because you are Jewish? When I read a column by an Arab author pleading for better understanding of Jews and Zionists, only then will I concede that your column was in the best interest of Jews and humanity in general.


Hermosa Beach

As for Jack Shaheen, one would expect no less than a whitewash of his fellow Arabs.


Los Angeles

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