“Can Syria change its image?” by S. Farah

Can Syria change its image? The Power of Narratives.
By S. Farah for Syria Comment
24 November 2008

In an interview on National Public Radio, the great American author Norman Mailer explained his public image by saying, “People have outlandish ideas of me and are often surprised when they meet me. If I heard one remark over a thousand times in my life, it is that, you know, you are not the least bit who I thought you would be.” He blamed this false image on poor journalism. He said, “I am a measure of how bad and inaccurate the news is. The sad truth,” he went on to say, “Is that most journalists are mediocre writers. The mark of mediocrity is to look for precedents; so they look up the file on me and whatever was written about me before gets written again, therefore confirming the error.”

Poor journalism and transcribing precedents without examining the facts goes a long way in explaining Syria’s image. But Syria bares a responsibility as well.

For years Israel promoted a potent anti-Syria narrative — that Syria is a “brutal dictatorship that thrives on chaos”. They argued that Syria supports “terrorism” targeted against the only democracy in the Middle East — Israel — a narrative designed to distract western public opinion from Israel’s occupation of Arab land and its treatment of the Palestinians and Syrians under occupation. To gain further sympathy and western support, Israel also highlighted the tragic plight of the Jews during the Holocaust and emphasized the West’s “Judeo-Christian heritage”. With this, the focus shifted to Syria’s internal politics and Israel became a victim rather than the perpetrator of aggression through occupation.

And for many years Syria allowed its detractors to define her amidst a deafening silence from Damascus. Her political leaders were rarely accessible to the media and its embassies oversees were often described as “vaults”, a place were journalists were not allowed.

All this changed. Syria now has a very talkative, highly educated, and sophisticated cadre of politicians and foreign diplomats who are not camera shy. They are often multilingual and are armed with facts, bits and data.  They have been dispatched to set the record straight. Yet despite hundreds of interviews press appearances and talks at the various institutions, Syria’s image remains largely unchanged.

So how can we explain this stubborn resilience of Syria’s poor image? One explanation resides in the power of narratives.

According to Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the author of the best-selling book The Black Swan, narratives are what the brain uses to store and index information and facts. As we are faced with thousands and thousands of bits of information every day, the brain, like a computer, needs a way to arrange these bits into files. Narratives are what we use to summarize and make these trillions of details we encounter in a lifetime seem less random. One feature of narratives is that they are sticky, our brains clings to them. They are an integral part of the working biology of our brain. Another feature of narrative is they viciously affect the remembrance of facts, so we tend to remember more easily those facts that fit the narrative.

Today the only narrative about Syria is the one presented by its detractors. Syria never presented the world with her own competing narrative. Consequently, information that comes out of Syria today (including those presented by the Syrian politicians and diplomats) that fits the narrative, our brains will store, further emphasizing our established impressions of Syria, and the information that does not fit, confuses us and is neglected by our brain.

Even journalists usually seek information that confirms the narrative, and are doubtful when the information does not fit their preconceived notions. For example, a TV journalist reporting from Syria will find a giant poster of the president and present his or her report standing in front of it.

Many analysts and journalists are confused about what to make of Syria’s peace initiative toward Israel and the reforms carried out by President Bashar al Assad because they do not fit the established image of Syria. They usually doubt Syria’s intentions and explain its peace talks with Israel that are mediated by Turkey as a way for Syria to ease the western pressure on its government.

The Syrian government has allowed its citizens free access to the world’s information through unrestricted access to satellite TV and the Internet. The wife of the president has even helped organize a nonprofit effort to extend Internet access to rural Syria and cell phone companies are now offering high speed 3.5G wireless accesses to the Internet. Journalists will usually ignore this information because it does not fit the narrative of an oppressive dictatorship, yet ill-conceived and often unexplained government actions such as blocking Facebook or a rare political detention in today’s Syria will receive widespread coverage..

So can Syria change its image? The answer is yes. First Syria will have to provide the world with its own narrative. It is unrealistic to expect the public or a busy journalist who is faced with deadlines to examine and analyze a mountain of information. Syria will have to define the issues and what she stands for in a succinct and compelling way. Then she will have to promote this new narrative with programs and facts.

Comments (44)

Ambika said:

Dear S.Farah,

I enjoyed reading your article, especially as it moves away from the daily news and Syria bashing one reads about today on a constant basis. I do agree that once an image has been formed, it is extremely hard for people, the daily viewer to change that in their minds. Syria will have to work very hard to change the perception people have about the nation on the global stage, and back this new image up with serious efforts and correct diplomacy. Today Assad will have to work twice as hard if it is his intention to change the world views about his country, and to assure leaders that want to build bridges with him that their efforts will not be in vain. Not only might this serve to better Syria’s relations with the west, but might also prove to be a useful tool in stabilizing relationships within the region itself.

November 24th, 2008, 8:52 am


George Ajjan said:

Correct. It has nothing do to with anti-Arab bias and is instead a credibility issue that derives from the underlying narrative – no different than reporters accepting the word of a fictitious person who claimed that Sarah Palin didn’t know whether Africa was a country or a continent.

When you have no credibility built up, your image becomes very easily tarnished further.

November 24th, 2008, 11:49 am


Danya said:

I’m not quite sure where to start. Syria’s problem, the article informed me, was not its actions but its image. The issue at hand is the narrative constructed by the Israelis. Rafiq Hariri and Nuclear Reactors be damned! Madison Avenue is the solution! Syria, it turns out, needs to craft a better story about itself. At some parts, the piece is incredibly delusional:

“Yet despite hundreds of interviews press appearances and talks at the various institutions, Syria’s image remains largely unchanged.
So how can we explain this stubborn resilience of Syria’s poor image? One explanation resides in the power of narratives.”

I bet I could think of another explanation. At other times, the piece is characterized by a disdain for facts. As if journalists have to look very hard to find a massive picture of al-Assad in Damascus to stand in front. Ohh, and unrestricted internet? I challenge the Syrian readers to type “www.jpost.com” into their browser and tell me what pops up!

this is silly.


November 24th, 2008, 11:57 am


Akbar Palace said:

George Ajjan,

This may be a bit difficult for some to comprehend, but I think the best thing Syria can do to improve her image is to stop playing “footsie” with terror organizations and Iran.

But that’s just my POV.

November 24th, 2008, 12:09 pm


Idit said:

S. Farah

Syria can improve its image by cutting
support to terror organizations and, of course, improving its Human Rights dismal record.

November 24th, 2008, 12:30 pm


qunfuz said:

AP – Here are the Syrians worrying about their image and not just blaming others and not just repeating the old tired stereotypes. Whatever conclusions they come to, surely this is a healthy thing. Now, do you worry about Israel’s image in the Arab and Muslim worlds?

November 24th, 2008, 1:20 pm


Leo said:

It can be very difficult to change people’s perception when generalizations, streotypes, and cherry-picking have become the routine of many journalists.

But then again, we can’t always put the blame and point fingers to the outside and should accept some of the blame ourselves.

For example, “The Syrian government has allowed its citizens free access to the world’s information through unrestricted access to satellite TV and the Internet.”

I totally disagree with the above as Syria had no choice but to accept the reality of satalite TV or else stick with placing curtains on every balcony (as satalites were banned in the 90s and people found loopholes by placing curtains/bedsheet covers on the balcony to “hide” the satalite dish). Basically the reason why Satalite Tv’s is allowed is because the state has no other alternative.
As for the internet, it is highly restricted and many prominent websites have been denied access to including YOUTUBE, FACEBOOK, ALARABIYA, and many more. Even HOTMAIL was blocked for quite a while. Change in perception will only begin once we are serious in expanding basic freedoms. Only then we shall expect to be given the benefit of the doubt.

November 24th, 2008, 1:37 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Now, do you worry about Israel’s image in the Arab and Muslim worlds?


No, not so much considering that Israel has withdrawed from land and got much less than a lousy T-Shirt;)

Maybe someday.

BTW – do you worry about the Arab’s image in Israel and in the Jewish world? I didn’t think so;)

November 24th, 2008, 1:55 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

I agree with Leo.

But I also wonder to what extent “image” really is a problem, when the interests of nations are at stake. How much better is Saudi Arabia’s image than Syria’s, in the West? If you asked the average American on the street what he knows about Saudi Arabia, he would probably come out with any of the following nuggets:

1. Women can’t drive
2. They chop the hands off of thieves
3. 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were SAudis
4. Bin Laden is Saudi
5. They are responsible for the high price of oil

Having a nice image is all well and good, but I think that Syria should not worry too much about it. There are bigger fish to fry.

November 24th, 2008, 2:11 pm


Chris said:

Blaming the media for Syria’s poor image is a bit easy.

Farah writes:
“For example, a TV journalist reporting from Syria will find a giant poster of the president and present his or her report standing in front of it.”

It is not difficult to find huge posters of Bashar in Damascus. They are very common. It is emblematic of the type of police state which exists in Syria, therefore showing them is not an example of bias, but rather an attempt to show the type of regime which exists in Damascus.

Now to the falsehood:
“The Syrian government has allowed its citizens free access to the world’s information through unrestricted access to satellite TV and the Internet.”

The regime has done nothing of the sort. Facebook, Youtube, Haaretz, and all blogspot pages are banned in Syria (of course the list of banned sites goes on). While Farrah does note that Facebook is banned s/he pretends as if this is some aberration. The fact is that obtaining home internet access is very difficult in Syria. It is not unrestricted.

November 24th, 2008, 2:33 pm


qunfuz said:

I do actually worry about the Arabs’ image in Israel. I once wrote something about that.

November 24th, 2008, 2:33 pm


qunfuz said:

ya’ani, don’t asume that all human beings are as complacent and unimaginative as you. (I’m sure even you could be humanised).

November 24th, 2008, 2:47 pm


ausamaa said:

I would say: Image -like Beauty- is in the Eye of the Beholder. If you dont believe this, then just look at how pretty the blood-stained image of “human and civilized” Israel is in the eyes of the various American Administrations.

Sure, Syria, as all countries in the world, always need to improve their image. But if you check out the Wold’s Public Opinion polls, you will find that the US Administration and the State of Israel are at the top of the list of countries that are in a desperate need of a face lift if not a complete cosmetic surgery.

November 24th, 2008, 4:30 pm


ash-shakkak said:

Didn’t I read this article in Tishreen?

November 24th, 2008, 4:57 pm


AIG said:

As an Israeli I am not worried at all about Israel’s image in the Arab world. Why should I worry about something that 1) I cannot influence and 2) that will not matter to me until the Arab states are democracies in which public opinon can actually influence policy 3) that I will never get a fair chance to present my views?

This is not lack of imagination, it is just smart prioritization. The Arab dictators use Israel as a method to reduce criticism of the their regimes. Basically, that only thing you are allowed to protest in the Arab world legally is Israel (and to some extent the US).

As for Syria, you can only change an image by providing compelling evidence that the image has changed. How you tell the story is somewhat important, but most important is WHAT story you tell. And the story has to make sense and be in line with actual facts. You have to tell a story that is not easily contradicted. If you say that Syria does not censor the internet, then it cannot be the case that someone simply shows that Facebook is blocked.

So the first step in changing the image, is to write one paragraph explaining what is the image you want to portray. Then, you can discuss how to tell it. First figure out though, what is the story you want to tell?

November 24th, 2008, 5:02 pm


Adam said:

To further Chris’ point..

Syrians do not have “free access” to satellite TV either. NSF’s attempt at a satellite station have been jammed twice by the Syrian authorities. Or was it three times?

November 24th, 2008, 5:07 pm


Love you Alex said:

To understand the power of narratives, all you have to do is flip sides and see how we treat information of Israeli raids on Palestinians. we think “The Israelies are defending themselves”. Count the political prisinors in Israel (all the 10.000. palestinians), we do not think of them as ploitical prisoners do we?

November 24th, 2008, 5:10 pm


Chris said:


What’s the relevance of Israel’s and the U.S. lack of popularity in the world to the article about how the media treats Syria unfairly?

Do you mean to imply that the media is also unfair to Israel and the United States?

November 24th, 2008, 6:22 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Professor Josh, Alex,

I thought that perhaps your Syria Comment forum would welcome another point-of-view in addition to your continuous stream of pro-Syrian articles:

Israel & Syria: Tactical Peace


November 24th, 2008, 6:23 pm


Apollodorus said:

Jad ,ask the orthodox and catholic dioceses,they have the accurate numbers of the christian communities that belong to them and you will see that the christians who live in Syria are as said Saghir 5% of the total population,also academic papers estimate their number from one million to 1,2 millions.
Believe me as Muslim educated in a Catholic institution, i’m very sad to see the decline of this community in front of my eyes.
Even when they had the Dhimmi status ,the christians were able to build their beautiful houses,wonderful churches,schools ,universities,textile factories.
For the muslim scholars there is no more need for the christians to be Dhimmi because they serve in the army.

November 24th, 2008, 7:21 pm


norman said:

Diplomats: US, IAEA chief clash over Syria
11/24/2008, 2:07 p.m. ET
The Associated Press

VIENNA, Austria (AP) — The chief U.N. nuclear inspector said Monday that Syria had a right to his agency’s help in planning a power-producing atomic reactor, in what diplomats described as a rejection of U.S.-led efforts to block the aid.

The clash reflected tensions between Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the U.N. nuclear agency, and key Western nations over whether Syria should be given potentially sensitive nuclear guidance at a time when it is being investigated.

Russia, China and developing nations also back the aid project, said diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the International Atomic Energy Agency talks.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said it was “totally inappropriate, we believe, given the fact that Syria is under investigation by the IAEA for building a nuclear reactor outside the bounds of its international legal commitments.

“And then for the IAEA to be involved in providing technical information concerning nuclear activities would seem to be contradictory, if not ironic,” McCormack said.

A report circulated last week by ElBaradei confirmed that soil samples taken at the site of a building in Syria bombed last year by Israel revealed “a significant number” of uranium particles.

The report also said that satellite imagery and other information appeared to bear out U.S. intelligence that the building was a nuclear reactor — one Washington said was nearly completed and almost ready to produce plutonium, a fissile warhead component.

Syria denies hiding nuclear activities. But the report strengthened both concerns that it might have something to conceal and arguments from the U.S. and its allies that Damascus should not be offered agency help in planning its civilian reactor.

Beyond helping the Syrians develop expertise, the $350,000 aid project would send the wrong signal about a country under investigation by the IAEA, critics like the Americans argued.

Those concerns were voiced again Monday, according to diplomats inside the closed meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation board. U.S. delegate Jeff Pyatt was the most outspoken in opposition to the planned project and receiving backing from the European Union, France, Britain, Australia and Canada, the diplomats said.

But ElBaradei disagreed, saying there was no legal basis to withhold the program.

Two years ago, Iran was stripped of IAEA technical aid meant to help it build a heavy water reactor that also will produce plutonium when completed.

However, the country was already under U.N. Security Council sanctions for refusing to freeze both construction of that reactor and its program of uranium enrichment — both pathways that could yield to nuclear arms.

ElBaradei cited Tehran’s case to emphasize the difference between the two situations and to argue in favor of the Damascus project, diplomats said.

Iran and other nonaligned nations also warned against withdrawing the project.

“Syria or any member state of the IAEA should benefit (from) technical cooperation without any discrimination,” Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, Iran’s chief delegate to the IAEA, told The Associated Press.

Separately, he accused those nations opposed to the Syrian project of “poisoning” the meeting’s atmosphere.

And speaking for the nonaligned countries, Norma M. Goichochea, the chief Cuban delegate said technical aid to members “should not be blocked, delayed or otherwise hindered for mere suspicion or unproven allegations.”

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
© 2008 cleveland.com All Rights Reserved.

November 24th, 2008, 8:01 pm


Alex said:


Excellent piece.

I think those who think he was only blaming the journalists for Syria’s negative image did not get his point.

He is blaming Syria too… for the few unnecessary political prisoners for example.

As for the restricted access to the internet … half of my contacts on Face Book are from Syria … they are there everyday. Whatever Syria did to block facebook is silly.

Anyway … 99% of the internet is available to Syrians.

November 24th, 2008, 8:23 pm


Alex said:

Here is what Dubai did for its image last week

November 24th, 2008, 8:27 pm


SAGHIR said:


Reportedly, the Atlantis bash cost $20 million. Since the top executive suits at this establishment go for $30,000 a night, it only takes renting out 2 suits for a year to pay for this extravaganza.

November 24th, 2008, 8:56 pm


Observer said:

The late Assad thought that no matter what Syria did or did not do, its image will always be tarnished because the narrative is being written by a West that has long defined itself in relation to the other.
I do not know of any group of countries that call themselves the East the South East or the North or the Extreme North to define themselves and by corrollary define the other. In the same way that every group has used a discourse to gain the upper hand, people have used Islam, Infidels, Franj, Ajami, Jew, etc…. to justify actions and attitudes to differentiate them from the other. All it takes is for a country to try to preserve a minimum of independence or dare to disagree with the dictatorship of the Western discourse to have the image tarnished. One can take any aspect of a people’s life and traditions to tarnish them. I believe that the Goebels propaganda machine which used US advertisement techniques developed in the early 20th century to the zenith of image building both negative and positive. Now we have it refined as we saw in the WMD story line with Iraq. I can say that any person short of perhaps Nelson Mandela or the Dalai Lama can be completely tarnished with the current methods of propaganda.
What about the image of the Zionist blockade of Gaza? It is called self defense in the words of the great leaders of the great Western bastions of human rights and dignity.

November 24th, 2008, 9:23 pm


qunfuz said:

Alex – I must say I find the Dubai fireworks ugly and, in their context, disgusting. The place was built by ill-paid and much abused 3rd world labour. People in the Arab world and beyond are illiterate and starving, and they spend millions on this rubbish. I’ve been in Dubai twice, only because I couldn’t avoid it. A cultural disaster zone. I spent most of both visits in traffic jams. At best, you come out of the airport into a larger airport. In all honesty, I would rather live in Somalia.

AIG – you make your usual mistake of assuming that an opponent of your murderous ethno-state must be a defender of corruption and dictatorship in the Arab world. I oppose the Syrian state when it smothers civil society. You know that most of the people here who disagree with you also oppose Arab dictatorships, but you choose to pretend otherwise. This is so that you don’t have to engage with what people are actually saying. You’re boring. I made a mistake talking to AP and you. I won’t repeat the mistake.

November 24th, 2008, 10:03 pm


Enlightened said:

“Can Syria change its image?” by S. Farah

I think that some of you have missed the point here, let me clarify.

Lets forget the narrative and reinforcement of Syria’s (brand and positioning) as the resistance culture in the ME, that has been carefully cultivated for both internal purposes within Syria, and the wider Arab world.

Observer touched on it (point 25) quite poignantly, the issue is quite black and white from a western perspective. The resistance or rejectionist culture is firmly embedded in western minds regarding Syria’s image. Reinforce this with Syria’s actions in the last 30 years (depending on your political view point) and you have positive reinforcement of this brand, at least in Western eyes.

In marketing terms it is most time consuming to change a brands image. A lot of investment and resources are needed to do this successfully. Therefore if it is time consuming, in the short term it is impossible to do.

I have always felt, and this is not only Syria’s problem, that the Western image of the Arabs have been negatively reinforced first through the print media, then successively through Films and broad stereo types that have slowly penetrated western minds since 1948.

It will take a lot to undo 60 years. Maybe a peace agreement might change all this.

November 24th, 2008, 11:53 pm


AIG said:


When I see democracy not advance one single milimeter in 60 years in the Arab world while most other places made great strides, it is hard to believe that all the opposition to the dictatorships is nothing more than grandstanding.

You guys talk an excellent talk, but the fact that so very little has been achieved in 60 years shows that you are not even trying. When I see daily demonstrations in front of the Syrian embassy and Arabs organizing to boycott and harass Mubarak when he is welcomed by the US president, then I will know that you are not just about talking. Do you remember the campaign Jews worldwide fought against the USSR to let its Jews leave? It was not won by talking. And the USSR was much more formidable than Syria will ever be. What I do see is apologetics for the dictators. I see many posters going out of their way to JUSTIFY Asad and Mubarak. Or, I see total resignation and accepting that democracy is decades away when someone zaps the brains of Syrians and they become “secular”.

November 24th, 2008, 11:54 pm


SimoHurtta said:

It would be interesting if somebody would make an academic study how the US, Israeli and western media treats Syria and Iran versus Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It is clear that Syria and Iran are in respect of human rights and governing style not worse than Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the difference is in the relations with USA and Israel. Though the treatment of the countries in the media is completely different.

The reality is that most “average” reporters write their stories based on previous articles and “big breaking news” written by other opinion formers (mostly big news organizations and influential seen media companies).

This kind of study could
* check the background of the reporters (I suppose a disproportional amount of them are Jews)
* which media companies and newspapers start the negative news
* check the nature of sources the sources (many of them are lately anonymous or think tanks with a political ideology)
* check which words and rotating slogans are used (I suppose of Syrian and Iranian leaders the word tyrant is used often, from the Egyptian and Saudi Arabian hardly ever. Or the blurry slogan terror supporting (what ever it means)).

Has anybody read lately “critical” articles about Libya after it changed it’s policy. The news are now mostly economical news without any “Axis of Evil – terrorist supporting jargon” even the democracy and human rights levels are unchanged.

November 25th, 2008, 12:18 am


Akbar Palace said:

“Can Syria change its image?” by S. Farah

S. Farah,

The Holy Land Foundation was just found guilty of funneling money to a terrorist organization. IMHO, this sort of thing hurts the image those who support terrorist organizations.

You asked the question!


Sim said:

This kind of study could * check the background of the reporters (I suppose a disproportional amount of them are Jews)

What percentage of Jewish reporters would be “disproportional”, and how do YOU know what percentage of reporters are Jewish.

If it’s not too much trouble, please present your data.

November 25th, 2008, 12:31 am


trustquest said:

Black swan principal is taken out content by the author of this post.
Nassim Taleb, did not say that it is impossible to describe a long clothe covering all the windows of the 8 storey blinding suffocating its citizens to show the young president picture or his father on it, he said that in mediocristan the black swan is unpredictable such as the civil war in Lebanon after 13 century of coexistence between Muslims and Christians no one could predict that or thought that will last 15 years civil war. He said that history does not crawl, it jumps, and humans are great at self delusion. We are waiting for the next jump the highly improbable is possible. The author is on one foot he/she should be more careful.
The author other mistake is in this example. In the book there are Mediocristan and extremistan, you can take a sample from the first and can judge it but you can’t take accurate sample from the second. Syria in the author mind is Mediocristan. So, the flag example is valid.
If we to make black swan of Bashar, he has to put all his cousins in prison and deliver his brother in law to the international court and make new friends. If he to show sign of black swan, he could have considered time change from his father’s time and at least worked in changing the dictatorial image by stop hanging those big clothe.

November 25th, 2008, 12:35 am


SimoHurtta said:

Sim said:

This kind of study could * check the background of the reporters (I suppose a disproportional amount of them are Jews)

What percentage of Jewish reporters would be “disproportional”, and how do YOU know what percentage of reporters are Jewish.

If it’s not too much trouble, please present your data.

Akbar I said “I suppose”. Disproportional naturally means that the amount of Jews of those writing more or less speculative stories about Syria and Iran is proportionately more than their amount of reporters writing in western media or even about Middle East.

Let us take as an example those Syria nuclear reactor stories. What is the “background” of these reporters who wrote about that would be interesting to know. Is Imre Karacs who wrote one story to Sunday Times Jewish? The Spiegel’s story on June 23 “Assad’s Risky Nuclear Game” is signed by smd/SPIEGEL/ap. Who is smd? ETC.

Akbar your “team” is constantly monitoring what is written and said about Israel and are extremely aggressive when ever Israel is criticized or even mentioned. Why would it be “bad” to know who are the most active in writing about Syria and Iran?

Look at the reference list in Wikipedia’s Operation Orchard page and make your own conclusions.

By the way how many analytical stories in Western media have you read about Israeli WMD’s? Even those nukes and other gadgets exist there are basically no stories. About Iran’s nuclear “activities” there “100” more or less speculative stories per day.

November 25th, 2008, 1:25 am


norman said:

The only way for Syria to improve it’s image is to surrender and give up to Israel and the west ,KSA , Egypt has better image than Syria because they gave up on Arab rights , so until there is a peace treaty between Syria and Israel all efforts with better PR will lead to nothing , so Syria should not waist money and effort.

And that is my take.

November 25th, 2008, 3:35 am


ausamaa said:


If you did not get my point, then you must enlist in ME 101.

Israel and the US have almost the lowest ranking in any Image contest among the World’s Population, still, the US MSM turns a blind eye to their action, find execuses for them at each and every turn but works overtime to demonize the Arabs and Syria. Ask who controls the MSM in the US and the Arab world and then tell me how can Syria improve its image in its adversaries run media!!!

Syria does not have nukes like Israel, Syria did not intentially and repeatedly bomb UN posts in Lebanon killing hundreds of civilians and UN trops, Syria did not drop millions of cluster bombs and refused to handover the maps to disarm them as Israel did, Syria did not bomb Hiroshema, nor occupied Vietnam, cvambodia, Korea and points beyound as the US did, and sttill tries to do, nor did Syria kick the Palestinaians out of their land en-mass in 1948 as Israel did with the help of the West and still oppresses the others who remained, Syria is not blockading GAZA and isolating it from the rest of the world to break the will of its population. Nor did Syria preciptate the current economic crisis which threatens the whole world. So, who really does need Image Improvement??

Got what I meant Chris?? The “relevance” you refered to ??

November 25th, 2008, 3:40 am


Majid said:

Wurmser’s article you posted was very enlightening.

November 25th, 2008, 5:53 am


Akbar Palace said:


Thanks. Take it for whatever it’s worth. One thing is for sure, if you read what Wurmser is saying, you’ll know how GWB and Dick Cheney are thinking.

Sim said:

Akbar I said “I suppose”.


Yes, I know. That is why I am challenging your “supposition”.

You said:

It would be interesting if somebody would make an academic study how the US, Israeli and western media treats Syria and Iran versus Egypt and Saudi Arabia. … This kind of study could
* check the background of the reporters (I suppose a disproportional amount of them are Jews)

I think this statement is more reflective of you Sim. Methinks you are a bit paranoid of Jewish reporters. Clearly, most Israeli reporters are Jewish, and I’m sure there are more than 2% of American reporters are Jewish (“disproportionate”? maybe), but what about the “Western Media”?

What constitutes the “western media”? I am willing to bet the “western media” is BY FAR dominated by gentiles like yourself (see BBC, AFP, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, London Times, European News Agency, even the Finnish News Agency (STT), that is, unless you can show us data to the contrary.


Jews are a TINY percentage of the world population and also a TINY percentage of the news reporters (even in the West). Mostly because 1/3 of all Jews were killed in Europe less than 100 years ago.

Perhaps the question you should ask is why so many gentiles are pro-Israel.

Let us take as an example those Syria nuclear reactor stories. What is the “background” of these reporters who wrote about that would be interesting to know.

Maybe “interesting” for you, not for me. News agencies are generally very careful about what they print, or else they jeopardize their reputation. The minute a news agency prints falsehoods they can be sued and their readship begins to distrust their periodical.

Is Imre Karacs who wrote one story to Sunday Times Jewish? The Spiegel’s story on June 23 “Assad’s Risky Nuclear Game” is signed by smd/SPIEGEL/ap. Who is smd? ETC.

I do not know who smd is. Sorry. I guess you’ll have to do some internet investigation;)

Akbar your “team” is constantly monitoring what is written and said about Israel and are extremely aggressive when ever Israel is criticized or even mentioned.


My “team” is not searching the Arab news media to see who is Muslim, Christian or Jewish. My “team” searches the arab news media (since most Arab news is GOVERNMENT controlled) to see how Arab governments are preparing their people for tolerance and peace (or lack thereof). For exaample, on Kuwaiti government-controlled TV, the following interview occurred. It had nothing to do with Israel:


(BTW – Little Green Footballs is a blog that is run by a NON-JEW)

Why would it be “bad” to know who are the most active in writing about Syria and Iran?

Go knock yourself out Sim. Find as many Jewish reporters in the Western Media as you can. Report back to us.;)

By the way how many analytical stories in Western media have you read about Israeli WMD’s?

I have not read many “analytical stories in the Western media” about Israeli, British, French, Pakistani, Chinese, Russian, or German WMDs.

I suppose because none of these governments have threatened the existence of another UN member country nor do they support terrorism.

Just my guess.

November 25th, 2008, 12:40 pm


Rumyal said:

re: Image. First rule of a successful PR blitz—never miss a photo-op…



Assad makes Kuntar a sergeant

Syrian president honors Lebanese terrorist with military title, during latter’s visit to Damascus

Roee Nahmias Published: 11.24.08, 20:24 / Israel News

Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar, recently released from jail in Israel as part of an exchange with Hizbullah for the bodies of kidnapped soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, was awarded an honorary title of sergeant by Syrian President Bashar Assad, Monday.

“Kuntar was not merely the most senior prisoner in jail, but is also senior among free men and honoraries. His being here with us and his determination to promote Arab rights, despite everything he’s been through, has turned him into a symbol of the struggle for freedom across the Arab world and the whole world,” Assad said during a meeting between the two in Damascus.

Kuntar expressed pride at the honor of meeting the Syrian president. “Syria’s brave stance as seen by the behavior of President Assad, his support of the noble resistance and his rejection of any unjust settlement is the basis for all resistance of free men and constitutes the source of the strong stance of prisoners still in the jails of Israeli occupation,” he said.

The Lebanese murderer, who kicked off a week-long visit in Syria last Friday, said at that time that, “the great thing about Syria is that when I was arrested 30 years ago, she was firmly struggling against Israel and, when I visit today, she still is.”

“I bring with me to Syria, and to President Bashar Assad, the blessings of the freedom fighters of the brave Islamic resistance (Hizbullah). I bring the blessings of the fighting Lebanese people, who feel loyalty and love for Syria for its stance, particularly regarding the war in July 2006 (Second Lebanon War),” he said during the meeting.

Earlier Monday, Kuntar accompanied 500 Druze Syrians to the border with Israel, where he told them: “Soon Assad will fly the Syrian flag over the Golan Heights.”

November 25th, 2008, 4:55 pm


Chris said:


It sounds like you are saying that Syria will have a hard time repairing its image because its adversaries control the media.

I assume that you believe Syria’s adversaries are the US and Israel or aligned with the US and Israel.

You also stated, in an earlier post, that according to various opinion polls the US and Israel also have some work to do on repairing their image.

It sounds like you are implying that those who control the media can also control the image of a country, which is why Syria has a poor image. So, if Syria’s adversaries (the US and Israel) control the media then why do they also have such low popularity, as you claim?

If it is because of those historical events you listed above (Vietnam, Hiroshima, cluster bombs…) then are you also implying that Syria’s poor image in the world could also be due to its actions? Or is it only that Syria’s poor image is due to media control by its enemies while the poor image of the US and Israel is a result of their actions?


Again blaming the media for a poor image is a bit too easy.

November 25th, 2008, 6:44 pm


Shai said:


Bashar and Kuntar just helped Bibi get another 2 seats… Call me cynical, but somewhere in there, I’m not sure this isn’t precisely the plan… to help Bibi win.

If you lose faith in the Left and Center, and you know history has shown that leaders from the Right are able to deliver (Begin, Sharon), why on earth would Syria want to see Barak, or even Livni, in power again? And if you prefer Bibi, then what better way to help him get elected, than to hug Kuntar and hail him as a hero… 🙂

November 25th, 2008, 8:53 pm


Nour said:


Why do you suppose that the US and Israel have such a poor image across the world?

November 25th, 2008, 9:09 pm


Akbar Palace said:


cc: Chris


Why do you suppose the Arabs and the Palestinians have such a poor image in the West, specifically in the US?


November 25th, 2008, 9:35 pm


jad said:

(Why do you suppose the Arabs and the Palestinians have such a poor image in the West, specifically in the US?)

Regarding the poor image of the Palestinian issue is because information in the American media regarding them get filtered 10 times before they are broadcast, this is why you got this poll result.

not very related but I wanted to add this link

November 25th, 2008, 10:17 pm


Nour said:

In my view the primary cause of the poor image of the U.S. globally is the result of a long list of decisions taken by the Bush administration and his overall attitude with respect to the rest of the world. Of course, that is tied into the other important factor, which is that the United States is probably the most powerful country in the world. That in itself, is a major reason why people are critical of it.

As far as Israel is concerned. A lot of people around the world tie Israel into a colonial narrative. Many people see it as a vestige of colonialism. It’s also tied into U.S. power, so it can be linked into anti-Americanism. In the middle east many of the reasons are obvious, i.e. the conflict with the Palestinian and the feeling by some Muslims that they have a claim to Jerusalem. However, it should be said that from the early days of Arab nationalism the conflict with the Yishuv gave Arabs a cause to rally around, to unify themselves against.

Akbar Palace,

I imagine that very recent history has affected Americans’ views of the Arabs.

We should keep in mind that the bulk of the people asked such questions in these polls have little interest in foreign affairs and the Middle East in particular. So, I’ll try and focus on what would affect the layman. The devastating terrorist attacks in Iraqi marketplaces and crowded cit centers that have grabbed headlines in recent years probably haven’t helped to garner much sympathy. Outside of that in older people’s memories the Palestinians are linked with people like Abu Nidal. Checkpoints and settlements don’t grab headlines like a bomb does, thus the effects of the occupation on the Palestinian population is probably overshadowed by more dramatic events. People may also naturally have sympathy for Israel because it’s a democracy in the Middle East. Often, if you ask an American who supports Israel, he/she will respond with “Because it’s a democracy,” almost verbatim. Walter Russell Mead wrote an interesting piece titled “The New Israel and the Old Why Gentile Americans Back the Jewish State” ( http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20080701faessay87402/walter-russell-mead/the-new-israel-and-the-old.html) on some of the cultural/historical reasons of why Americans support Israel. People’s sympathy for Israel may lead people to view with skepticism those who would prefer that it did not exist.

November 26th, 2008, 1:31 pm


Chris said:

Post 41. at November 26th, 2008, 1:31 pm was written by me.

November 26th, 2008, 1:33 pm


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