Like Arab Americans, Jewish citizens in the United States are financial and educational leaders, but the utility of political activism and journalistic participation is a better understood part of the Jewish ethos. (I also need to acknowledge that it is possible, of course, that Arabs can also be, and are, Jewish. Nothing defies categorizations like the peoples and politics that emerge from the Middle East.)
Arabs certainly aren’t unaware of the power of the press. As Neil Lewis recently pointed out in CJR, it is common for Arabs to complain that the US press is detrimentally and unjustifiably supportive of Israel (and also common for Jewish observers to claim the reverse—a reflex some journalism researchers have called the “hostile media phenomenon”). And, again, some Arab Americans do work for mainstream news organizations. Anthony Shadid, America’s most decorated foreign correspondent among the living, is of Arab descent. There are also scores of stellar journalists chipping at the boundaries of change in Arab countries.
Following the Arab spring and with the partial opening of press systems in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere, it is possible that more Arab Americans will be encouraged to serve the public in journalism or politics, and I hope they do. America’s approach to world affairs would be better for it. For now, though, many Arabs don’t view journalism as one of the keys to a better life, and I can’t blame them.
Correction: This article originally included the following line: “There are just two Arab Americans serving in the US Congress, according to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, neither of which are in the Senate.” As it turns out, there are five Arab Americans in the US Congress: Justin Amash, Richard Hanna, Nick Rahall, Charles Boustany, and Darrell Issa. This means that over 1 percent of Congress is of Arab descent. (Arab Americans only comprise 0.5 percent of the total US population.) The line containing the incorrect statistic has been removed from the piece, rather than revised, because the point that the author was making doesn’t hold up under this new data; the spot of its removal has been marked with an asterisk. CJR regrets the error.