Israel’s Iran strategy: Bombs? Bluff? Both?

If Washington is perplexed by Israeli “opacity” on whether it might attack Iran, that is no accident, since Israel’s leaders are themselves torn – but also content to let fears of bluff and double-bluff play to their advantage.

Aware of daunting military difficulties and potential for diplomatic and domestic backlash should they try to hit Iran’s nuclear programme, Israelis have been giving out mixed verbal signals that they hope may both encourage their U.S. ally to up the pressure on Tehran, and unnerve their Iranian enemies.

While a senior U.S. security official has told Reuters that Washington has a “sense of opacity” on what might prompt Israel to strike, few experts doubt Israel’s well-funded forces could dent an Iranian atomic development program in which it sees the makings of a mortal threat to its existence.

However, many in Israel and abroad question whether its leaders would take the risk of plunging an already volatile region into war without the full support of its U.S. ally.

Yet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may think it is a risk worth taking. Ever a big-picture thinker, the U.S.-educated premier gave a speech this week commending Israel’s founding premier David Ben-Gurion for making fateful decisions at a “heavy price”, despite protests heard at home and abroad.

Commentators, on the alert these days for any clue about a possible strike on Iran, spotted a subtext – that Netanyahu, too, was ready to take lonely action in Israel’s interest.

He could hope for a repeat of the 1981 attack on Iraq’s atomic reactor and a similar sortie against Syria in 2007, when the anger of Washington’s initial reactions quickly faded.

“In the two previous experiences, even an American public, that may not have been persuaded, subsequently found out that the Israelis probably did what was necessary to be done,” said Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel.

“So there’s a huge public relations issue here: Can you make a credible case over the head of the administration, and get the American public to buy into the pain that is going to follow—Americans being killed in terrorism, oil shock, whatever it is.”

For now, Kurtzer estimated, Obama administration warnings against unilateral Israeli strikes on Iran would account for “5 percent” of Israeli deliberations, with the Netanyahu government’s military calculations taking the lion’s share.

Its priorities include fending off Iran’s promised missile reprisals and containing potential knock-on border wars with the Lebanese and Palestinian guerrillas who are allied to Tehran.

Former Mossad spymaster Meir Dagan has predicted that Syria, Iran’s key Arab ally and now beset by a bloody domestic uprising, might also choose to join in the foreign conflict.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said last week that an Israeli attack on Iran was not imminent. He has also said there were several months left in which to decide on such action, and described Israel and the United States as coordinating closely.

But senior figures in Washington say things are less clear, with rhetoric playing an important role in the confrontation at this stage: “I don’t think the administration knows what Israel is going to do. I’m not sure Israel knows what Israel is going to do,” Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee told Reuters. “That’s why they want to keep the other guys guessing. Keep the bad guys guessing.”

Ordinary Israelis, their isolation deepening as the Arab Spring undermines U.S.-allied regimes in the region, are divided on whether to open a front with Iran. Memories of rocket salvoes from the Lebanon and Gaza wars of 2006 and 2008 still hurt.

Public reluctance has been galvanized by the unusually vocal questioning by Dagan and some other retired security chiefs of Netanyahu and Barak’s secret strategizing.

These critics have urged U.S.-led sanctions on Tehran be given more time. Israel and its Western partners are also widely believed to have been sabotaging Iran’s uranium enrichment and ballistic arms projects, though Barak said any such covert campaign cannot be relied upon to finish the job.

A Dec. 1 poll by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the U.S. think-tank Brookings found that 43 percent of Israeli Jews backed attacking Iran, while 41 percent would be opposed.

By a ratio of two to one, respondents said they would agree to stripping Israel of its own atomic arsenal as part of a regional disarmament deal. Ninety percent predicted Iran, which says its nuclear project is peaceful, would obtain in time become a nuclear military power.

Slowing its progress toward that point, however, may be enough of an objective for Israel, which Barak assessed last month stood to lose “maybe not even 500 dead” to Iranian retaliation.

Should it end up worse, “there are international mechanisms that would curtail the war between Iran and Israel”, former Israeli military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin said last month.

But Yadlin, who was among the eight F-16 pilots who carried out the 1981 raid on Iraq’s Osirak reactor, sounded circumspect about Israeli military capabilities against Iranian targets that are numerous, distant, fortified and on the alert for attacks – in contrast to Saddam Hussein’s sole installation near Baghdad.

Israel, he said, should “open lines of dialogue with those who have superior operational abilities than we do”—effectively, shelving unilateralism in favor of cooperation with the United States and its NATO allies.

Dan Schueftan, head of the National Security Studies Centre at Haifa University, said Israel’s recent hawkish talk could be meant for foreign ears: “Because they (Netanyahu and Barak) fear that if it is believed that there is no possibility of Israel attacking Iran, the United States won’t consider taking action.”

Even Dagan publicly dangled the possibility that he has been playing into a propaganda ruse, telling Israeli television: “If Dagan is arguing against a conflict, then the Iranian conclusion is … ‘Listen, these Jews are crazy. They could attack Iran!’”

But posture can also be self-realizing. Before launching his surprise attack on Israel at Yom Kippur in 1973, Egypt’s Anwar Sadat repeatedly issued mobilization orders to his forces while also saying he was willing to consider peace negotiations, lulling Israelis into believing Cairo was not a serious threat.

“Sadat came to be seen as desperate. But he was not bluffing,” said Abraham Rabinovich, author of “The Yom Kippur War: The Epic Encounter that Transformed the Middle East”.

“He clearly intended his militant statements as a signal to Israel, and the United States, that he would go to war if there was no diplomatic solution. And so it was.”

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Alastair Macdonald

Ronni Chasen update: Gun is a match in ‘person of interest’ suicide

From The Beverly Hills Courier:

The Beverly Hills Courier has learned exclusively that preliminary ballistics analysis of the bullets that killed famed Hollywood publicist Ronnie Chasen came from the same gun that the “person of interest,” suicide victim Harold Martin Smith, used to kill himself.

Beverly Hills Police Department: ‘Ronni Chasen killed by lone gunman on a bike’

Pakistan Reaction: Something dark is growing in our own backyard

This is the first of two parts on Pakistan and terror. Next week: Anti-Semitism and Pakistan.

“Abhi India me pat’ta bhi nahi hil sakega.”

“Now even a leaf will need permission to stir in India,” remarked R, a young Indian woman at an expat dinner off London’s Baker Street on the Saturday after the Mumbai bombing. She was deep in discussion with three Pakistanis and nine fellow Indians about the expected tightening in security measures after the tragedy.

“It will be like the U.S. after 9/11,” she said, as heads nodded in agreement around the room. One of the Pakistanis opened her mouth but shut it quickly.

For Pakistanis at home, the fear is more palpable. It is not necessarily fear of immediate violence, but of something much darker growing in our very own backyard. Initially, the tragedy had seemed somewhat distant, but then came the damning reports that the terrorists used a boat to travel from Karachi. If Complete coverage of Mumbai Chabad attackproven true, this confirms yet again what the people of Karachi (and all over Pakistan) have known for a long time, that this city is being used as a base for terror groups. The long-term implications are terrifying. In the short term, Pakistan is worried that, as in 2001, when the Kashmir-based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) — the same group being named for the Mumbai terror — attacked the Indian parliament, the two countries could be brought to the brink of war.

Caution vs. the Blame Game

The Mumbai attacks made front-page news across Pakistan in the English-, Urdu- and regional-language media. All political statements condemning the merciless assault were carried, and Pakistan was one of the first countries to make its stance clear.

However, much of the media debates were fed by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement that it was evident the group that carried out the attacks was based outside the country, and that India would act against any neighboring country that allowed itself to be used as a base for attacking India. These words raised alarm bells all over Pakistan and in a way have provided a case study of the divisions between the English and Urdu media. Also important was that President Asif Ali Zardari denied any Pakistani role in the attacks, pledged action against any group found to be involved, and advised New Delhi not to “over-react.”

The timing of the Mumbai attacks is extremely suspicious to some analysts. It just so happens that whenever the government of Pakistan reaches out to work on peace with India, something terrible happens to sabotage the process. Sabotage may be a strong word to use here, but consider Taliban expert Ahmed Rashid’s words. The author of “Descent Into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia” said on Nov. 4, just weeks before the attacks, that he would hardly be surprised if something were to happen to derail the talks initiated by Zardari. He gave examples of how the military had sabotaged diplomatic efforts for peace with India in the past: Benazir Bhutto met Rajiv Gandhi in her first term, following which problems in Kashmir flared up; Nawaz Sharif met with A.B. Vajpayee, following which then-President Pervez Musharraf went into Kargil, a border hot spot with the two countries.

Thus, there are sections of society and the media that harbor a general mistrust, and help perpetuate it between the two countries, despite the fact that the two were one nation for hundreds of years until 1947. Some sections of the Urdu media exemplify this stance. They condemned the loss of life, but nonetheless fed into the blame game, an old tack. Their opinions ranged from the alarmist to the paranoid. Jang, one of the more widely read Urdu newspapers, warned in an editorial that Pakistan should be careful. But the editorial’s use of the word “propaganda” against Muslims to malign Pakistan had an old-school ring to it. The same line was taken by daily Urdu newspaper Nawa-i-Waqt, saying in its editorial that this was part of a “great game” by America, India and Israel against Pakistan.

Daily Urdu Ummat went so far as to indirectly support the “Deccan Mujahideen” by saying that their demands for the independence of Kashmir were “proof” enough that India could not “oppress” its Muslim populations for long. Urdu daily Khabrain chose to extrapolate on the earlier arrest of one Indian army lieutenant colonel for conspiracy by saying that India needed to get its own house in order. Similarly, daily Urdu newspaper Express felt that the “Indian rulers ought to change their thinking of hatred towards Pakistan,” urging them to look in their own backyard for terrorists hiding there, a reference to the time when Hindu extremists attacked a church in Mumbai.

This is not to say that one should dismiss the possibility of homegrown terrorism for India. But as some sections of the English media demonstrated, in a much more cautious, balanced and well-informed tone, there is another way of factoring that into the analysis of the situation rather than just by being accusing. For example, Dr. Hasan-Askari Rizvi, a well-respected political and defense analyst, pointed out in an op-ed piece in Daily Times that the blame game between India and Pakistan serves the political agendas of both hard-line Hindus and hard-line Muslims, who have always opposed normalization of India-Pakistan relations.

“India will soon learn what Pakistan already knows: It is not easy to control shadowy militant groups, especially when they cultivate support in sections of society,” he wrote.

Similarly, in its editorial, Dawn — one of the most widely circulated and oldest English newspapers — cautioned that those implicated in previous attacks in India have been homegrown Muslim militants. “In addition, Hindu militants have been linked to attacks targeting Muslims and Christians in India. What this all clearly adds up to is that India has a massive problem of domestic terrorism that it appears ill equipped to respond to…. But Pakistan cannot afford to be smug as India suffers. We have a grave problem of militancy, and the attacks in Mumbai are a grim reminder of the endless possibilities of terror.” These voices, mostly from the English media, acknowledge the problem, but instead of perpetuating insular rhetoric colored by anti-Semitic bias, urge cooperation; opinion based on historical trends and emerging facts; and transborder, regional solutions — given that the terrorists operate globally.

Photo: The Chabad House in Mumbai (before.) Next page: Chabad House interior (after)

All the news that’s fit to neuter

When the obituary for American journalism is eventually written, a milestone in the journey to its death rattle will surely be the column that The New York Times’ ombudsman, Clark Hoyt, wrote on Sunday.

Hoyt’s job is to hold the feet of The Times to the flames of journalism’s highest standards. What bothered him on Sunday was that Times business staffers like Andrew Ross Sorkin, Gretchen Morgenson and Floyd Norris not only report economic news under their bylines, but that they also, on some days, write opinion columns.

One example that ticked Hoyt off was Gretchen Morgenson’s coverage of a House oversight hearing on credit-rating agencies like Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, coupled with her column three days later on the same topic. Why, Hoyt asked, is it OK for Morgenson “to write a straight news article about the hearings and then give her personal opinion about them in a column”?

In case you’ve forgotten, it was those hearings that established how deeply the ratings agencies were in the tank with Wall Street’s malefactors. Instead of assigning credible independent grades to securities that we now know to be toxic assets, the agencies were hopelessly compromised by the fees that the securities issuers paid them to issue ratings. Here’s an e-mail exchange between two analysts at S & P about a deal they were examining:

“Btw — that deal is ridiculous. We should not be rating it.”

“We rate every deal. It could be structured by cows and we would rate it.”

The reaction by Standard & Poor’s president to having his company caught red-handed?

“The unfortunate and inappropriate language used in these e-mails does not reflect the core culture of the organization I am committed to leading.”

It’s ombudsman Clark Hoyt’s distinction between “straight news” and “personal opinion” that I think captures the reason that journalism is on the skids. “Straight news” is a dinosaur — not because Fox or MSNBC has discovered that there’s a market for personal opinion, but because the “straight” ideal turns out to be so misguided and dangerous.

Straight news puts the defensive blather from top executives of Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s on the same footing as testimony about conflict-of-interest by former officials of those firms at the hearings. Each piece of damning evidence is juxtaposed with a flack’s denial. Each incriminating e-mail demonstrating the corruption of the ratings process is laid against the executives’ contrary assurances of integrity and high standards. Straight news is stenography: These guys say “day;” these other guys say “night.” It’s up to you, dear reader, to decide whom to believe.

The trouble with this conception of journalism is that it inherently tilts the playing field in favor of liars, who are expert at gaming this system. It muzzles reporters, forbidding them from crying foul and requiring them to treat deception with the same respect they give to truth. It equates fairness with evenhandedness, as though journalism were incompatible with judgment. “Straight news” isn’t neutral. It’s neutered — devoid of assessment, divorced from accountability, floating in a netherworld of pseudo-scientific objectivity that serves no one except the rascals it legitimizes.

In her opinion column about the oversight hearing, Morgenson was free to characterize the ratings agency executives’ testimony with the words it deserved: hypocrisy, malarkey, smoke-and-mirrors, hogwash. Yet her newspaper’s ombudsman is worried about having the same person both report the news and — in a different piece, on a different day — analyze it; he fears that it risks giving readers the impression that the paper is biased.

But what’s the virtue of reporting, if it stops short of calling a blackguard a blackguard? I know the knock on analysis: It privileges one person’s opinion, one set of values, in a world of many competing opinions and values. But it’s ridiculous to deprive readers of reporters’ critical thinking. It may be true that different people may see the same evidence differently, but that’s no reason to require journalists to take stupid pills. If I don’t like the way your reporters come to their conclusions, I won’t read your paper or watch your network; instead, I’ll find outlets whose employees’ judgments strike me as warranted.

I’d rather there be many competing ways of framing and analyzing and coming to conclusions about what’s happening in the world, than pretend that there’s some platonic ideal of fairness that high-end organs like The New York Times are obliged to pursue. The problem with quality journalism isn’t that the line between news and opinion is too porous; the problem is that the news lacks the courage of its reporters’ and editors’ convictions.

Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear professor of entertainment, media and society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication. His column appears here weekly. He can be reached at

AUDIO: The Jewish Bob Dylan (June 15, 1972)

Bernard Timberg analyzes the songs of Bob Dylan looking for Jewish themes and imagery. He identifies messianic longings in Quinn the Eskimo, references to Jewish burial practices in Masters of War, and finds significance in the fact that the initials of John Wesley Harding can be interpreted as the name of the Jewish God, YHWH. Issues such as social justice and a sense of out-sideness imbue the songs of Dylan as they do the history of the Jewish people. Timberg also interviews a number of people who knew Dylan when he was still Bob Zimmerman in an effort to investigate the Jewish roots of his music, including a woman that was at his Bar Mitzvah and a counselor at a Jewish summer camp Dylan attended as a child. Also explored are a number of myths about Dylan that touch upon his Jewish identity.

This item is part of the collection: Other Minds Archive

Date: 1972-06-15Keywords: KPFA-FM; Music; Documentary; Folk Music; Bob Dylan

Majority Rules

Let me state for the record: I am a trendsetter.

This just in, according to no less an authority than The New York Times. Based on their most
recent census analysis, more American women are living without a husband than with one.

Yes, that’s right: 51 percent of women in 2005 said they were living without a spouse, compared to 35 percent in 1950. Living without a spouse doesn’t exactly mean single in the traditional sense of the word, if there is a traditional sense of the word. Some are living with partners (“in sin”), some have been married and are now widowed or divorced, and some, like me, just haven’t married yet because women are marrying later in life.

Incidentally, in 2005, married couples became a minority of all American households for the first time.


Jewish Singles Cruises

It’s comforting to know that at least I’m part of a majority.

So here’s what I’m wondering: If this trend continues, and, say, in a couple of decades the numbers shift so they’re the opposite of those in the 1950s, and only 35 percent of adults are married, what would the world be like? I mean, what would it be like for a nonmarried person?

You’d be at a meal with a group of people and everyone would be mingling with each other and having fun, and all of a sudden one man says, “We’re married.”

A silence would fall on the table, like in the old days, when someone confessed to being … single.

Finally someone would break the silence: “How long have you been married?”

“Ten years,” the “wife” would say.

Again the silence, and you are the one to ask what no one else could say. “But you’re so young! How old are you anyway?”

When it dawns on the crowd that the two are both 35 and have been married since they were 25, shock turns to disbelief, and the ice breaks. Everyone has questions. They’ve all forgotten their fun, single, happy life for a moment and turn to talk to this anomaly.
“Why do you think you’re still married?”

“I mean, are you even trying? Do you just stay home with each other?”
“Do you think maybe you’re too un-picky? I mean, maybe if you were more selective you wouldn’t be married.”

“God, it must be so hard for you to be married at your age,” someone would say, sort of sympathetically, but mostly inordinately relieved for herself that she’s not in that position.

“I think I may know someone else who’s married,” one man would add, trying to be helpful. Then he’d remember: “No, forget it, they split up.”

Soon, of course, the conversation would turn to fertility, as it always does in these situations.

“Aren’t you worried about your biological clock? I mean, you’re not getting any younger, and there still might be time to have children with other people. I guess you could always freeze your eggs — lots of married people are doing that these days, I hear. Why, this one friend of mine paid $100,000 in fertility treatments and got three viable eggs!”

And then everyone would be off, talking animatedly about doctors and sperm banks and adoption and how children these days are much better off than they were when we were growing up because there are so many parental units and families are so fluid and there’s so much less pressure to marry and to stay married and no stigma on divorce so kids can just focus on finding themselves and being good, productive people in good, healthy relationships.

Then some socially clueless person, who didn’t realize the conversation had finally taken its spotlight off the uncomfortable, lone, married couple, would pipe in, “I hear married people die younger than unmarried people.”

At that point you’d be able to hear the forks clatter to the plates, and everyone would be looking down, because even if that much-bandied about statistic were true — who researched those things anyway? It was like that urban legend in the 1980s, about a single woman over 35 being more likely to get killed by a terrorist than find a mate — was it really necessary to point it out?

Immediately everyone would start talking again — about the latest art opening, real estate prices, the upcoming ski trip to the Alps — anything to change the subject, because everyone would suddenly start to feel bad for the married couple, because really, it wasn’t their fault, exactly; it could happen to anyone if they weren’t careful.

And then they’d think back to an earlier, bygone era, back in the beginning of the millennium, say, in 2000, when married people were still the majority, and they’d thank their lucky stars for being born in such enlightened times.

Grass-Roots Level Campaign Coverage

When I was covering big shot political campaigns for the Los Angeles Times, I was treated like a big shot.

I sampled barrages of press releases, announcements of events, hot gossip, position papers, parties and invitations. I had many opportunities to interview candidates. The fact that I worked for the Times made me especially popular. Life was sweet on the campaign plane and in the restaurants and bars where the exclusive club of political reporters and campaign aides hung out.

That is not what happens since I have become a part-time political columnist for The Jewish Journal. Now, nobody writes, nobody calls.

I’m not going to reminisce about great days gone by. Rather, I’d thought I’d write about life as a community journalist and how it gives me a much better idea of voter sentiment than the drearily conventional, corporately cautious political reporting and analysis on television and in the newspapers.

I read or skim four newspapers a day. Working at home, I often flip on my desk-side television set to check on the news. In other words, I’m a news junkie.

The election analysis is all the same. For days, the political press was almost totally occupied with Sen. John Kerry’s choice for the vice presidential candidate. When Sen. John Edwards was selected, everyone I saw or read had the same take: Terrific speaker; inexperienced; shady trial lawyer; fighter for the forgotten.

It was as if the journalists were afraid to stray off the beaten track or leave the reporting pack to have an original thought. Today’s political reporting is a compendium of conventional wisdom. The motto of the press corps is: “On one hand…. And on the other….”

And the conventional wisdom is often wrong. President Ford was not clumsy. Al Gore was not a compulsive truth stretcher. Nor is President Bush the fun-loving wisecracker we read about in reports flowing from his 2000 campaign press plane.

Yet that’s how they were portrayed, and pretty soon erroneous conventional wisdom was accepted as if it were true, doing irreparable damage to Ford and Gore.

Since insiders no longer bother to spin me, I’m a free man.

The other day, for example, I wanted to do a story about Kerry’s presidential campaign. Lacking the usual sources, I checked out the California For Kerry Web site.

I saw that volunteers would be manning tables for Kerry in the San Fernando Valley in the next few days, distributing campaign literature and registering voters in a practice called “tabling.”

That sounded promising. The San Fernando Valley is prime country for a Jewish community journalist. Parts of the Valley have substantial Jewish populations. And there’s a feel of the grassroots about politics in the Valley. It’s not like the Westside, where Democratic politics are now limited to celebrities and other rich people throwing and attending high priced fundraisers.

I e-mailed Beverlee Stone-Goodman, who was to run a table at a Target in Sherman Oaks. She replied that Target had “received word from the corporate office that they will no longer be allowed to have any kind of solicitation on their premises, including the Salvation Army bell ringer at Christmas.” She suggested I contact Agi Kessler, house-party coordinator for Valley for Kerry. Kessler steered me to a table operating at the Promenade in Woodland Hills, adjacent to the AMC theaters: “This is a particularly good location because they are showing ‘Fahrenheit 9/11.'”

It was a great idea. The volunteers at the table gave me a nugget of news. Theatergoers were heading directly from “Fahrenheit” to the table to register and pick up pamphlets. The Saturday before the movie opened, the volunteers registered six. On the Saturday after the opening, they signed up 35. “One man changed his registration from Republican to Democratic after seeing the movie,” said Corinne Schnur of Topanga, who, along with Joan Campbell of Woodland Hills, took time out for an interview.

I also got a sense of Kerry’s great problem: Too many Democrats dislike Bush more than they like Kerry. As one volunteer at the Promenade told me, “I’d vote for Peter Rabbit before Bush.”

At the Kerry booth at the Studio City farmers market a day later, Chris Long, a special-ed teacher at North Hollywood High School, said “the number of people stopping by has increased every Sunday since October.” Like the Promenade volunteers, he said, “we get a lot stopping by who say ‘anybody but Bush.'” I wondered if Michael Moore would energize more hard-core liberal Democrats than Kerry. I also doubt that dislike of Bush is enough to win Kerry the presidency.

Granted, visits to a mall and a farmers market are not a scientific way to gauge how the election is going. But I drove home from the farmers market on the Fourth of July with the feeling that I had gotten at least a hint of how real people, including those from my community, felt about the Kerry campaign.

I think I’ll cover the presidential campaign from the San Fernando Valley.

Bill Boyarsky’s column on Jews and civic life appears on the first Friday of
each month. Until leaving the Los Angeles Times in 2001, Boyarsky worked as a
political correspondent, a Metro columnist for nine years and as city editor for
three years. You can reach him at

Now Hear This!

The radio station plays hits by Jennifer Lopez and Madonna,
and invites listeners to comment on issues such as what they’d do if they
discovered a friend was taking drugs.

It’s the type of fare broadcast to young adults from Malibu
to Miami. Except the disc jockey is speaking Arabic, and the listeners are in
the Middle East.

Welcome to Radio Sawa, the brainchild of Norman J. Pattiz,
founder and chairman of the biggest radio network in the United States. Since
March of last year, Radio Sawa (which means together in Arabic) has been
broadcasting in Arabic around the clock in the Middle East, targeting listeners
under 30 years old, who make up 60 percent of the region’s population.

Radio Sawa broadcasts a mix of Western and Arabic pop music,
interspersed with news updates and analysis, interviews and opinion pieces.
Potentially, millions of listeners can access Radio Sawa via AM, FM and
shortwave frequencies, as well as on the Internet ( and on
digital radio satellite channels.

Pattiz, the founder of Westwood One, helped conceptualize
and launch Radio Sawa as a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).
The BBG oversees the government’s nonmilitary international broadcasting
services, such as the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

While serving on a committee charged with reviewing the 61
different languages in which programs are broadcast, “it became obvious that
what we were doing in the Middle East was insignificant at best,” said the
59-year-old Southern California native. Once Pattiz pointed out the deficiency,
he soon found himself chairman of the BBG’s Middle East Committee.

Returning from a fact-finding mission to the region, he told
the U.S. House Committee on International Relations, “We have a vital mission
to counter misinformation and messages of hate regarding the United States by
broadcasting truthful news and information and by faithfully representing our
country’s government and culture.”

 Polling of young adults in Amman, Jordan, last October
appears to indicate that the audience is listening. Forty-three percent of
respondents tuned in to Radio Sawa, more than any other station, and 25 percent
considered it their top source for news. Both figures were higher than those
received for any other station.

“I don’t know that we ever expected to get to these kinds of
numbers, but we certainly never expected to get to them that quickly,” said
Pattiz, noting that the percentages have increased since the October poll.

Pattiz acknowledged that Radio Sawa’s impact is “less
strong” with lower socio-economic groups than with “the more educated and more
affluent and those who have more of a connection with Western values. But we
have to start someplace,” he said.

Pattiz said that by presenting news objectively, Radio Sawa
more accurately represents the United States and its culture than other
available sources. For example, he noted that Al Jazeera, the Arab satellite TV
station in Qatar, recently aired a two-hour interview of former Ku Klux Klan
leader David Duke.

“This is who they chose to interview as a representative of
the people of the United States of America — David Duke. If that isn’t bone
chilling,” Pattiz said.

Like news regarding the United States, coverage of other
areas, including Israel, is intended to be presented without bias. Radio Sawa’s
news director is Mouafac Harb, a former Washington bureau chief for the
international Arabic daily newspaper, Al Hayat.

According to its Web site, one of Radio Sawa’s guiding
principles is that “the long-range interests of the United States are served by
communicating directly in Arabic with the peoples of the Middle East by radio.”
Pattiz echoes this sentiment.

“We’re certainly better off communicating with a major part
of the world where our efforts have been woefully inadequate,” he said. “If
they’re going to hate us, let them know who they’re hating, rather than just
blindly following a path that’s laid out by their government-controlled media.”

The BBG plans to expand on Sawa’s success on a number of
fronts. Soon, specific regions will receive their own individual programming
streams, with news and features of local interest delivered in regional

A new Farsi-language service, similar to Sawa, started up
last month in Iran. Plans are also underway for an Arabic-language satellite
television station to provide round-the-clock programming.

Pattiz is no stranger to Middle Eastern politics. As a
member of the Israel Policy Forum, an organization that promotes U.S. awareness
and involvement in the Middle East peace process, Pattiz has traveled to the
region to meet with Israeli and Jordanian leaders and has held a reception at
his home for Queen Noor of Jordan.

He also hosts monthly roundtable discussions at which
prominent community members meet with Israeli leaders, media representatives
and others with insights about the region.

Although his Radio Sawa efforts are performed on behalf of
the U.S. government, Pattiz acknowledged that promoting the free flow of
information in the Middle East benefits Israel, as well.

On the state level, Pattiz serves on the UC Board of
Regents. As a member of the board’s Investment Committee, he helps oversee
billions of dollars of university investments.

He expects to be part of a task force formed in response to
a controversial course description published for a UC Berkeley class, The
Politics and Poetics of Palestinian Resistance. Pattiz said the task force will
“examine how this course description was allowed to be printed in the first
place, and look at the larger questions of academic freedom vs.

He also serves on the California Commission on Building for
the 21st Century, which looks at how the state should address future building
and infrastructure needs. Pattiz has served as president of the Broadcast
Education Association, trustee of the Museum of Television and Radio, is on the
the USC Annenberg School for Communication board and on the advisory board of
the RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy.

At Westwood One, which he founded in 1974 as a one-room
operation, Pattiz spends much of his time conceptualizing projects and
arranging agreements with artists and recording companies to generate
entertainment programs for broadcast. The company has earned a reputation for
blockbuster entertainment programming, airing concerts by such megastars as
Barbra Streisand, The Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen.

His professional, political and philanthropic activities
keep Pattiz busy, and he said he likes it that way.

“I’ve got plenty of things to keep me busy,” he said. “But
they’re all things I find incredibly interesting and enjoyable. I’m not
complaining about any of it.”

Norman J. Pattiz will be the keynote speaker at CommUNITY
Kavod on Tuesday, Jan. 28, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Irvine. For
more information call (714) 755-5555.