Israeli Interviewees Get the ‘Bill O’Reilly Treatment’ From Arab Press

oreilly_arab_interview.jpg“Shut up you barefaced liar! You’re stupid and wrong and I don’t like you. But can I please first get a quote so that I can use it to personally attack you and the things that you stand for?”

Pardon the rough paraphrase of just about every conversation Fox News host Bill O’Reilly has had with a liberal-leaning guest over the past decade, but it’s clear his notoriously combative and one-sided interviewing style has gone global.

An article yesterday in the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz describes the way that interviewers from Arab countries relate to Israeli interviewees. Evidently, their version of “Fair and Balanced” rivals that of the great falafel-rubber himself:

“There are times when I am forced to suppress a voice that rises within me, and which wants me to tell the Israeli interviewee: shut your mouth, you barefaced liar,” says Mai al-Sharabani, a newscaster on the Al-Arabiya network, in an interview with Ibrahim Totanji, a reporter for Al-Hayat, the Arabic-language newspaper published in London.

“The newscaster has to always be ready to make the Israeli interviewee uncomfortable, to pin him down in the narrow alleys of his lies,” declares al-Sharabani, who began her career at Egyptian television, from which she moved three years ago to the Al-Arabiya network. The problem is that you don’t have enough time to prepare for interviews with “the Israeli,” and events dictate both the pace and the length of the interviews, explains al-Sharabani.

Nevertheless, when they simply can’t restrain themselves any longer, the newscasters have at their disposal those precious final seconds of the interview, in which they can make a venomous remark that will not garner any response by the interviewee, for the simple reason that it is the end of the conversation.

“Newscasters understand the magnitude of the responsibility placed on them in interviewing Israelis. Millions of Arabs watch them, waiting to see how we will embarrass them or crush them in an interview,” says
Mohammed Abu Obeid, another al-Arabiya journalist, who claims that he knows how to deal with Israelis, due to having worked in Palestine in the past.

Totanji, the writer of the article, has his own feelings on the subject. “Nobody wants to hear the Israeli drivel. But that is professionalism and its obligations. This is the ‘curse’ of democracy, of one opinion and of the other opinion that you can’t avoid.”