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Arab League Begins Publicity Offensive On Behalf Of Palestinians - 2001-10-07

The Arab League is attempting to help Palestinians present a more positive and accurate image around the world. But the strategy shift is costly and it is not known if funding will last long enough for it to be effective.

Palestinian Arab League representative Hannan Ashrawi is the point person for an emerging Arab effort to change the way the world sees and views Palestinians. She is in charge of a major strategy shift aimed primarily at the West, Israel and the Arab world.

Ms. Ashrawi says the Arab world is finally waking up to what she says Israel has known for years, the importance of the media. "They have the means," she says, "They have the professional know-how. They have the firms. They have the people, and they understand the importance of information, of media, and of being there with a clear message that is concise and timely. We need to do these things" she added, "We need to be able to move, not by emulating them, but by understanding what it takes to have an effective, inclusive, proactive, positive engagement with the world, with public opinion and, of course, with the media."

Ms. Ashrawi says the new strategy will primarily focus on the West, because she believes that is where there is the greatest misunderstanding of Palestinians. She says the effort will go well beyond the media.

"Grassroots organizations, civil society institutions, congressional legislative representatives, the administration" will be targeted, she says, "but also to engage with the Arab community [and] the Islamic community, with their organizations and institutions and the students, to create a network that is effective with a clear message."

Ms. Ashrawi says the effort will also include exposing the world to cultural, intellectual and artistic Palestinian endeavors. The idea, she says, is to create substantial dialogue at all levels. She stressed the new media strategy must be honest, consistent and delivered with razor-sharp clarity.

What remains unclear is the issue of funding. Various Arab countries have donated millions of dollars to the campaign. But if the new Palestinian strategy is to work, according to Ms. Ashrawi, funding must be in place for years to come. That is something she says she cannot guarantee will happen.