Said Arikat is the Washington Bureau Chief of the Al Quds daily newspaper and lives on Ash Court in Rockville, Maryland. He is a long-time Washington-based journalist.
He served for years as the UN’s chief spokesman in Iraq. Arikat holds an MS from California State University, in Long Beach, and is an adjunct instructor at the American University in Washington where he taught the course “Media On and Of the Arab World” (it is unclear if he lectured there more than once).
Al-Quds (not to be confused with Al-Quds Al-Arabi) claims to be the most widely read daily in the Palestinian Authority, together with its online website edition. It was founded in 1967 after a merger of Al-Difa and Al-Jihad.
Arikat also appears as a pundit for a variety of Arabic media outlets, print and broadcast, such as Al Jazeera, Al-Wafd and others.
His newspaper, like many others, combines news with editorialized views. In what should have been a straightforward item, MK Itamar Ben-Gvir is described as “the extremist Ben-Gvir” in a report about his meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu, whom it is assumed will be the next prime minister.
Jews calmly entering the Temple Mount are always portrayed as “storming” the site. It passes on Palestinian Authority propaganda memes and lines.
True to his newspaper’s self-assumed role as trumpeting an ideological presentation of pro-Palestinianism, Arikat has, to his credit, maneuvered himself into an ideal position through his presence at US State Department press briefings.
There, he never fails to present the various spokespersons at the podium with carefully worded questions that usually trumpet a propaganda angle, inserting doubtful “facts.” He always leads those spokespersons to utter conclusions that would both aid the cause of Palestine while deviously demonizing Israel.
At a State Department press briefing on November 7, he directed questions to Ned Price, the department spokesperson. “First of all, have there been any calls between the secretary of state and the new prime minister, would-be, Mr. Netanyahu?... I know that the secretary of state spoke to the outgoing prime minister. That’s why I asked.”
A bit of needling by Arikat is fair, and also serves a purpose. Price, in the end, had to remind him that “President Biden had an opportunity to speak with Mr. Netanyahu today.”
Arikat then proceeded to ask about the possible makeup of the Israeli government, given that Ben-Gvir might get “one of the security ministries responsible for the Palestinians,” and adds, “I know the common wisdom around town, even from very pro-Israeli think tanks and so on, that this should not be the case. Do you have any position on such a choice?... He is known for his racist views and called for the killing of Palestinians and so on.”
“I know the common wisdom around town, even from very pro-Israeli think tanks and so on, that this should not be the case. Do you have any position on such a choice?... He is known for his racist views and called for the killing of Palestinians and so on.”Said Arikat
He then asked a follow-up question on the situation in the Palestinian Authority: “The situation is just going to hell in a handbasket… What are you trying to do to actually mitigate this very aggressive Israeli behavior in the West Bank?”This type of view-insertion journalism is Arikat’s bread-and-butter. A few more examples:
On November 2, Said asked a legitimate question but “spices” it with more than conjectured “facts” as to Ben-Gvir: “You are not concerned that this person has called for the killing of Palestinians, killing the stone-throwers, saying all kinds of outrageous things?”
On September 14, during the IDF’s operations against Arab terrorists, Arikat’s question defined the situation as: “They’re attacking the Jenin camp. I mean, they’re not defending themselves. These are soldiers – they’re professional killers.”
During President Joe Biden’s trip to Israel, Arikat, on July 18, asked: “Do you think the president missed the opportunity of emphasizing that, in this day and age, you cannot remove Palestinians by force, like in Masafer Yatta while he was there, while this is really ongoing as he was there?” Needless to say, Masafer Yatta was not dismantled, nor has it been.
THE LIST of similar examples is quite long. On an average of three times a week for many years, Arikat has been doing his duty as a mobilized journalist for the idea of a “Palestine.”
In doing so, he not only denigrates Israel through his questioning, but in addition, he hides the deeds of the Palestinian Authority’s failures, its political and security immorality, its promotion of terror and anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement, its diplomatic rejectionism, and its repressive anti-democratic rule over its own populace.
Many might be thinking, “so what?” or “and what else is new?”
Jewish and Israeli media outlets lacking from press briefings
In fact, what is lacking at these press briefings, these challenges of American foreign policy and the prejudicial framing of the stories, is the voice of Israeli journalists and American Jewish media representatives. No one is there to politely, but authoritatively, ask questions predicated on the true circumstances.
They could request information on acts – or lack thereof – on the part of Mahmoud Abbas’s regime. They could ask why the Taylor Force Act is basically a dead letter. Or why President Biden, on his recent trip to Jerusalem’s Augusta Victoria Hospital, refused an Israeli escort, or whether the hundreds of millions of dollars his administration has pledged actually accomplish anything positive.
There are major Jewish media outlets, such as the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and the Jewish News Syndicate, as well as national and Washington local Jewish weeklies like the Algemeiner, The Jewish Press and The Jewish Week.
There are Israeli newspapers, and radio and television correspondents based there. Can’t they regularly send a reporter, or pool a reporter, to cover the State Department beat? Even a college intern?
They seem to have enough staff to cover the conflict between American Jewry and Israel. The friction between an American administration and Israel, or the administration’s sympathetic treatment of Israel, fills many of their columns. Why does the State Department receive such negligent treatment?
I presume there are very good reasons why this is not happening. I would like to know them. I trust others as well. Perhaps they can be solved.
In the meantime, with no Israeli echo in that briefing room, Arikat continues his one-sided agenda, as he did on November 8, when he asked about a well-known provocateur, “The Israeli army declared that the Hebron home of a well-known Palestinian activist, Issa Amro, is declared a military post or whatever because he complained about the settlements. Would you call on the Israelis to vacate Mr. Amro’s home?”
The Israeli and American Jewish press have vacated the State Department media venue and the “news” is dominated by a message of Palestine.
The writer is an analyst and opinion commentator on political, cultural and media issues.