Filmmaker questions America’s terror policy

Bassam Haddad, executive producer of “Arabs and Terrorism,” welcomed comments and criticism after playing his controversial film for faculty and students Thursday night.

The film, which focuses on terrorism, includes an interview with the secretary general of Hezbollah, a political and military organization based in Lebanon that is considered a terrorist organization by the United States. Haddad, who narrates the film, also spoke with the Israeli Deputy of Defense and a prominent Egyptian journalist, among others.

“Arabs and Terrorism” consists of three 45-minute segments focusing on different aspects of terrorism. Part one is about the definition of terrorism, part two is on state terrorism and part three is on the difference between terrorism and resistance. The overarching theme of the video is a “basic definition of terrorism,” according to Haddad.

Haddad, who funded the project with his own credit card, said, “Any political line you see (in the film) is ours. There were no outside hands.”

Haddad criticized American media for only showing only three sterotypes of Middle Easterners instead of what he called the “fourth sector” – Middle Easterners opposed to the regime under which they live, an Islamist state and a U.S.-made state. Instead, Haddad said, the media shows Islamist fanatics or those who support U.S. policies.

He said news stations like CNN make no distinction between al-Qaida, which is a primarily militaristic terrorist organization, and Hamas and Hezbollah, which are only partially military but also offer social welfare.

“What we are getting (via mainstream media) in terms of the other side is not what the other side really is,” Haddad said.

Haddad made the controversial claim that groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, whom he spoke with face-to-face in the video, are too often reduced to their military aspects. The social welfare these groups provide is overlooked, Haddad said.

Haddad criticized Israel for its campaign against Hezbollah in the summer. According to Haddad, 35 percent of the Lebanese population is connected to Hezbollah. Therefore, he said, to remove Hezbollah, Israel would have to remove 35 percent of the Lebanese people.

Because of the controversial nature of many of the claims Haddad and his crew make in the video, they have often received criticism.

Haddad said he is sometimes told there are not enough Europeans in the film. “Nine out of 10 of them are Europeans,” he said. “They’re just not all white.”

For the movie, Haddad and his crew interviewed hundreds of people around the world, from government officials to average citizens.

Haddad said the experience taught him that people all over the world “are very alike.”

Haddad, who was born in Damascus, said he had a little trouble getting into Israel. Once in the country, he said, he was able to interview Israeli governmental officials and go into the Knesset, Israel’s equivalent of Congress.

“We just couldn’t believe we were in the Knesset,” he said. “That level of openness we do not have here (in America).”

Haddad said this openness may be because “the Israelis know what is happening, they live it and they’re more realistic about it.” In contrast, Haddad was not able to interview U.S. officials, who would not talk to the press in 2005 when the War on Terror started to become unpopular.

“We live at a time when the words ‘Islam’ and ‘Arab’ automatically generate a lot of fear, a lot of hostility,” Lillian Farhat, professor of Arabic at the College, said. Therefore, she said, she appreciated that Haddad’s film went deeper into the background information behind the conflict.

Haddad said that was part of his goal. He said he wanted to present the other side and that while doing this he tried not to let his own opinion misrepresent those who disagreed with him.

However, Haddad added that “we do have a view” and that he does not believe that absolute objectivity is possible.

Dan Smith, senior history major, agreed with Farhat. Though he came to the lecture for his modern Middle East class, Smith, who has seen one of Haddad’s films previously, said he probably would have attended anyway.

“(In mainstream media) we really only do see the rioting and the protests,” he said. “We don’t get the impression of how small of a minority (extremists) really are.”