U.S. Government's Arabic-Language Channel Airs Anti-Israel Comments from Hamas, Hezbollah

Overseers of the United States government's Arabic-language satellite television network say a speech by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was not screened for anti-Israel content before broadcast because no supervisor spoke Arabic.

"Mistakes were made," Joaquin Blaya, of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, told the House Middle East subcommittee Wednesday, referring to the broadcast last December and others by the network, Al-Hurra, that he said "lacked journalistic or academic merit."

The subcommittee chairman, Rep. Gary L. Ackerman, a Democrat, said in several instances Nasrallah used the U.S. government's satellite television network as a platform for inciting a crowd to violence against Israel.

Hezbollah, a Lebanese militia which is considered a terror group by the State Department but a legitimate political movement by many Arab governments, fought a war with Israel in Lebanon last summer.

In another Al-Hurra broadcast, Ackerman said, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh lent support to the Iranian assertion that the World War II Holocaust against European Jews was a myth.

"Why are American taxpayer dollars used to spread the hate, lies, and propaganda of these nuts, when our goal was to counter them?" Ackerman asked.

Focusing especially on the Nasrallah speech, Ackerman said the Hezbollah leader spoke for more than 30 minutes live on the U.S. network inciting violence against Israel.

"Doesn't anybody watch the broadcasts?" he asked.

"I can only conclude, based on the trend of the last few months, that Al-Hurra's news executives have decided that pandering is the way to greater audience share," Ackerman said.

Blaya, fellow board members D. Jeffrey Hirschberg and Brian Conniff, head of Al-Hurra's Mideast broadcasting department, called the incidents intolerable and due largely to an absence of Arabic speakers in supervisory positions. "With these program errors standing as painful indicators of the need for additional controls, we are moving forward to shore up our management structure," Blaya said.

A new vice president for news, Larry Register, has been appointed, and editors are now accountable for monitoring news items before and wile they are delivered.

Hirschberg said he knew of no recurrences of a few anti-Semitic incidents. "The Broadcasting Board of Governors promotes freedom and democracy," he said.