Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

Caught in the Crossfire


Raghida Dergham

I try my best to see both sides and I think I do see both sides. I really believe acutely in justice, and that's why I dare. My position is both seen by the American public and read by the Arab public. You put them together and it gives you the full picture. I'm very critical in my column, of the Palestinian Authority, of the Arab government. Those who read me know so. And I take positions that are not popular....Basically I hope to provoke another type of thinking.

Raghida Dergham was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1953. She came to the United States and worked her way through college. "I think because I came to the United States when I was 17 years old, it taught me tremendously. Had I stayed in Beirut I don't think I would have grown into the person I am now. In the States you have full freedom. So I put myself through college at SUNY Plattsburgh. I waited tables. I made submarine sandwiches. My uncle said, 'What is the matter?' Why can't you accept help?' And I said, 'The matter is, I need to know if I can do it alone.' The United States was the key that would bring about my freedom, my independence - the life I imagined I would lead."

In 1974, Raghida began her first official job as a reporter in Boston, where she created a community bilingual weekly radio program called Haneen ("nostalgia.") Two years later, she moved to New York City to become a foreign correspondent.

"In my culture, for a woman to enter the field of politics, in terms of journalism, this is not the norm. 'A woman cannot think this way. A woman cannot do this.' People made up things about me. Literally. Even people were saying that it's not me who was writing the stuff. It flabbergasted me, because I could not understand the mind that would go on manufacturing a rumor."

In 1989, Raghida joined Al-Hayat, an Arab-language newspaper. At the Belgrade nonaligned summit, she broke several major stories. The following year, she reported on the Gulf War from the United Nations, and her daughter, Thalia, was born.

  Raghida on CNN

Now a high-level diplomatic correspondent for the leading independent Arabic newspaper and a regular on CNN, Raghida hobnobs with world leaders and media elites. Her daughter goes to an exclusive New York private school. But this cosmopolitan insider sometimes feels like a woman without a country. She can't return to Lebanon, her homeland, where she's under indictment for treason.

"I've spent all my life explaining a point of view. When it's right I defend it. I thought they would honor me. Instead, they put me in a military trial, charged me with 'dealing with the enemy,' which is treason. After they have annulled my passport. For what? For debating an Israeli within an open forum? It's like a knife over my head."

And her reporting of Middle East perspectives regularly earns her hate mail from Americans, too. Critic to all, compatriot to none, this Arab American works to bring hard truths to both Arabs and Americans.

"Until people start to recognize each other's pain, it will be a long way before they can communicate as human beings. When they start to recognize each other's pain, then there's hope."

Broadcast Resources The Filmmakers Talkback After 9/11: Stories Arab Americans Their Homelands Ahmed Khader The Story The People