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Caught in the Crossfire



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Scott Bernay
Miami, Florida
I find it interesting how many people think the concept behind "Caught in the Crossfire" is innovative or even the least bit necessary. I have seen countless reports about the American Arabs and how put-out and innocent they are. Since 9/12, I have heard them whining through the media about how difficult life has become for them...this is nothing new. What I would suggest PBS (or any media outlet) do to be innovative is show the outrage that the American Arabs or Muslims are expressing over what their brethren are doing throughout the world. (And let's be honest here...9/11 was only the most spectacular of dozens of atrocities committed against Americans by Muslim extremists over the last 20 years!)

Let's imagine for a moment that a crazed Christian or Jewish group was responsible for a "9/11-like" event. Just imagine the rally of the Christian or Jewish communities to HELP THE VICTIMS AND MAKE AMMENDS FOR WHAT THEIR BRETHREN HAVE DONE. I have seen NOTHING like this from the Ar ab/Muslim community. For this reason I suspect that they are only comfortable being the attacker or victim. As a people, do they have another dimension? If so, how about showing it?

brooklyn ny
this was a fantastic documentary. the effort to portray arab americans that were affected by 9/11 was probably not an easy assignment but speaking to many members of my community thougt it was sincere and needed. thank you very much. PBS will always be the greatest!

I applaud PBS for showing Caught In The Crossfire. Frank presentations of the current Intifada from the Palestinian point of view about as common as hen's teeth in the mainstream US press. I never used to be a conspiracy theorist until I witnessed the biased coverage in major US media of the current Israeli war against the Palestinian people .

Hang tough. History will applaud you.

Thank you for producing such a wonderful program. It is certainly rare to see Arab-Americans represented in the media, especially so honestly. You brought th elives of these Arab-Americans into the homes of many Americans and created the possibility for greater cross-cultural understanding.

Finally, a documentary that sheds light on an invisible community that is an integral part of our society - today more than ever before. Kudos to PBS for showing "Caught in the Cross Fire."

Thank you PBS for showing such an insightful program on the lives of Arab-Americans, no matter what religion they may be. Too often the media focuses on the fact that every Arab must be Muslim and vice versa. Bravo to you guys from stepping outside of the box and showing your viewers the real story. Please continue to show programs such as these and I will continue to tell my friends about your station and its programs.

Aida Bernal
La, Ca
Bravo to KCET! I just happened to be changing the channel & caught this piece. It was very well done & I am so happy to see Arabic and Palestinian people shown in a light that is positive...FINALLY.

Avraham Moshe
Brooklyn NY
I applaud the wonderful efforts of PBS and the talented producers of Caught in the Crossfire. As Someone who grew up in a strict Orthodox family, I wasn't allowed to understand the "others" (arabs) point of view or consider their feelings. Now that I am older and WISER, I now know there are no "others". We are all human beings. I am raising my children to be more understaning, and there are no differences. We all bleed, cry, live, and die. I am so glad that I recorded this show so I can share it with my family and friends. As for PBS & the Producers, please dont stop making your wonderful and informative documenteries. Even if you help one person understand that there are no differences between Arabs and us, it makes it all worth while. Keep your heads up and continue your wonderful work. THIS SHOW IS WHAT PBS IS ALL ABOUT. Lets keep it that way. PEACE.

New York, NY
Great film. Thank you for showing it. It's about time we hear some other sides to this story!

New York, NY
Thank you for having the courage and integrity to air "Caught in the Crossfire". This beautifully composed documentary served as a most welcome alternative to the corporate-controlled media portrayal of Arab-Americans. How sad that such honest portrayals inspire such rage in those who prefer hatred to understanding.

Hania Dickson
New York, NY
Thank you for showing a program like "Caught in the Crossfire" It was informative, objective and very relevant to the environment we live in these days. It was refreshing to see something on US televesion that shows the non-Israeli side of the Palestinian conflict. In addition, this was a show that gave people some insight on what different ethnic groups go through here in the US, and the suject group this time happens to be Arab Americans.

Thanks again and we look forward to many more programs of the same caliber as "Caught in the Crossfire".

Leila Kawar
Brooklyn, NY
I am a second generation Palestinian-American and I watched Caught in the Crossfire with my Jewish friends at a meeting earlier this week of the Manhattan branch of Rabbi Lerner's Tikkun organization. All of us were so moved by the footage of Pastor El Yateem and his family watching the destruction of Beit Jala on TV. The emotions on the Yateem family's faces reminded me of the pain that I had felt watching the same TV broadcasts and my Jewish friends told me that the film had allowed them to understand and humanize Palestinians in a new way. Thank you for such a sensitive depiction of the Arab-American experience.

Ken Levenson
New York, NY
I thank PBS for this program. I found the personal stories very moving. It upsets me that a program of this sort has been accused by some of anti-Israeli bias, particularly as accused in the New York newspaper The New York Sun and it's reference in today's edition to a letter sent to PBS by Mr. Foxman of the ADL. I'm puzzled at claims that there needs to be an "Israeli" response to the story for it to have journalistic integrity. While the description of Father El-Yateem's Israeli imprisonment is a bit jarring in the story line (possible limitation of Weizman technique? I don't know.) the idea that a story of a Palestinian American's conflicts cannot be expressed seriously without the "Israeli" counterpoint is absurd. The program is telling his story! Would these same voices of balance demand a Palestinian counterpoint to every Israeli statement? I think not. And while the Arab regimes are, for all practicality, criminal in their very constitution, our antipathy toward them should in no way discredit the stories of individual Arabs and/or Arab Americans. In fact the journalist and the police officer do indict their respective governments - yet in subtler ways as would seem appropriate to their stories. I feel it is merely a pathetic comment on how self-centered Foxman and the New York Sun editors are - especially in their declaration of "betrayal". It would appear that they must see every person's story only in terms of Israel's geo-political existential struggle; and in the same vain as our dictatorial president, you're either with us or against us. It feels so coercive. God forbid we be so generous as to tell of another's experience without referencing ourselves.

I have no need for life to be presented in black and white to know that Israel must exist with security and that a Palestinian state must also exist with security - that all human beings have a right to live in democracy.

Happy New Year PBS.

M. Levesque
Davis, CA
I write in response to Thomas from Knoxville.

I don't think any particular time of year was "chosen" to air this show; for when it comes to understanding people and making relationships of openness and trust, there is no better time than the present. People suffer and die unjustly, every day; so how do we decide which days are taboo days for airing programs that draw attention towards forgotten suffering?

The connection drawn between the Arab American community and the events of September 11 has been made because of an abstract tie forged by the mass media and a mainstream consensus on the relationship between the Taliban half a world away, and ordinary people here. And I say ordinary people because the label "Arabs" is one used by different people for different purposes, is hardly uniform, and each meaning has its own signification. How easy it is to say Arabs and Muslims under the same breath! Most Muslims are not Arabs under the conventional definition (they are East Asian ), and as this program shows, there is a great diversity in religion and ideology within the "Arab world", however one wishes to view it. Even within Islam, there is a great deal of diversity of interpretation and practice-- just as is so within the Christian world and any other religion.

I have the feeling that Thomas here forgot that the program was about Americans. Why should it matter that these people may look different and have different cultural histories than his idea of an American? If the program were about racism against African Americans or Asian Americans, would he have felt the same way? Why should it be different that these Americans highlighted belong to a group having connections unfairly made, to the wrong people?

Thomas states: "However, the story that needs to go out during this September should focus on the victims of 9/11, the accounts of bravery and sacrifice, and the many triumps as Americans reveal that our strength is highlighted in trials and th at we will prevail. In spite of our faults, our way is life is still vastly superior to all other."

Were these Americans highlighted in the program not victims, not heroes? Were they not brave and strong in their encounters with hatred and prejudice? And, which "way of life" is vastly superior? Is there really only one American way of life?

Josh Broton
Sioux Falls, SD
I am shocked and disturbed by the "victim" attitudes that so many Arabs in other parts of the world have, and how dubiously well you portray and support their position. We (Americans) have done nothing to them and yet they continually blame us for all of their troubles. Why is it that the UN even believes that they live in a backwards society? Its because they do. Its as if modern progress stopped at about 1800 AD right around the Middle East. They complain, yet countries that are more open to the West (such as Israel), enjoys immense luxuries.

I now plan to boycott everything PBS because of this bigoted documentary portraying Israelis as the aggressors. Shame on Americans that think its OK to go to a country half way around the world to stop terrorists, but hypocritically think its evil for Israel to police areas of THEIR OWN COUNTRY (thats right, the West Bank and Gaza Strip are parts of ISRAEL, not some imaginary Palestian state) against terrorists that are attacking every day verses once (like here in America).

Jim Wilson
Vancouver, Washington
Well, lots of anger and outrage on this talkback page.
The thing that really makes me wonder about americans is how fixated they are on this event. You still can't get away from it.. newspapers, TV... Sure, it was a horrible event. But 3000 people is nothing compared to the 140,000 dead from the terrorist bombing of nagasaki. Or the hundreds of thousands massacred in rwanada or east timor. (with US help I might add). The way americans go on and on about their tragedies you'd think someone had dropped a nuke on manhattan. Face it, it was a horrible atrocity, but in the scheme of 20th century atrocities it was pretty minor. How about devoting thousands of hours of news coverage to east timor or the bombing of serbian hospitals and TV stations? Nope.

Makes me ashamed to be american.

I caught the program by sheer luck, I wish there were more advertisement about it. As a recently naturalized Muslim (but not Arab) American citizen, I identify with the sentiments of all three New Yorkers.

September 11 had strengthened my belief that "killing an innocent is like killing the whole humanity". There is no exception, no "if"s, no "but"s. Learning the perpetrators were Muslims was devastating. I began to examine my own stereotypes, my own suspicions, my own prejudices. I can assure the woman who wonders if she should be worried had the roles been reversed: NO. I will be protecting her, her rights, her right to worship, her right to safety. As many of my fellow Americans have done so for me.

Bin Laden and his deputees call all Americans evil. That is how they dehumanized a large group of people, convincing their followers to commit horrible crimes. Anyone whose instinct tells them a whole group of people must be evil must take notice of what kind of carnage Bin L aden's distorted vision caused.

I second the call for recognizing the humanity of each other. We can always find differences among us if we search for them. It is high time to focus on our uniting base; our humanity. Let us start building bridges, setting aside our fear of the unknown and unfamiliar. Try to emphatize with each other. I believe by attaching human faces and stories to Arab and Muslim adjectives, you have contributed to this process. Thank you...

I watched "Caught in the Crossfire" on Ch. 13 in New York the other night and I have to say it was a wonderfully enlightening program. As a Jewish New Yorker, and a supporter of the state of Israel, I was pleased by how sober, calm, and balanced a picture it was. The three people featured in the film are complex characters who are grappling with the uneasy state of being Arab Americans in such a difficult time. Thanks so much to the filmmakers for introducing them to us. And thanks to Public Television for offering a forum for reasoned and balanced journalism. If only the networks would do the same!

To some degree, we are ALL caught in the crossfire - the sensitive film made by Lumiere, highlights the difficult lives of Arab Americans in the aftermath of September 11th, but also reminds each of us that despite our religious or ethnic backgrounds, we are diminished as human beings by acts of terror spawned by hatred. Once again, PBS and Lumiere have focused a necessary lens on an emotionally and politically charged issue.

R Khoury Borelli
Sammamish, WA
Thank you for producing this show that I only caught the last 20 minutes of. I could not tear myself away from the screen as I watched one of my favorite journalists, Raghida, talking about her experience being an Arab-American. I do hope that you will repeat this show often so more people can see it. The only way to create peace is to communicate.

I am very glad to see that the majority of the comments are positive ones. It is hurtful to see that some people see evil even in a show that is trying to show the humanity of people. As a Christian Palestinian-American, I was very happy to see that you included a Christian figure. That is someothing so many Americans are not aware of, that Arabs are Christians too.

No matter what our religion or race is, we should think about building a better future for our children, including a war free world. Hope we realize this dream during our lifetime, before it is too late.

J. McCabe
I greatly appreciate your portrayal of Arab Americans as human beings, which, sadly is such a rarity in American media.

Also sad is that I'm not surprised to read the vitriol interspersed on this page from Zionists and those who see only Israeli suffering in the Middle East; nor am I surprised to see those who hide from the central truth of this conflict: that millions of Palestinians refugees are natives to the land of Israel and that they were intentionally expelled by the first Israelis in 1947-49.

With that said, I was pleasantly surprised to see many comments from Americans that cut through political biases and self-focus to speak from the the place that joins us all-- our humanity.

This reminds me that there are many Americans out there who have this enormous place of compassion for others. Yet, we have leaders who are so much less than us in this, leaders who continually take us only to the darkest parts of ourselves--to war and to hatred. Why do we allow this? When will we Americans, informed by this potential for compassion for others, use this compassion in choosing leaders worthy of us, at this, our best?

Bob Kaplan
Springfield, IL
I have read the comments and the thread that runs through many is that if you don't agree with the point of view of the show that you are writing from a "hate" or "political" point of view rather than a "humanitarian" point of view. I think that most people who write from the former, myself included, just want the "myths" of the conflict corrected. There are plenty of resources available--many Palestinian--which refute much of what is characterized as fact in the show. Most blatant is the false statement that Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount started the "Terror Intifada." When peoples' beliefs(political and historical) are founded on myth it makes if difficult to integrate.

I always thought that the mark of great journalism was its balance. I understand that this is no longer a consideration, but if it were, perhaps there would have been a note about some of thing that happened (aside from 9/11) that caused the initial distrust some people had for Arabs. For example, the celebration that went on in Palestine was reported, briefly - celebration of 9/11. That celebration by the Palestinians (the people, not the government!) of terrorist activity said more to people of what the population in Arab countries was thinking that all the statements made by officials ever could.

And the later statements that the twin towers were taken down by Jews (in spite of the evidence that they were almost all Saudi's) that were reported as widely believed shows that the Arabs were not interested in facts - just what they wanted to believe. This, I believe, is evidence of the hatred to non-Muslims which is actually taught in school in some Arab countries.

Kneej erk reactions of hate are wrong, but trying to counter them with non-objective journalism is futile. The only way to counter kneejerk reactions is with FULL information, which this site is not providing.

Constance Newell-Cockrell
Lexington, SC
Caught in the Crossfire was a heart wrenching story. I teach Current Issues and US History, and have recommended it to all my students. One of the responders to your program questioned the timing of this film saying that we should focus on the victims of 9-11. Do they really not see that many Arab Americans are also the victims? Yes, those who did the deed were Arab and Islamic, but first they were humans. This country's greatest strength is its diversity drawn from all faiths and ethnic traditions. Tolerance is the glue that holds the US together. Our greatest threat is our failure in times of crisis to remember our humanity. Can one even begin to imagine what the families of those who did this awful thing must be suffering? As the world's most powerful country, shouldn't we be leading the people of the earth guided by the founding principle of the Declaration of Independence?

Abhijit Sarkar
Thanks to the filmmakers and PBS for airing this wonderful film.

Though out of context, but i would still like to comment. If someone rapes ur mother..u hv every right to defend.I hope we all recognize this clear fact very soon and liberate the Palestinians from this plight under the so called democratic govt of Israel. If someone is intersted watch the film "Battle of Algiers". The film was made in 1967, but shows the exactly same picture thats happening in Palestine and what the military is doing. Long live freedom struggle.


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