International Federal File

Outreach to Palestinians

By Mary Ann Zehr — June 07, 2005 1 min read

The U.S. Agency for International Development has begun a monthlong media campaign to tell residents of the Palestinian territories what the agency has done for them.

A magazine ad touts the USAID's efforts to build classrooms.

The agency is running advertisements eight times a day on television and radio stations in the region telling about the USAID’s projects in education and health, and about its efforts to provide safe drinking water for Palestinians. It’s also buying space in publications for colorful print ads featuring close-ups of Palestinian children and descriptions of its work.

An ad of a smiling boy holding up a piece of bright yellow chalk, for example, says in Arabic that the USAID has built 2,000 classrooms for children in the West Bank and Gaza. It says it has created sports and computer centers for thousands of Palestinian children. The ad also notes that the USAID has spent $1.5 billion since 1993 on humanitarian assistance in the West Bank and Gaza.

“We don’t know how this will be taken,” said Jim Beaver, the director of the USAID’s mission in the West Bank and Gaza, which are controlled by Israel. “It’s not meant to be a propaganda campaign. It’s meant to let them know America cares.”

In addition, Mr. Beaver said, the ads are intended to “balance the current perception that all we do is provide military assistance to Israel.”

Mr. Beaver spoke on a panel about the USAID’s outreach to Muslims and Arabs at a May 25 forum at the National Press Club in Washington, sponsored by the Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid. (“New USAID Strategy Addresses Quality Along With Access,” this issue.)

Assisting with the media campaign is Samah Alrayyes, a Palestinian and Muslim who is a native of Kuwait, lived in Jordan, and is now the director of Arab and Muslim outreach for the USAID’s bureau of legislative and public affairs in Washington.

“Not many in the Arab world today know of the generosity of the United States,” she said.

The USAID has projects in 27 of the 49 countries of the world that are predominantly Muslim, she said.

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