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May 21, 2003

The Arabist Legacay at NPR

Reading an article by Andrea Levine of CAMERA in today's jpost, I was struck by her reference to NPR reporter Kate Seelye and her previous work for the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee. I recalled the name Seeyle and the connection to the Arab world from an article I read many years ago about the Arabists in the State Department. I found the article and turns out I was correct: Seeyle comes from a line of Arabists going back to the 19th Century, and her father was Talcott Seeyle, a long-time State Dept. Arabist. The article says,

[Talcott] Seelye talks easily about the time in October of 1973 when, as ambassador to Tunisia, he sent Secretary of State Henry Kissinger a cable advising him not to send arms for Israel's defense after the surprise attack by Egypt and Syria. He was, of course, ignored. Yet Kissinger was well enough aware of Seelye's skill as a hands-on Arabist to trust him to go to Lebanon as a special emissary in 1976, after the assassination of U.S. Ambassador Francis Meloy Jr. Though Seelye was criticized for utilizing PLO security men, he did manage to effect a low-key evacuation of U.S. diplomats and their families from war-torn Beirut. "I used the PLO simply because they controlled the area we had to pass through," he explains.

Later, when he was ambassador to Syria, Seelye's cables to the State Department's Policy Planning Staff--so seemingly understanding of Syria's actions--would cause Francis Fukuyama to scrawl in the margins, "Talcott Seelye is the Syrian Ambassador to Washington, not the American Ambassador to Syria." In 1981, upon his retirement from the Foreign Service, Seelye called reporters into his office in Damascus to disparage the Camp David accords and to call on the United States immediately to open a dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The article even mentions Seeyle's daughter, without giving her first name: Seelye's daughter is continuing the family tradition: not long after graduating from Amherst [College] she moved to Jordan to teach, and subsequently she went to work as a staff aide to Queen Noor.

NPR doesn't hide Seeyle's background in her official bio, but it doesn't go into the details of who her father was.

With that sort of background, what can we expect from NPR's coverage?

Also, be sure to read the whole article on the Arabists, since it's a great expose and gives a lot of historical background to State's opinion on Israel.

UPDATE: apparently Seeyle also writes for the New York Times, which I guess I hadn't notice before since I try to avoid reading that rag. And interestingly enough, she wrote the article about some Jewish Leftists threatening Democratic presidential candidates. Meanwhile, Jonathan Tobin has a great article about these sad Leftists, who can't even claim to speak for Israelis but are seeking greater influence in US policy.