Ariel Sharon Vs. Julia Roberts

Who is Israeli Prime Minster Ariel Sharon’s main adversary in the fight for good PR?

April 22, 2002

Who is Israeli Prime Minster Ariel Sharon's main adversary in the fight for good PR?

Steven Spielberg — the Hollywood movie director of E.T. and Schindler’s List fame — was recently the target of an Internet hoax. The false report claimed that Mr. Spielberg planned to direct a film about the intifada that was sympathetic to the Palestinians and hostile to Israel.

Of course, the report was untrue. In fact, such a film may be entirely unnecessary. The Palestinians appear to have found the ultimate goodwill ambassador in the person of Queen Rania of Jordan. The Queen, who bears a striking resemblance to Julia Roberts, has been making the rounds on American talk shows. Television audiences in the United States have been soaking up her highly telegenic and winning appearances.

Israel’s public relations machine must go into a cold sweat every time Jordan’s Queen performs.
Muslim women are frequently typecast — especially by Westerners.

The stereotype is that all women in Islamic societies are hidden behind a burqa or hijab — and remain submissive to their male counterparts. Queen Rania’s fashion sense and her forthrightness on key global issues certainly challenge these stereotypes.

But the Queen’s bold influence on public opinion does not stop there. Appearing on CNN’s “Larry King Live” on April 16, Queen Rania seemed to almost usurp Jordanian foreign policy from her husband. When King asked her about Jordan’s position on Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians, she replied:

“Jordan has been very, very clear in this regard. We stand against any aggression committed against any innocent civilians, irrespective of the perpetrator or the victim. We do not approve of any aggression. We made that very clear.” Then — almost as an afterthought — she added, “King Abdullah also made that very clear.”

Queen Rania’s performance on CNN suggested that she might better serve her nation as foreign minister rather than as first lady. She stands in contrast to U.S. First Lady Laura Bush, who — without being submissive — certainly defers to her husband on matters such as politics.

The CNN interview also made many wonder: In a debate between Queen Rania and the aging and bull-headed Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, who would appear more convincing?

But Queen Rania is about more than just appearances. “I don’t want to be viewed as someone who just uses my status to promote a cause,” she says, “but someone who really tries to help in a deeper way — who really goes into the subject and has an impact.”

The Jordanian Queen’s striking beauty and articulation of Jordanian foreign policy are reinforced by her business savvy and strong commitment to global issues.Take her March 2002 trip to Hollywood, for instance.

Queen Rania traveled to California to launch a new endowment, but it was not a cause that hewed to traditional first lady issues such as education or health. Queen Rania’s initiative was a new micro finance plan called The Global Endowment for the Poor.

You see, prior to her marriage to then-Prince Abdullah in 1993, Rania al-Yasin worked as a banker. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the American University in Cairo — a highly-respected school also attended by New York Times columnists Thomas L. Friedman and Nicholas D. Kristof. (The latter writer is also a contributor to The Globalist.)

Like Friedman, Queen Rania is enthralled with the issues surrounding globalization — development, the environment and conflict resolution. But the current crisis in the Middle East has drawn Queen Rania’s attention to regional concerns as well.

As a Jordanian whose family is of Palestinian origin, she is concerned with the plight of Palestinians and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s incursion into the occupied territories.

On April 9, Queen Rania led a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Jordan’s capital, Amman. While affirming Jordan’s commitment to its peace with Israel, she urged the international community to end the massacres being committed in the occupied territories.

And in contrast to the U.S. stereotype of Muslim gender roles, King Abdullah chose to follow his wife’s rhetorical lead. “I am ready myself to take part in a demonstration,” said the King of Jordan.

It was a scene that conjured up a great Hollywood screen romance. When the casting calls go out for the role of Queen Rania, let’s hope that Julia Roberts is available.