S. Abdallah Schleifer, Distinguished Lecturer in Mass Communication and Director of the Adham Center for Television Journalism at AUC, is a veteran journalist who has covered the Middle East for American and Arab media for more than 20 years.
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Schleifer served as NBC News radio correspondent and TV producer/reporter in the Middle East from 1970 to 1983. Initially based in Beirut, Schleifer was the NBC News Cairo bureau chief from 1974 to 1983. During that time he conducted or produced numerous television interviews with Arab and Islamic heads of state, including Egypt’s President Mubarak, the late President Sadat, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, the late King Hussein of Jordan, Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, the late President Zia El Haq of Pakistan as well as with leading political, cultural and religious personalities throughout the region. He covered every major conflict in the region, all Arab and Islamic summits, the Indo-Pakistani War, the rise and fall of the Palestinian fedayeen, Egypt’s post-war political and economic “Open Door” policies and the oil development boom in Arabia.
Schleifer left NBC News to join the AUC faculty in the fall of 1983 as an Honorary Senior Fulbright Fellow and as a full professor but with the title Distinguished Lecturer. He was described at the time of his AUC appointment by then NBC News President Reuven Frank as “the most competent Cairo bureau chief we ever had and clearly our most encyclopedic expert on the Middle East.” Tom Pettit, NBC News Executive Vice President at that time, said: “Abdallah Schleifer has been a scholar in reporter’s clothing, even though he’s probably covered more wars, revolutions, hijackings, assassinations and general chaos in his region than anyone else I know.”
When Schleifer joined AUC he was charged with the mission to establish a TV news-training center. The result-The Adham Center for Television Journalism-has been hailed by voices as diverse as Muhammed Jasim Al Ali, managing director of Al Jazeera satellite channel; Joe Foote, director of the Walter Cronkite Center for Journalism and Broadcasting at Arizona State University; Al Hayat newspaper; Peter Einstein, CEO of Showtime Arabia; Egypt Today; Sheikh Saleh Kamel, President of ART; Middle East Broadcast and Satellite, Digital Studio and other trade magazines, as the outstanding training center for television journalism in the Middle East.
Schleifer also serves as director of the Sony Gallery for Photography, which is part of the Adham Center, and as publisher and senior editor of the electronic journal TBS (Transnational Broadcasting Studies), which is produced biannually by the Adham Center and which has been acclaimed widely in both academic and industry circles.
At the same time Schleifer has managed to maintain an active relationship with the broadcasting industry in general and TV journalism in particular. In the summer of 1984 he served as a special field producer for NBC coverage of the Hajj-the first-ever American network coverage, which Schleifer secured for NBC.
In 1988 Schleifer was retained by CNN International as their Cairo representative to secure access for CNN in Egypt. As a result CNN was the first channel to be transmitted, in 1990, by the Egyptian private sector “wireless cable” company Cable Network Egypt (CNE). Schleifer has served on the board of directors of CNE since its formation.
From August 1990 until university resumed in mid-September, Schleifer again served as a special field producer for NBC News, this time in Saudi Arabia covering Desert Shield, the build-up of US and other Allied forces immediately following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. In mid-January 1991, during AUC’s mid-year recess and on the eve of the air war, Schleifer again returned to Saudi Arabia as executive director of the World Muslim News Service (WMNS), established by the Rabitat Al-Alam Al-Islami as a special unit providing TV, print, and photo coverage of the Gulf War to international news organizations.
In 1997-8, on sabbatical leave from AUC for the academic year, Schleifer signed on for a one-year assignment to reorganize along professional lines the ART Broadcast and Production Center outside of Rome as its managing director, reporting directly to ART’s chairman, Sheikh Saleh Kamel.
Prior to his joining NBC News in 1970 as a radio and TV reporter based in Beirut, Schleifer was Middle East correspondent for Jeune Afrique and a special correspondent for The New York Times in Jordan and the occupied territories.
A frequent contributor of articles on mass media as well as Arab and Islamic affairs to scholarly and specialist journals, Schleifer’s controversial book The Fall of Jerusalem-an eyewitness account of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War-received critical acclaim in the mid-seventies. Schleifer was working in Arab Jerusalem as managing editor of Jordan’s English-language daily newspaper The Jerusalem Star/ Palestine News at the time of the 1967 war.
Schleifer is former chairman of the Foreign Press Association, Cairo and he serves on the board of trustees of educational and publishing foundations in England and America devoted to Islamic studies and he has published and lectured extensively on Hassan Fathy and Islamic architecture, particularly in the occasional journal Art and the Islamic World.
Schleifer’s academic associations are broad: he served for many years as a member of the Advisory Board of the World Media Association in Washington DC and has participated as a speaker at several World Media Conferences held by the WMA over nearly two decades. He is an Associate Scholar of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, in Philadelphia where he has frequently led seminars or spoken at FPRI luncheons. Most recently HM King Abdallah and HRH Crown Prince Hamza personally appointed him as a full member of the royal Jordanian Islamic think tank, the Aal al Bayt Foundation for Islamic Thought.
He has also guest lectured at Middle East Studies, Political Science, Journalism and Religious Studies departments at leading universities in Europe, America, and the Arab world including Al Azhar, Oxford, Cambridge, SOAS, Columbia, Pennsylvania, Georgetown, George Washington, University of California and others as well as in a wide range of seminars and conferences at the Institut du Monde Arabe, the Haj Research Center, and most recently the First World Congress for Middle East Studies.
Schleifer, a frequent guest on Egyptian TV talk shows, has published op-ed pieces in newspapers such as Newsday and the Philadelphia Inquirer and over the past year has been frequently interviewed by and/or appeared via satellite as a guest for CNN, PBS, BBC, and other European as well as Japanese television news programs. He has also participated as an open-line telephone guest on numerous public affairs radio talk shows originating in Europe, the UK and the USA; including three NPR affiliates.
Born in New York and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (BA 1956), Schleifer received his MA from the American University in Beirut in Islamic Political Thought 1980. He worked for Young & Rubicam Inc., the international advertising agency, in the mid- fifties but left to became a freelance writer and regular contributor of literary journalism and social criticism to The Village Voice, Dissent, Monthly Review, The Nation, Film Culture and Studies on the Left and published poetry in a number of “little magazines” in the early sixties. He visited Cuba on three occasions for extended periods of time and wrote extensively on the Cuban Revolution. Prior to coming to the Middle East, Schleifer served as editor of Kuchur, a quarterly journal of literary and social criticism reflecting the “Beat Generation” and New York/Black Mountain Poets perspective and he participated in the experimental film movement in New York and Havana.
Schleifer is married to a Sudanese-US dual national, Tayba Hassan al Khalifa Sharif, who is currently serving as a Protection Officer for UNHCR and the International Rescue Committee. They live in Egypt and the United Kingdom.