Media honesty needed

Once again, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has reached crisis proportions. Yet what is truly remarkable about this conflict is the way in which it has recently been covered in the mainstream American media. On September 19th, suicide attacks on Israeli civilians–a morally indefensible act–took place, and shortly thereafter, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon sent in tanks and bulldozers to demolish what was left of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s crumbling compound.

This was explained as the usual routine of Palestinian “aggression” met with Israeli “reprisal”. Moreover, the mainstream press–the NY Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, etc.–explained that the suicide attacks broke a six-week “period of calm” or “lull in violence.” It turns out, however, that this rendering of events is entirely false. Let us see why.

August 29th, Washington Post: “Four members of a Palestinian family, including a woman and two of her sons, were killed early today when Israeli tanks opened fire on a house south of Gaza City.” Doctors explained that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), “prevented ambulances from reaching the wounded for about 40 minutes.” September 9th, Haaretz (Israeli daily) summary: “On August 31, four young Palestinians were killed in the West Bank village of Tubas” in an assassination attempt. “Two teenage boys in the targeted car and two children playing nearby were killed by helicopter missiles.” And, “On September 1, IDF soldiers shot and killed four Palestinians – 32-year-old twin brothers, their 21-year-old cousin, and a 20-year-old man – near the Beni Nai’im quarry in the Hebron area.”

B’Tselem (Israeli human rights group) notes that, “in the space of five days, IDF forces killed thirteen Palestinians and wounded twelve.” September 2, Haaretz: correspondent Amira Hass remarks that at least 39 Palestinian civilians were killed from Aug. 1 to Sept. 1, including seven children. September 18, CBS: “A bomb exploded in a Palestinian elementary school in the West Bank on Tuesday, slightly wounding five students”–the work of Israeli settlers.

Here lies exposed our “period of calm”: a period of murder and mayhem, which resulted in the deaths of dozens of Palestinian civilians. Does the reality of Palestinian suffering disappear into thin air as soon as Israelis are killed? Is our media “objective” or “free” in regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Surely, it is objectively aligned with the Israeli tank turret and F-16 targeting reticule, and is free from any obligation to present a view untainted by racism and bias.

Even the 36-year-old colonial military occupation imposed upon the entire Palestinian population by Israel often goes unmentioned. Thus, a US government report (USAID) showing that over half of Palestinian children suffer from malnutrition–including stunted growth–due to Israel’s tight grip on their withering lives, goes unmentioned. Or an August 30th Haaretz interview, in which Israeli military chief Ya’alon–a self-described “humanist”–spoke of Palestinians as “a cancer”, to be treated with “chemotherapy” or “amputation,” receives no mention here.

Perhaps our media should adopt a new, revolutionary approach: honesty.

-Mohammad Junaid Alam is a sophomore political science major.

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