At a recent meeting in Italy, a unique, unprecedented initiative was started: Israeli and Palestinian students are now cooperating on the publication of a newspaper. Joseph Croitoru reports
The English name of the newspaper, "Triangle," defines its mission. As in a triangle, Israeli and Palestinian students, starting from their different points at the base, should meet at a mutual point in the middle.
The inaugural issue of the newspaper (currently available online at www.triangle.org.il) makes clear that the controversial issues that hamper the relationship between the two sides are approached from a critical standpoint. The main topic of this issue is the portrayal of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the media.
The radical bias of Middle East media
"You bloodsuckers, we've had enough of you!" was the title of a piece contributed by Salam Anbatawi, the Palestinian co-publisher of the newspaper. He accuses the media on both sides of focusing on sensation and accounts of violence, of spreading clichéd images of the respective enemy and of ignoring the often unspectacular work of Israeli and Palestinian peace organizations in the process.
Such a reproach is remarkable, since the Palestinian media are well-known for being extremely partisan, making balanced reporting and open criticism of the media equally difficult. The bold Palestinian student also calls for those in leading positions in the media to change their basic attitudes and urges them not to cater to extremists on both sides – whose radical statements and violent actions are aimed at gaining attention through the media – but rather to spurn them.
Their propagandistic phrases, says Anbatawi, should instead be exposed as lies and false belief: This applies as much to claims by the Palestinian Hamas that an Islamic state will soon be founded in Israeli territory as to the goal of some Israeli settlers of forcing the Palestinians out of their homeland.
Each side should acknowledge the other's right to live in dignity and freedom. As a Palestinian, however, Anbatawi applies this above all to putting an end to Israeli occupation.
Information monitored by Israeli military
Ziv Stahl, an Israeli student from Tel Aviv and co-publisher of the Hebrew edition of "Triangle," is no less critical of the way the Israeli media reports on the conflict between the two peoples. He denounces the fact that nearly all information about the Palestinian territories are monitored by the Israeli military. Although the actions of the army are criticized publicly, criticism vanishes as soon as the military counters with arguments of state security.
In this way, the reality of the occupation is kept hidden from the average Israeli citizen – including questions such as: How large is the occupying force? How many roadblocks are there? And what kind of military activities are being routinely carried out which are only reported to the public when something goes wrong?
Like his Palestinian counterpart Anbatawi, the Israeli Stahl calls for a more discriminating media in his country – it is not true, as right-wing politicians claim, that the Israeli media is left-leaning, says Stahl. He says one needs only to examine current reports to see clearly how left-wing demonstrations for peace are given far less attention than rallies of the ultra-right settlers.
Self-critique on both sides
The other articles in the premiere edition of "Triangle" also show an emphasis on self-critique on both sides. Israeli student Noam Shesaf, for example, relates his experiences as a conscientious objector and goes on record as saying that this form of protest against the occupation has failed on the whole.
Palestinian student George Zanayed writes that the solution to the conflict is not dependent on soldiers, but on politicians. Israel's power results from its participation in an "international colonialist alliance" which is, however, opposed by an even greater power: the Palestinian people and their conviction that their cause is just.
The students behind Triangle aim to back up their words with deeds: They plan to enhance the dialogue between young Israelis and Palestinians with activities for peace which will be publicized in the new student newspaper.
© Qantara.de 2005
Translation from German: Mark Rossman
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