Weir discusses Palestinian, Israeli perceptions at EMU

Author and journalist Alison Weir addressed a packed room in the Student Center about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict Tuesday. Weir believes the media have created an unfair portrayal of Palestinians.

“Up until nine years ago, I knew nothing of the Middle East, but in the fall of 2000 I decided to pay more attention,” Weir said. “My effort is to tell what’s not in the media.”

Weir began her dialogue by attempting to refute information New York Times published regarding deaths on both populations involved in the conflict.

“In my research, I have discovered that various news outlets across the country have reported Israeli deaths at a rate of three and four times greater than those of Palestine,” she said.

Weir said the media have greatly distorted the deaths of children as well.

“Every single death is a tragedy, but American media have reported the deaths of Israeli children at a rate of thirteen to fourteen times greater than that of Palestinians,” she said.

However, not everyone believes Weir’s information and statistics are factual. Journalist Gilead Ini, who works for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, wrote an article addressing Weir’s claims. Ini said Weir’s organization has created discredited claims against Israel.

“Weir falsely states that most Palestinian deaths are never reported by the Times at all,” Ini said. “In the one-month sub-study where ‘If Americans Knew’ did actually examine news stories from start to finish, the group found the Times reported 82 percent of Palestinians killed. That is, Weir’s statistics show that most Palestinian deaths are in fact reported in the newspaper.”

According to Weir, there are numerous news outlets in America that misrepresent the actual numbers of causalities.

“The National Public Radio has been accused of being biased,” Weir said. “The San Jose Mercury News has incorrectly reported deaths as well.

“The actual number of deaths that occurred in the incident that the paper referred to was 121 Israelis’ and 384 Palestinians. However, on the front page it read 85 Israelis and 14 Palestinians. A distorted version of the truth.”

Weir said she believes the conflict has been unfair from the start.

“Israeli weaponry is the fifth most powerful on the planet Earth,” she said. “These weapons are in comparison with small homemade rockets that are made by Palestinians that have rarely killed people.”

Weir also discussed the Goldstone Report, which has been considered a controversial subject across the world. The Goldstone report was a United Nations fact-finding mission examining Israel’s Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in Gaza.

According to the 575-page report, “Israel committed actions amounting to war crimes, possible crimes against humanity.” Dissenters of the report believe it is not objective or factual in its research and findings.

Weir wanted the audience to know on both sides of the conflict, there are peaceful, non-violence groups.

“Nonviolence is something that we never hear about,” she said. “These groups hold events that are joined by individuals from around the world. What I discovered as I traveled through Gaza was that I was welcomed and safe. Instead of seeing this, we see images of people being portrayed as terrorists and individuals that hate us.”

Weir said her mission is to let Americans know the impact they have on others.

“As American taxpayers, we give Israelis’ at least seven million dollars a day, and there is no oversight,” Weir said.

“There are schools closing in our country and veteran hospitals as well, there are things that our money can be used for, so I’m for the stopping of funding Israel. If we are impacting lives abroad, we are morally obligated to know the impact we are having upon these people.”

Weir opened the floor for questions from the audience. The first question asked if there was any hope for a completely unbiased media.

Weir said, “We’re not hoping for perfection but we’re expecting full coverage. I am consistently finding journalists that are afraid to cover this in fear of losing their jobs.”

An audience member questioned Congress’ involvement in the conflict.

“Lobbyists are very influential. There are lobbies that fund campaigns based on their stance of the Israeli conflict,” Weir said.

When asked if she could name specific individuals she believes have been influenced, Weir said she knew of a few.

“Joe Lieberman [U.S. senator] is very pro-Israeli. There are individuals that have been pushed out because of their beliefs such as [Green Party member] Cynthia McKinney and [former U.S. representative] Paul Findley.”

Weir also believes President Obama is pro-Israeli.

“His stance is apparent,” she said. To run for president, you have already sworn your allegiance to Israel.”

Some members of the audience thought Weir’s presentation was biased.

“I just think she only presents one side. I disagree with her, I believe that there is a lot of pro-Palestinian views out there,” student Jon Shapiro said.

Other audience members were pleased with what Weir had to say. Homecoming Queen Phylicia Wilford agreed with a lot of what Weir said: “She really opened my eyes.”

Weir closed by saying all Americans should be on a quest to find the truth.

“You should be skeptical in general but, ultimately research it as thoroughly as you can for yourself,” she said.

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