Thursday, February 23, 2006

Invisible Palestinians

This is right on the mark.
Don Wycliff has been a member of the Tribune's editorial staff since 1990 and its public editor since 2000, positions that have given Wycliff, a former New York Times journalist, considerable clout at the paper.

Seeking to analyze the recent Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections, and the terrorism case against Bridgeview resident Mohammed Salah, Wycliff pulled no punches, in a Feb. 2 column. He candidly acknowledged something that is rarely admitted in public journalism circles about the reality of the American media and the Palestine-Israel conflict: "Part of the reason we felt blindsided by Hamas' victory is that we don't see or hear things from the Palestinian perspective very often," Wycliff wrote.

"On Sunday [Jan. 29], for example, the Tribune's Commentary page carried two articles on Hamas' victory. One was by 'an American-Israeli peace activist' from Oak Park, the other by the executive director of the publication of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

"Our Commentary page features no columnist who can be depended upon to routinely explain and defend Palestinian actions and attitudes as, say, Charles Krauthammer defends Israel's. So on probably the most enduring and insistent foreign policy issue of our time, we routinely do not hear from one side."
It appears worse to me, though. Note how in the press causality of tit-for-tats is usually put in terms of Israelis striking back in response to Palestinian attacks. It's not as easy as that. But the US will never get it if there are only invisible Palestinians or ones filtered through Ha'aretz, the NY Times or WaPo. The frame is Palestinian attack, Israeli reprisal. You simply can't understand Israel-Palestine if it's seen in those terms. Look at the language as well - Palestinians are "terrorists" and Israelis are responding to terrorist attacks. While we may find Hamas' platform of the ultimate disappearance of Israel execrable, we don't find many similar claims regarding Israeli land-grabs, displacements, and supposed agreements that end up leaving an autonomous Palestine with waterless land and no military of its own.

In the end, Palestinian voices simply have to be heard and discussed on their own terms in the American media. That is, if we give a damn at all about finding a way out of this historical debacle.

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