Palestinians Resist Media Demonization

By Catherine Manfre

corporate news programs give the wrong impression of the Palestinian people by referring to them as "terrorists," former Al-Jazeera producer and professor Ramzy Baroud said at a panel discussion at Kimmel last night.

"A lot of Palestinians are missing from the narrative given by the media," he said. "They are demonized into either martyrs or suicide bombers."

Baroud, also an author and human rights advocate, spoke at the panel called the "Palestinian Rights Lecture" with Hassan Jabareen – the founder of Adalah, a legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel – at the Shorin auditorium. The two guests spoke about Palestinian portrayal in the media, legal issues of Palestinians in Israel and Palestinian identity.

About 35 people attended, mostly students who received the invitation from Arab Students United, the Middle East Dialogue Group and Students for Justice in Palestine, the group that sponsored the event.

"The event’s goal was to spread human rights awareness rather than politics," said Amara El-Haj, CAS junior and president of the Middle East Dialogue Group.

Baroud, who has taught at Australia’s Curtin University of Technology, said that the opportunity for Palestinians to vote for their own representation was significant and that this action could inspire future democratic movements in the region.

The media, Baroud said, has a large influence in the way it narrates current situations.

"In order for democracies to become democracies, there needs to be a balance between the public sphere and the state," he said. "And the media helps decode the relationship between these two spheres."

The issue was also examined from a legal perspective. Hassan Jabareen said the legal issues involved in peace agreements like the Oslo Accords assume that both parties in the contract are equal – when in reality, they aren’t.

"Today Palestinians are deeply fragmented," he said.

Since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, Jabareen said, Israeli-Palestinians have been unable to marry and live in Israel with spouses originally from the West Bank or Gaza, even if they have dual citizenship with another country. He said this was legally unfair and that Israel is the only country in the world with a situation like this.

He also discussed issues of Palestinian identity and emphasized the need to "have every Palestinian and Israeli live with dignity and equality."

Mr. Jabareen taught civil rights courses at universities in Israel and established the organization Adalah, which uses Israeli law to "achieve equal rights for all in Israel," according to the organizers of the event.

CAS senior and member of the Middle East Dialogue club Nashwa Gewaily said she hoped people walked away with "a new perspective on the situation" and "a better understanding of the human rights issues faced by Palestinians."

-Catherine Manfre is a staff writer. (NYU Washington Square News – Oct 30, 2007)

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