Over the last 10 years, CAMERA has educated and trained dozens of exceptional students to speak up for Israel on campus. Not only do our CAMERA Fellows (now completing the 10th year of the program) advocate for truthful coverage of the Middle East during their time on campus, they continue to monitor anti-Israel activity on their campus after graduation.
Recently, our 2008-2009 University of Pennsylvania CAMERA Fellows alumnus, Joshua Belfer, sent us his latest letter-to-the-editor. Josh’s piece was published in the Daily Pennsylvanian, in response to another article describing a BDS event at the university.
Josh’s letter is reproduced in full below. Nicely done, Josh!
As the past President of Penn Hillel and a proud Penn alum, I was embarrassed by the Daily Pennsylvanian’s coverage of the Students for Justice in Palestine meeting (“Palestinian University Students tell Penn peers, ‘We are Violated’, 11/19). While it is shameful enough that at such a distinguished university, students would be subjected to one-sided, hateful speech at an event like this, I would have expected the DP to make the effort to properly educate its readership on the controversial remarks spoken.
Just as all reporters are taught to verify their sources, so too should the newspaper be expected to verify the accuracy of the “historical context” presented by speakers who have an obvious bias against Israel. The two speakers discussed that “in 1948 Palestinians were driven from their homes.” Additionally, they are quoted discussing the checkpoint restrictions imposed on Palestinians. It is appropriate for their personal experiences to be communicated to Penn students, but for a subject as complex as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a situation on which thousands of books have been written, to be presented through the speakers’ quotes, without any historical context, is unacceptable. The speakers were not brought in to teach a history lesson, and for the DP to print these students’ selective “facts” about the conflict is a severe lapse in the DP’s journalistic integrity.
Similarly, I am disturbed that the DP did not feel the need to print any context regarding the quotes about Palestinian textbooks, especially as it was reported that students attending the event met these remarks with “sneers.” It has long been documented that certain textbooks used in Palestinian schools include blatant anti-Israel hate, and it has continued to be documented as recently as November 2014 in The New York Times. While the students attending the meeting should be ashamed of themselves for mocking what is actually a well-documented truth, the DP should similarly be embarrassed for printing the students’ untrue statements as historical fact.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a very complicated one. During my tenure as President of Penn Hillel, we faced several controversies on campus regarding untrue statements preached by extremists from both sides of the conflict. The DP has an extremely important role in educating college students on Penn’s campus about this conflict. Through publishing these one-sided inaccuracies by obviously biased speakers as truth, without any attempt at recognizing the controversial nature of the statements, it is clear that the DP must reexamine its own journalistic integrity and the way that it reports on such controversial events.
Joshua Belfer C’12
President of Penn Hillel, 2011-2012
Penn Hillel Israel Chair, 2010-2011