Just before Thanksgiving break, four Rabbis, three of whom were American citizens, went to their Jerusalem synagogue for routine prayer services. During the service, two Palestinian terrorists armed with meat cleavers, an ax, and a gun entered the synagogue to brutally murder the Jews inside. Later, the terrorists died in the crossfire after also tragically murdering a Druze police officer who responded to the scene.
The gruesome images of Jews murdered with bloody prayer shawls wrapped around their bodies elicited painful memories of 1930s Europe. Unsurprisingly, Western media paid little respect to these terror victims. On our very own campus, the silence was deafening. As university students, we need to be aware of the issues that plague the Middle East today, and we need to voice our outrage when innocent people are murdered. Misrepresentation of facts, distorted information, and outright biases exist not only in our media, but on our campus too. One new group, the Madison Israel Club, is fighting back against this alarming trend.
The errors in media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are astounding. CNN, describing the recent Jerusalem attack said, “four Israelis and two Palestinians were killed,” failing to mention that those two Palestinians were armed terrorists. In a later gaffe, CNN made a Freudian slip when it ran the chyron, “deadly attack on a Jerusalem mosque.” Media bias is certainly not a new phenomenon, particularly in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Just this summer, headlines were filled with moral equivalencies between Israel and Hamas, the Gaza-based terrorist organization that, according to Israel Defense Forces, regularly uses its own civilians as human shields. But the misrepresentation of the Middle East goes far beyond the media.
In the fight for public opinion on the Middle East, college campuses are another central battlefield. University of Wisconsin is no exception to this rule. Over the weekend of Nov. 7, the Friends of Sabeel North America and Students for Justice in Palestine hosted a conference at the Pyle Center in solidarity with Palestine. While claiming to support human rights, the conference featured notoriously anti-Semitic speakers who advocate for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions, an anti-peace campaign that demonizes Israel and defames it with the label, or rather libel, of an apartheid state.
One of the these speakers, Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the extremist blog Electronic Intifada and a leader of the BDS movement, openly admits that he does not believe Israel should exist. He has even labeled those in support of a Jewish state as being racist and calls Zionism, “the worst form of anti-Semitism in existence today.”
Really? The belief that the Jewish people deserve a state of their own is the worst form of anti-Semitism today? These are the ideas Abunimah and his colleagues are propagating on our campus — not messages of peace, not messages of coexistence, but messages imbued with bigotry.
As the voices that demonize the Jewish State of Israel grow louder on campus and in the media, a new student organization known as the Madison Israel Club is bringing a fresh take on the Middle East to UW. MIC is a Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America campus activist group that is dedicated to exposing anti-Israel bias and disseminating accurate information about Middle East affairs to students. MIC works to counter misinformation by hosting prominent speakers and analysts, providing opportunities for dialogue about current events and training students to advocate for the Jewish state.
MIC held its first public event a few weeks ago on the evening of Nov. 12. The event was a lecture by the accomplished policy analysis Avi Jorisch, titled “Terror Financing and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” Jorisch spoke about the changing nature of the Middle East, discussed his firsthand experiences with terrorist propaganda and explained how he successfully uncovered Iran’s dirty banking and money laundering schemes. The event was co-sponsored by CAMERA, WUD Society and Politics, the UW Chapter of the Alexander Hamilton Society, Chabad Jewish Student Association and the Jewish Experience of Madison.
As events continue to unfold throughout the Middle East, we must think critically about responses on campus and in the media. With the evolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has also come an evolution of the rhetoric surrounding it. As college students, we must recognize the importance of educating ourselves on foreign affairs and speaking out against biases and injustices. We need to ask tough questions and insist on knowing the truth. We can’t just be concerned with advocacy; we also need to fight for accuracy.
Josh Mendelowitz is a sophomore majoring in history.