Sarah Sachs (Palestine)

Sarah Sachs (Alternative Information Center - AIC): Sarah taught English in Argentina and Germany and worked for several years as a manager in the dot-com industry before pursuing her graduate studies. At the time of her fellowship, she was pursuing a Master’s degree in International Affairs with a concentration in economic, political and education development from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.

A Call for Critical Reading of the News

06 Jul

I don’t expect everyone to see things the same way that I do, nor do I expect everyone to abandon their current news sources for those of my choice. However, what I do expect, and what I fear is not a conscious effort for the majority of Americans, is that they apply a critical eye not just to the content of the news they read, but also to the language through which it is communicated.

Case in point: the use of the term kidnapped. If the Israelis had ever truly recognized the Palestinian elections and allowed the Palestinians to develop their own government and defense, then what we would be seeing now would be war, and the kidnapped soldier would be a captured POW. Instead, what would otherwise be war is called terrorism. Many news sources report the capture of several Hamas members, government ministers and members of Parliament, all considered prisoners or terrorists, as a justified response on the part of the Israeli government to the kidnapping of one Israeli soldier. With one word, kidnapping, the statement becomes no longer an observation but a justification.

All I ask is that we pay attention to what we’re reading in the news, as well as to how we’re reading it. Every news source feigns objectivity that is impossible to achieve. Even the most apparently “even-handed” news is rife with bias, built into the editor’s choice between which stories to cover and which to ignore, where to place each particular story and the language with which people, organizations and events are represented. This language plays a crucial role in shaping the public discourse about news events.

No, we can’t expect the Israeli government to stand by when an Israeli soldier is captured. But neither can we expect the Palestinian Authority to stand by when its citizens are captured and detained by the Israeli army, and when its politicians are imprisoned as terrorists, regardless of the nature of their involvement with the inner workings of Hamas.

While I am neither a supporter nor defender of Hamas and I do recognize their connections to terrorist acts, it is important to remember that this is not Hamas’ only function. Hamas also provides the Palestinian people with a vital network of social services, which is one explanation for its election in the first place. Some of these captured political prisoners no doubt work in this much larger, humanitarian branch of the Hamas political body, work that certainly does not make them terrorists.

Hamas was given its authority by the Palestinian people, through free and fair elections–quite phenomenal, in fact, given the electoral history of the region. But Hamas was never given the opportunity to prove itself as a functioning political body, so we will most likely never know how the authority, responsibility and accountability granted to it in those elections could have transformed its role in Palestinian politics. I must admit, I’m a bit of a skeptic about that potential, but not enough so to justify a pre-emptive attack, in the form of the Israeli invasion of Gaza, disguised as yet another round of the “War on Terror”.

Posted By Sarah Sachs (Palestine)

Posted Jul 6th, 2006

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