The Gaza War, also known as Operation Cast Lead, was a three-week armed conflict that took place in the Gaza Strip during the winter of 2008-09. According to an Amnesty International report, “On Dec. 27, 2008, without warning, Israeli forces began a devastating bombing campaign on the Gaza Strip condemned Operation ‘Cast Lead.’ Its stated aim was to end rocket attacks into Israel by armed groups affiliated with Hamas and other Palestinian factions.” The report also further states that “some 1,400 Palestinians had been killed and large areas of Gaza had been razed to the ground.” During the time of Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli government placed a ban on foreign media because they were afraid for their safety. With the bombing and fighting, journalists would have been killed or injured during the operation.
Operation Cast Lead is only one example of a story that was pushed under the rug in Western television networks. Journalists around the world are unique witnesses to atrocities, triumphs and controversy. Especially in areas of conflict, like Gaza, journalists have the opportunity to relay crucial messages about war, death and destruction to the general public. But often these stories do not reach the ears of American consumers. Three other students and I have been studying about the events in Gaza and relations between Palestinians and Israelis. In our findings, which we presented to the campus community on Monday, we have discovered certain discrepancies in mainstream media on its coverage. There are many sides to a story, and oftentimes some remain unnoticed. Our event on Monday, “Unveiling the War in Gaza,” was put together not with a political or religious agenda but merely a commentary by students on present day media using Operation Cast Lead as an example.
In our work, we have interviewed several journalists, including Sheera Frenkel, a journalist for the London Times who is fluent in Hebrew and Arabic. She and her colleague broke the original white phosphorous story to the London Times in 2008. She followed the conflict from day one, doing whatever it took to get the facts, including sneaking into Gaza through Egypt to see the devastation first hand. She was awarded the Young Journalist of the Year title by the British Press last year for her excellence in reporting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza.
We also interviewed Jamal Dajani, who is an award-winning producer and vice president of Middle East, North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean at Internews Network. Before this, he was the vice president of international news at Link TV, as well as the co-creator and series producer of Mosaic: World News from the Middle East, winner of the prestigious Peabody Award. Dajani is a frequent guest on national and international media broadcast networks. He has published several articles on the Middle East in many print and electronic media outlets and blogs regularly for The Huffington Post.
We also interviewed Ben White, who is a freelance journalist and writer from the UK specializing in Palestine/Israel. He also writes on the broader Middle East, Islam and Christianity, and the “war on terror.”
Our project aims to give its audiences something to think about and see journalism not just as a means of conveying information but a door to critically engage in political thought and critical theory. Through our project, we understand the important roles journalists play in shaping the everyday realities the rest of us see and also learned of the many challenges they face reporting on the ground, especially in war-zones like Gaza. It is as Winston Churchill writes: “Journalism is a guardian that never sleeps and protects freedom of the people.”
Shiwani Neupane is a senior politics major. She can be reached at email@example.com