Israeli newspaper editor Eli Wohlgelernter called on newspaper readers to see beyond the headlines when reading news about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during a speech Wednesday night in ICC.

Wohlgelernter, editor of Haaretz, one of Israel’s major daily newspapers, discussed media bias and the difficulties of reporting accurately on a situation as multifaceted as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“It’s a very, very complicated conflict . full of nuances,” he said. “You’re never going to get all the facts in a headline, or all the facts in a story, but you do want to put it all in context.”

Wohlgelernter said that at any given time, 800 to 1,500 foreign journalists are in Israel and the Palestinian areas reporting on issues surrounding the ongoing conflict there. Yet many come with very little background knowledge of the situation, he said.

In a desire for newsworthy photos and “balanced” articles, Wohlgelernter said, editors and reporters often include information and neatly-situated action photos in their newspapers that do not accurately reflect all angles of the situation.

He said that common images of the conflict, such as the image of a Palestinian child throwing a rock at an Israeli tank, are shown accompanying news articles that they do not directly relate to.

“Things get shown in the narrow view, but you don’t get the picture . the whole picture,” he said. “All you’re seeing is what’s in the frame [of a photo]. What’s out of the frame?”

Wohlgelernter cited the Israeli and Palestinian death counts as one example of a fact he felt was frequently taken out of context. News articles often include a count of Israelis and Palestinians killed in the violence, yet sometimes, he said, these numbers do not differentiate between Palestinians killed by Israelis and Palestinians killed in accidents and by other Palestinians and can be misleading.

“Facts might not be the truth,” Wohlgelernter said.

Despite these oversights, Wohlgelernter said that these oversights do not always reflect a conscious bias on the part of the media.

“Most of the time it’s out of ignorance [or] laziness,” he said.

Wohlgelernter encouraged students to stay informed and to read news articles about the same event in multiple sources both on-line and in print, in order to see the many ways that one news event can be portrayed.

Wohlgelernter added that often the complexities of the conflict, and even of a specific occurrence, are difficult to encompass in one 800-word newspaper article, and even more difficult to portray accurately in a five-minute television news segment.

“It’s a complex issue, even in terms of reporting for Israelis and Israeli media,” he said.

Wohlgelernter, a Jerusalem resident, added that despite the frequent acts of violence in Israel that are often portrayed in the American media, life continues in his city.

“Within that framework of knowing that [violence] exists we lead fairly normal lives,” he said.

During the majority of his speech, Wohlgelernter focused on media issues and avoided discussing the politics of the conflict or sharing his personal views.

“We all have ideas about it, but none of us has the answer,” he said.

During a question-and-answer period at the end of the speech, however, Wohlgelernter elaborated on the political context of the situation in relation to the upcoming U.S. elections.

Both President Bush and Sen. John Kerry, he said, are “friends to Israel.”

“But countries don’t have friends, they have interests,” he continued. Wohlgelernter said that Bush sees Israel as a “strategic interest to America.”

Speaking on the night when Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s health was deteriorating considerably in Ramallah, Wohlgelernter said that in regards to the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians, “nothing will more forward until Arafat is dead.”

He said that he attributed the failure of the 1993 Oslo Accords to Arafat, who he said demonstrated “duplicity” in his interactions with the world.

Wohlgelernter said that he felt the Palestinians, many of whom have lived in impoverished refugee camps since the establishment of Israel in 1948, were “the most screwed-over people in the history of the world.”

He also discussed Palestinian society, and the degree to which he felt the violence over the past four years has radicalized younger generations and made the prospects of peaceful coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis more difficult.

“We’ve lost a whole generation that venerates suicide bombers,” he said.

Although there seem to be fewer suicide bombings today than there were two years ago, Wohlgelernter said that the appearance is largely a result of improvements in Israeli counter-terrorism forces. He said that on some days, over 50 suicide attacks against Israel are intercepted.

“Israeli will always have the option of a defensive move … and will use it,” he added.

Approximately 20 students attended the event, which was sponsored by Georgetown Israel Alliance and the Lecture Fund.

Talia Shor (MSB ’06), who attended the event, said that although she felt what Wohlgelernter said about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was accurate, some of his comments about Palestinian society conflicted with what she has heard Palestinian speakers say about the same subjects.

“I’m confused about what the truth is,” Shor said.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.