Home > Commentary, General Policy, Israel-Palestine > Exclusive Interview: Marda on the Middle East

Exclusive Interview: Marda on the Middle East

Marda Dunsky, the author of the recently published book Pens and Swords: How the American Mainstream Media Report the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,  by Columbia University Press recently gave two presentations on media reporting of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and of the Muslim world in general. Following one of these presentations, I was given the opportunity to sit down with Mrs. Dunsky and discuss her thoughts.

It goes without saying that media shapes public opinion and policy. In her new book, Mrs. Dunsky criticizes American broadcast media for its failure to place events “in context” or to admit an administration’s defiance  of international laws or consensus.

Even in the most seemingly balanced story on Israeli settlement, there is no reference to what international law and consensus has to say about the issue, she said.

In another illustration, Dunsky quoted Senator Dick Durbin who said that when the mainstream media irresponsibly followed the Bush Administration’s assertion of WMDs, it created a climate of incredible pressure. Under such pressure, “the only safe vote was the vote for the war.” Otherwise senators would fall prey to their constituencies.

Dumskey also touched on President Obama.

Obama’s been in office for more than a month. What he’s done immediately is to recognize that this is a very pressing issue. On the second day he was in office, he had a big meeting at the state department where he introduced his two special envoys: Holbrook and Sen. George Mitchell as his envoys to the Middle East. Obama right out of the gate is telling the world, ‘We think this is really a pressing issue and we’re going to get back involved right away.’

Starting with his interview on Al-Arabiya (which can be found in an earlier post here), Obama showed that he is intent on improving relations in the region and showing that the issues in the area are a priority for America.

Dunsky cautioned, though, that it is still mostly rhetoric at this stage and that concrete policies are required.

On the campaign trail Obama visited Sderot in southern Israel and expressed his sympathies for living under constant rocket fire. This was where he said the famous phrase “if my daughters were sleeping and someone was shooting rockets at them, I would do anything I could to protect them.” So while he sympathized with Sderot and kept with the standard American policy of unflinching support for Israeli security, as Dunsky pointed out, Obama neglected to travel the two miles into Gaza and show that he empathized with the average Gazan who was living under siege with little access to food or medical supplies–which in itself does not mark a change in American policy.

I would like to encourage all to take heed Mrs. Dunsky’s advice and to scrutinize the mainstream media. By doing so, the viewer can be much more informed and gain a better understanding of the truth.

Marda Dunsky is a professor at DePaul University and a former journalist at the Jerusalem Post.

This interview took place March 2009.

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