The Common Good
November 2009

Readers Respond to 'Peering Through the Wall'

by Jeannie Choi | November 2009

Editor’s Note: For this web extra, we asked readers to respond to Robert Hirschfield’s article "

Editor’s Note: For this web extra, we asked readers to respond to Robert Hirschfield’s article "Peering Through the Wall" from the November issue. We went to our trusty Sojo100—a group of 100 Sojourners subscribers who provide feedback and opinions on upcoming editorial content. If you are a subscriber and are interested in joining the Sojo100 in the future, please send an email to sojo100@sojo.net. All opinions expressed below are solely those of the respondents.

I have been getting news about Palestine and Israel for years via the Internet. I thought Robert Hirschfield’s article is reflective of those local sources (Jewish and Palestinian). If I get a message that is close to the balance of this article, it is from Lutheran church leaders (including my bishop) who have been there, NPR, or an occasional 60 Minutes piece. Kudos for printing this article. I read Sojourners, in part, for that honesty and risk taking.

Rev. Robert Royal Lesher, Marshfield, Wisconsin
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To me, Mr. Hirschfield's article about Israeli and U.S. media echoes other reports that I’ve read and heard before. Our church, All Saints Episcopal in San Leandro, California, hosted a spokesperson from Palestine who made the same points – more than six years ago.

I am not in favor of saying, “Israeli media is better than the U.S. media,” or vice versa. What is important is that all media (if they can afford it) need to be responsible and as forthright as they can be with their reporting. Whether misleading the public is deliberate or due to lack of funds, it is harmful to those of us who wish to know the truth.

I am in favor of holding up this article as an example of good journalism and encouraging others to follow suit.

As a former newspaper reporter, I am convinced that much of the U.S. media is no longer doing its job of reporting factually and without bias. Much of the TV media has become entertainment. Unfortunately, some of the U.S. public does not understand the difference between well-researched journalism and “in-your-face” attention-getting diatribes. Oh, for the days of Woodward and Bernstein!

Thus, one issue for me is: How do we reach the public in a thoughtful way that will encourage them to take the time to think through issues?

Maxine Sitts, San Leandro, California

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I just returned from volunteering in the Old City of Jerusalem for a few weeks in September 2009. I went to help the Palestinian people and experienced the occupation first-hand. Regarding media, I was excited to finally have TV access to Al Jazeera and the BBC. I was also introduced to Haaretz, which offered articles on the situation that my Palestinian co-workers felt were accurate and balanced.

The U.S. media are terrible. Everything is about shock and sensation. I feel they don't give truthful coverage of the occupation because the perception is that most Americans support what Israel is doing (because our government has told us to support them), and ratings might slip if they give an accurate story.

My husband tears out articles regarding the Israel-Palestinian conflict when he comes across them. Invariably I watch him trying to tear a tiny article out of the middle of a huge newspaper—the information may be there, but it is always buried, indicating it holds no interest for the typical American. Why can’t our media just tell both sides without bias? Why can't they tell us the truth instead of trying to shock us to get higher ratings? Truth is always better than fiction.

Leah Geocaris, Island Lake, Illinois

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Quite frankly, I am not surprised to hear claims that the Israeli press may cover its national issues better than the U.S. press. I think we have a very ethno-centric approach to our handling of international news. However, recent reports on Israeli-Palestinian conflicts seem to have become less one-sided (PBS and CNN seem to do a better job than any of the other networks, and the print media is also doing its best).

I live in a very rural, conservative, Bible-belt state. I'm not sure that even with the best objective news coverage, a group of extremists within our country wouldn't take things radically out of context. One only needs to see what they've done with the health-care debate in this country.

Maria I. Castro, Little Rock, Arkansas

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It's about time that we recognized that the U.S. is and has always been pro-Israel in its news coverage. My father, a Lebanese immigrant, always complained of that. It is refreshing to know that there is better coverage of the occupation by the Israeli press than in the United States. I don’t trust what our press says.

Kathryn Thomas, Wayland, New York

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This is a great article! Actually, I am surprised that the Israeli press/media are not more censored. I admire their courage. Over the last few years, I have followed articles by Neve Gordon, who writes for the National Catholic Reporter. Let’s face it—the U.S. media are going to be careful, because we have been so complicit in the atrocities against the Palestinians.

Mary M. O'Brien, New Britain, Connecticut

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I have definitely perceived the kind of bias described in this article on the part of the mainstream U.S. media. I have observed that Israel tends to respond to minor threats with very major actions from time to time, and somehow that viewpoint never makes it to mainstream media. I absolutely feel that this author has expressed a valid and thoughtful opinion in a direct and fair way, without putting too much blame at anyone’s feet. I appreciate his point of view and happen to agree.

Keeley Bruner, Princeton, New Jersey

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I am so glad to see this issue of media coverage addressed. I stay in contact with our United Methodist missionary in Palestine, who works closely with the Christian Peacemaking Teams teaching nonviolent resistance to Israel’s occupation. Her stories of the daily brutality of Palestinian life are heartbreaking, and it is terrible that these truths are hidden from Americans, whose tax dollars have funded injustice and made life worse for both Palestinians and Israelis. Americans are rightly horrified by what took place during the Holocaust, and, I believe, would never tolerate the similar injustice imposed on Palestinians if the facts were made available.

Traci McGrath, Brock, Texas

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While I have read no local coverage, it does not surprise me that the Israeli press does a better job of covering the occupation than the U.S. media. For millennia, the world has benefited from Israel being honest about itself. It’s reassuring that the prophetic and critical voice has not been lost.

As for the U.S. media, I think this speaks to a larger problem, which is the superficial coverage given to all international news that allows for such a gloss. I tend to get my news from international sources, which delve into issues around the world and offer a helpful perspective on domestic news not often offered by U.S. media.

Kaaryn Sanon, Randallstown, Maryland

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