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Arab-Israeli journalist visits UO



Correction appended

In light of the continuous stalemate between Israel and Palestine, Arab-Israeli journalist Khaled Abu Toameh believes that change must come from teaching the next generation of children not to hate their neighbors. On Wednesday, Abu Toameh discussed the conflict between Israel and Palestine and corruption in the Palestinian government at 7:30 p.m. in 180 PLC.

As both a Palestinian and an Israeli citizen, Abu Toameh enjoys the freedom to work for Palestinian and Israeli news networks.

“The hardest thing about being a journalist is that you must be very careful to report on both sides of a conflict in as fair and balanced a way as possible,” he said.

Although Abu Toameh started out as a correspondent on Palestinian affairs for a Palestine Liberation Organization newspaper, he found the job too restricting.

“It is not a secret that Palestine has no free media,” said Abu Toameh. Like many Arab news media, the PLO job censored much of his work. After being offered a position as a West Bank/Gaza Strip reporter for The Jerusalem Post, a major paper in Israel, it took Abu Toameh only 20 seconds to decide to work with international media.

In Israel, censorship was not a problem. Abu Toameh has also done many documentaries about the Palestinians with international television stations, including the British Broadcasting Corporation.

“The whole story cannot be covered in a one to two minute television spot or one article in The New York Times,” said Abu Toameh.

To achieve peace, Abu Toameh emphasized educating the next generations of Palestinians to be more accepting of their Israeli neighbors. He said Israel has changed a lot in the last 15 years.

“If you had told me 16 years ago that Israel would have brought the PLO to the West Bank and moved 30,000 Jewish refugees from the Gaza Strip, I would have asked you what kind of medication you were on,” Abu Toameh joked.

All the same, change will not be easy and must happen gradually. One audience member asked Abu Toameh how many generations he believes will need to be educated before peace can ever be found; he told her at least two, if not three generations must be taught in a positive atmosphere. Though audience members prodded him for a different outlook on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Abu Toameh was frank.

“There is nothing that we can do but wait for the Israelis and Palestinians to sort out their problems,” he said.

University senior Jamie Zebrak, who is studying psychology and international studies, is a representative of This Is Israel, one of the lecture’s co-sponsors.

“I’ve seen him speak before and each time his insights change,” said Zebrak. “He sheds new light on the issues. I didn’t learn anything that I didn’t already know, but the average student definitely did.”

Abu Toameh believes that the roots of the recent conflicts between Israel and Palestine stem from the failed 1993 Oslo Accords. He described the conflict’s history.

While Israel prospered, the $6.5 million given to Palestine was put toward the Palestinian army instead of providing the citizens with basic resources such as hospitals and schools. Palestine then saw two elected prime ministers from the PLO come in who claimed they would pull Palestine out of financial debt and bring peace with Israel.

Unfortunately, the PLO didn’t follow through, pushing the citizens into the radical and fundamentalist arms of Hamas. PLO was removed from the Gaza Strip and found refuge in Israel’s West Bank. They have been a shell of their former selves ever since, Abu Toameh said, and depend on funding and weapons provided by the American government in order to fight an impossible battle against Hamas, the Palestinian militant organization and political party. Today, the quest for peace between the two countries still has not been completed and the two entities stand on shaky ground.

Krystal Davis, a graduate student in finance, thinks the conflict has had major impact in the Middle East.

“I really think that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is the root of all problems in the Middle East,” Davis said. “People need to educate themselves using a variety of news resources filled with factual, unbiased information to really get a clear idea of what is going on.”

This article mistakenly identified Hamas as an Israeli militant group. It has been corrected to say Hamas is a Palestinian militant group. The Emerald regrets the error.

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