Activists discuss what media won't

The televisions report. The newspapers report. The radio reports. Yet, even with such mass communication and technology, a large portion of the public remains unaware, oblivious to trenchant problems that plague people daily, all over the world.

What I have always considered wonderful about the university is the student activism enthusiastically publicized for a particular cause. It is a comfort to know that people take a stand for economic justice and that cultural groups display their peoples’ history with the intent of educating others. While UCSD does remain on the quiet side in comparison with other campuses, it sees its share of activism: informative tables on Library Walk, rallies, protests and of course informative lectures and forums that have indeed increased awareness on worthy topics.

I support UCSD’s student activist organization, Students for Justice, which has already started off this winter quarter with three informative guest lecturers that addressed the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Students for Justice feels passionately about raising awareness on critical world issues, and it is this sort of ardor that will slowly succeed in catching the attention of students.

Its goal was to present the other side of the conflict — namely, the Palestinian one. Taking the time and effort to reach out and affect students is essential at this time because it is a powerful means of presenting arguments and the facts of the other side, which is unfortunately not getting the attention it deserves. The media is extremely censored in what it reports, carefully choosing select images and words to transmit a certain filtered message.

One of last week’s guest speakers, Nagwa Ibrahim, provided an example of just how the media is controlled. She shared how the widely acclaimed LA Times lost “”over 1,000 subscribers in just one day”” because it had reported on the atrocities that were happening to the Palestinian population. Ibrahim claimed that the very next day’s front headline addressed the Israeli side and continues to do so, of course. The Palestinians are not nearly as covered in U.S. media as the Israelis are. As Ibrahim pointed out, the American population only knows of less than 1 percent of the Palestinian population: the suicide bombers.

Due to such biased reporting, Students for Justice is acting nobly in hopes of presenting the other side. The invited speakers all stressed how the American public has not seen the images of the bulldozed homes or the extent of the humiliated and killed civilians. We do not know that they are often denied access to go to work, school, hospitals or even to the store for daily provisions. As university students, we should be at the level where we know that there are two sides to every story, and we should never limit ourselves in finding the resources to uncover the opposing story.

Students for Justice President Fawad Shaiq claims that “”the goal of the organization in general is to bring attention to issues and to get people to think.”” With a conflict in the Middle East and a war on terrorism looming on the horizon, it is even more important that we take it upon ourselves to educate each other. That is the only way to shed light upon issues, raise questions and even create discussions.

At all three of the events, there were 50 to 100 attendees. After every talk, there was a question-and-answer session, which I felt was the best part of each evening. Students asked questions or challenged the speaker; with each comment, the audience continued to learn and to reflect on the information presented to them. Afterwards, students mingled with one another, often exchanging their own personal thoughts on the issue.

According to San Diego State University professor Farid Abdel-Nour, one of the main reasons that there ceases to be peace is the “”lack of communication and dialogue”” between different parties, which he explained at his talk on the “”Peace Process.”” It was great to see the Union of Jewish Students at the Students for Justice events last week, learning more about the Palestinian side of the story, and I hope to see the reverse if UJS hosts any informative sessions. It is through these intellectual mediums that we begin to better understand the political and social dynamics around us and better understand one another.

Yet, it is usually only the people who already know something about the topic being presented that end up frequenting these outreach events. The average person may not care to learn since they feel already ignorant of the matter being presented, or they may care to learn but do not want to put in the “”extra effort”” to actually attend any event.

So this remains the main obstacle that Students for Justice, along with many other student organizations, encounters. The dilemma is sparking enough interest in students. As Shaiq said, “”Even if one person comes out learning just one new thing, that would be great.”” And that is what I encourage all of us to do. Our university years are the time for us to take advantage of all of the available resources. Students are working hard to bring attention to the truths that are not reported in the media. They are working hard to bring justice to a certain cause and to a certain people.

I am heartened to know that Students for Justice will now be focusing on other trouble spots around the globe and set aside Israel and Palestine, in hopes of raising more awareness and attracting new people. We need to step outside the box and take a look around. Just at a brief glance: There is war in Chechnya, a massive famine in Africa, massacres in India, uproars in Venezuela and Columbia and a rising revolution in Iran. Students for Justice has many areas that it can cover, and I encourage all of us to attend at least one event with the true intent of coming out better understanding the situation.