Airing A Palestinian Voice In Iowa

This story was written by Kathleen Olp, The Daily Iowan
After a radio show did not broadcast her comments on Israelis and Palestinians, Wilhelmine Bennett says she felt censured and increasingly aware of the bias she saw in the media.

The Oxford, Iowa, resident said her comments regarding religious and ethnic divisions exemplified the larger conflict she saw as the reluctance to address the Palestinian side of the conflict with Israel - a concern she voiced Sunday afternoon at the showing of The Iron Wall, a video looking at the Israeli settlements in Palestine.

Bennett's comments were intended for the WSUI radio show "The Exchange," and the show's action spurred her to examine the issue of discussing contentious topics with presidential-nomination hopefuls.

"I rarely hear the Palestinian conflict mentioned with presidential candidates," she said. "It's always the same remarks you hear a million times."

The video, directed by Mohammed Alatar, was shown by the People for Justice in Palestine, an organization that focuses on giving voice to the Palestinian side of the conflict with Israel.

"Presidential candidates often evade questions about the Palestinians," group member Jason Weeks said. "We're not supposed to talk about this, but we have to keep hammering away."

Julie Daugherty, the web site coordinator of the group, has recently helped create the Web site aimed at asking the presidential-nomination hopefuls frank questions. "There's not enough emphasis on the Palestinian side," she said. "The media obscure the issue."

The film highlighted the issue of Israeli settlements in Palestine, stating they eliminated the possibility of a Palestinian state. It also questioned Israel's defense of the some 500,000 Jewish settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories as "natural growth," citing the economic incentives the government provides, such as cheap housing.

It also discussed the disconnect between ideology and settlement, which the government creates: reporting that 80 percent are economic settlers while only 20 percent are motivated by ideology to move.

Palestinians interviewed in the film cited unfair curfews and checkpoints as the most debilitating effects of the settlements, as well as the residual feeling of uneasiness lingering between the groups.

Yehuda Shaul, a former Israeli soldier, recounted stories in the film in which Israeli settlers had free rein on terrorizing the Palestinians, such as burning and taking over houses.

"They can kill Palestinians with impunity," Shaul said. "It's frightening to live there when your neighbor wants your home."

The film also touched on the logic behind the wall constructed by Israel to serve as a barrier between it and Palestine territory. Israel maintains it serves as a protective measure, calling it a "security fence," while Palestinians call it an "apartheid wall."

"Our political system is blind to it," Weeks said following the film. "They look at the Palestinian violence as if it comes from nowhere. We have to get through the media fog and get politicians to see the other side."

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