Friday, September 25, 2009
Lecture addresses Middle East conflict
Universities should not shy away from controversial topics, according to UA Geography Program Director Mike Sfraga. UAGP, along with the Alaska World Affairs Council, is bringing Alison Weir (pictured at right), founder of If Americans Knew, to Fairbanks for a free public lecture Oct. 1.
“Universities are places where issues are discussed and debated, where different points of view and perspectives are brought forward,” Sfraga said. “The Israel-Palestine conflict is something we hear about daily; to have someone talk about their observations from that part of the world is a very good thing for us to encourage.”
Weir’s nonprofit organization is dedicated to providing Americans with information on topics of importance that she believes are misreported or under-reported in the American media. Weir serves on the board of directors of the Council for the National Interest. In 2001 Weir left her position as editor of MarinScope newspaper in Sausalito, Calif., to travel independently as a freelance reporter throughout Gaza and the West Bank. Upon her return she founded If Americans Knew.
On her blog, Weir states that If Americans Knew conducted studies of American media coverage, discovering an extremely troubling distortion--that network prime time news programs covered Israeli children's deaths at rates up to fourteen times greater than they reported on Palestinian children's deaths. Weir wrote, “I feel these studies are just the tip of the iceberg on the distortion in US reporting on this issue. Because of this consistent media bias, very few Americans have any idea of the scope and depth of Palestinian suffering. Moreover, most Americans think that Israeli actions are defensive. Chronology shows the reverse.”
Weir researches the issue intensively; she recently returned from three months traveling through the West Bank, Israel, and the Golan Heights. In March 2004, Weir was inducted into honorary membership of Phi Alpha Literary Society, founded in 1845 at Illinois College. The award cited her as a "courageous journalist-lecturer on behalf of human rights, the first woman to receive an honorary membership in Phi Alpha history."
The lecture is Thursday, Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. at UAF’s Schaible Auditorium. Call 474-7494 for more information.
"An intimate look at Israel-Palestine relations," Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sept. 25, 2009, by Rebecca George