University News

Israel silences media outlets, speaker says

By
Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Contrary to the stated U.S. and Israeli policies to “incentivize” Palestinians to choose state-building over “resistance models,” Israel is undermining Palestinian civil society, said Jared Malsin in a lecture Tuesday night about press rights in Israel.

Malsin, a Jewish-American journalist, spoke on his experience working for two-and-a-half years in the West Bank for Maan, a Palestinian news agency.

This January, upon returning from a vacation in Prague, he and his girlfriend were taken by Israeli officials in Tel Aviv for questioning and were not allowed to enter the country. After hours of questioning, Malsin was detained in jail for a week before he was released, he said — an experience that exemplified a violation of press rights in the region.

Several students, including Leah Cogan ’13 and Riyad Seervai ’13, said they came to the lecture — which was co-sponsored by Common Ground, Puzzle Peace, and Brown
Students for Justice in Palestine — because of Malsin’s compelling background.

“We kind of turn a blind eye” to the implications of activists’ actions and how they are received, Cogan said. She also hoped to hear more about the “impetus” that drove Malsin, a 2007 Yale graduate, to Israel, she said.

But Malsin did not discuss his detainment in detail until the very end of the lecture, focusing instead on how Israeli officials’ actions in his case were consistent with their usual actions.

“We can’t isolate Israel’s violations of the freedom of the press from what I’m going to argue is an overall effort to undermine Palestinian civil society,” Malsin said.

One Palestinian journalist in a car clearly labeled as belonging to the media was shot by an Israeli tank, Malsin said.

“He actually filmed his own death,” Malsin said, an example of Israel’s “deliberate attacks” on Palestinian civil society.

Israel is undermining “any institution” that would give Palestinians a nonviolent or not extreme “outlet” for their frustrations, Malsin said.

A common question in U.S. discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, “Where is this Palestinian Gandhi?” Malsin said. “Israel, perhaps knowingly … has jailed all the Palestinian Gandhis.”

According to Malsin, U.S. portrayals of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are problematic. “It’s a problem not of quantity, but of quality,” Malsin said. “The challenge is that the Palestinians are either stigmatized as terrorists, or they’re just completely invisible.”

Malsin also described the challenges of working as a reporter in the region. Small aspects of daily life “are the things that affect journalism the most,” he said.

As a Jewish-American working for the Palestinian cause, “Malsin’s voice is definitely a very intriguing one,” said Rahel Dette ’13 in her introduction of Malsin before the lecture. Dette said she first met Malsin in the West Bank before she came to Brown.

Many of the audience’s questions after Malsin’s lecture focused on his position as a Jewish-American working for Palestinians.

Malsin had always been interested in the Middle East, he told The Herald. He called the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “one of the greatest, most interesting stories in the world” and said it was a “privilege” to report on it.

Malsin ended his lecture by talking about his desire to return to the West Bank.
“I hope to go back, and I will,” Malsin said.