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Photo published of ‘die-in’ shows inappropriate bias

Last week was Palestinian Awareness Week, a three-day long event organized by the Rutgers chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine meant to celebrate and educate people about Palestine and its people. On Tuesday, SJP held a “die-in,” a demonstration in which people simulate being dead. For SJP’s die-in, the participants who were lying down wore white T-shirts with red stains on them, holding in their hands a white rose with the name, age and location of a child killed in Gaza this past summer during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. At the same time, the names and ages of the children who had been killed in Gaza by Operation Defensive Edge were read aloud and a balloon released for each name. The event was planned out weeks in advance and was not meant to incite any type of altercation. The purpose of the die-in was to commemorate the hundreds of children killed this past summer, as well as call attention to the fact that they were among thousands of other civilians who were targeted and killed by the Israeli military. In response to the die-in, Rutgers AEPi, an international Jewish fraternity, sponsored an “Israel Solidarity Table,” and tabled on the steps along with Rutgers Hillel, the campus Jewish student organization that has a long-standing record of promoting Zionism to the point of excluding anti-Zionist Jewish students.

The event started out peacefully, with SJP members spreading out on the steps of Brower Commons and Zionist organizers speaking with passers-by. Once one of the demonstrators from the Palestinian table started reading aloud the names and ages of the dead children, however, the Zionist organizers began shouting to drown out his voice. When the SJP demonstrators started chanting “Free, free Palestine,” their Zionist counterparts started chanting “From Hamas, from Hamas” in return. The Zionist organizers loudly accused the SJP demonstrators of being anti-Semitic, and began dancing when an SJP demonstrator started reciting the list of the names of the dead children again. These Zionist organizers also made fun of the people lying on the ground, placing pamphlets on their bodies and placing their feet near their faces. The Daily Targum caught none of this. Instead, the Targum published a single photo — with a caption that gave no context — of a Zionist organizer wearing a yarmulke and Israeli flags sitting next to an SJP protester who is giving the former the middle finger. The lack of context —namely, the fact that Zionist students had been provoking the SJP demonstrators — is extremely disappointing and shoddy journalism. Around 200 photos were taken at the die-in, many of them illustrating the callousness of the Zionist demonstrators during the recitation of the dead children’s names, but none of them were published in The Daily Targum.

Why did the Targum only publish one photo from the event that was clearly biased toward one side of the story? There were 200 pictures to choose from, and many of them were much more impartial. Had the Targum wanted to publish that specific photo to express an opinion, why couldn’t they juxtapose it with a photo biased toward the other side? The photo was not published in the Opinions section, but rather served as the Targum’s coverage of the demonstration. A university newspaper covering an event organized by a student organization should attempt to capture the entirety of the situation, not just one aspect.

This biased photo also gives the impression that members of SJP, and by extension, all supporters of Palestine, are anti-Semitic. The fact that a photo of a very clearly Jewish student, wearing a yarmulke with the Israeli Star of David draped on his shoulders, being flipped off by a student who seems to be Muslim by his name is the only photo published on this event is disturbing. Contrary to what Rutgers Hillel and its supporters would like the campus to believe, anti-Israeli sentiments do not equate to anti-Semitism. Many Jews are opposed to Zionism and Israel’s policies, and there were in fact Jewish students partaking in the die-in.

Not only is this paper’s failure to get all of these facts a failure in journalism, yet it is also pure-and-simple biased reporting. As a Rutgers student, I expect more from my campus newspaper, especially if it is being ran by my fellow classmates. The Targum needs to step up its reporting and hold itself to a higher quality of journalism. While Zionist students are free to spread their propaganda and make false accusations towards those against their cause, The Daily Targum should still be presenting the other side. 

Abeerah Wasti is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student.

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