Rather than sleep in during Columbus Day weekend, about two hundred students attended an international conference hosted by Boston University on media coverage of the Middle East.
800 people gathered in Metcalf Hall at the George Sherman Union on Sunday and Monday for the conference, entitled “War by Other Means: The Global Campaign to Delegitimize Israel.” The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) organized and sponsored the event, which featured nearly two dozen speakers from around the world and across a wide spectrum of fields.
The lecturers addressed the journalistic treatment of Israel in a plethora of areas, including the current round of peace negotiations, the flotilla to Gaza in May and the role of the United Nations and non-governmental organizations in reporting. But the importance of informing college students of the nuances in media’s representation of the situation in the Middle East appeared throughout the various remarks.
Harvard University Law professor Alan Dershowitz opened the conference and spoke directly to the students in attendance, taking only their questions. The well-known author insisted that setting the record straight is the most effective way to tackle these issues surrounding the conflict.
“Our mission here today is to demand truth on campus,” Dershowitz said. “Pursue truth without fear, without compromise. We have nothing to fear from the whole truth.”
“Students, make sure that nothing is unanswered and that silence is never the response.”
Many students from Boston and New England attended the conference, including from Brandeis University, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and Brown University. Others traveled from further away, representing Cornell University, University of Texas and University of Southern California. Some students even came from Canada and Argentina.
“Having the CAMERA conference on BU’s campus sends a message to all students that Israel is a nation that is worth supporting,” said Arielle Adler, vice president of Boston University Students for Israel, in an e-mail to the Quad. “Campuses are becoming extremely polarized on the issue of Israel, and it is conferences like CAMERA that will help students gain the knowledge and experience needed to educate our campus with the truth.”
In that vein, CAMERA president Andrea Levin warned against Fox News’ “regularly shading the truth” and the New York Times’ presentation of “radicals deceptively identified as neutral commentators.” Speakers also addressed the situation in Europe, including French journalist Philippe Karsenty, who described his defamation suit against a French television network’s staged story about the death of a Palestinian child, Muhammad al-Durah.
“I’ve always believed that truth will come out,” Karsenty said. “Journalism has the power to alter the course of history.”
In addition to the main event at the GSU, about 65 people attended a special student program at the Hillel House on Monday. Wall Street Journal deputy international editorial page editor Bret Stephens delivered the main remarks, telling students that in order to educate their peers, they “have to begin by changing [their] mindset” and “need a set of smart rhetorical strategies.” Other speakers discussed how to use student programming and social media effectively.
Most college students would have preferred extra sleep than discuss such complex topics. But Noah Glyn, a junior at Rutgers University, instead took an Amtrak train at 5:45 a.m. on Sunday to come to BU. As a CAMERA Fellow, Glyn hopes to apply what he learned over the weekend to his own campus– and that the same occurs on campuses around the country.
“There tends to be a natural bias on college campus against Israel,” Glyn said. “It’s cliché, but it’s true that college students are the future of the country, so we need to bring a positive message.”
Check out the Quad’s coverage outside of the event here.