The University of Toronto’s Student Newspaper Since 1880

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Why we need a counterpoint

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The last seventeen months of violence between Israel and the Palestinians have ensured the journalism industry a steady flow of news and op-eds about who is right and who is wrong, who can bring peace, and how this can be accomplished. However, to many Canadian students who are just browsing through the headlines, the daily explosions and deaths that have characterized the conflict are just part of “a really messed-up situation” where tit is exchanged for tat and all the leaders in the region are to blame for getting their people nowhere. Dare I say this blame-everyone and it’s-all-a-terrible-mess mindset is a lazy way to make a statement without getting in trouble with the political correctness cops?

The Varsity can only devote so much space to global issues. Its job is not to find a solution to the mid-East conflict (five Israeli prime ministers, Mr. Arafat, and several US administrations, among others, have failed to resolve much along those lines), but it does a rather good service in providing a forum for readers’ opinions.

Inevitably, our opinions, and those of ordinary Israelis and Arabs, are based on information to which we have access. On that note, perhaps it is no wonder why the Arab-Israeli conflict is often limited to what is happening west of the Jordan River [i.e. Israel and the disputed territories of Gaza and the West Bank], since freedom of the press in the Middle East exists only in Israel. Therefore, while violence, shocking human rights abuses and acts of religious extremism are commonplace elsewhere in the region, reporters do not have access to investigate them; and if they do, they are very careful of what they say and whom they are criticizing.

Take, for example, the Italian film crew that taped the October, 2001 lynching of two Israeli soldiers by a Palestinian mob at a police station in Ramallah. After airing their gruesome footage worldwide, they have never returned to the region, for their lives have been threatened by Palestinian officials.

What we are left with is the depressing tales of war coming out of Israel, where journalists are found in the highest steady concentration in the world, constantly searching for a hot story, but not always getting the broad picture that is difficult to capture on film or in a 15-second soundbite.

As editor of the new inter-campus quarterly newspaper, CounterPoint, I would like to introduce students to a paper that is devoted to covering the broader mid-East conflict, encompassing more than Israel and the Palestinians. From Morocco to Iraq, and everywhere in between, the Middle East is a region of great interest now more than ever, and it begs in-depth analysis which is lacking in most student newspapers. Our paper is an accumulation of articles written by students from all over Ontario and Quebec, and will be distributed on several campuses (including U of T), with the first issue arriving in the coming weeks.

If the Varsity is hesitant in welcoming “yet another campus paper,” they should be assured that our paper does not intend to replace them. We invite all students, including the editors of the Varsity, to read our paper, and tear up our articles with the scrutiny of a figure-skating judge. We also hope that people will enjoy our non-political pieces (yes, the mid-East is not just about war and politics). The writers of CounterPoint believe the key to understanding the complexities of the conflict is knowing the context in which it takes place.

More importantly, if “it is average people—not leaders—who will have to keep a peace,” it is important to know what information they are exposed to by their governments, what their leaders are saying to them in their own language, and what the average child learns in elementary school about the history of the conflict.

Although CounterPoint will most likely not solve the current crisis, nor will it convince extremists to drop their weapons and hug their enemies, we hope it will provide our readers a peek into what is going on in the region as a whole, while putting that aspect of the conflict into perspective with what we see every day in the newspaper headlines.