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Middle East Coverage Slights Israeli Issues

We realize that The Tech is not exactly The New York Times when it comes to complete coverage of world news and affairs. Nonetheless, MIT's oldest and largest newspaper is the primary source of world news for a scary percentage of MIT students. With this fact in mind, we feel that The Tech demonstrated a blatant bias against the state of Israel in its coverage of the horrifying events which have taken place in the Middle East in the past two weeks.

On Tuesday, Oct. 11, an Israeli soldier was kidnapped from the heartland of Israel by the Hamas. The Hamas immediately claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and demanded the release of 200 Hamas prisoners by 9:00 p.m. that Friday. The punishment if Israel were not to release these prisoners was to be the prompt, cold-blooded execution of the 20 year-old Israeli soldier Nachshon Waxman (who incidentally was also an American citizen). As a result, the Israeli government decided to attempt to rescue Nachshon Waxman from his Hamas captors that Friday, only hours before his scheduled execution. This rescue mission unfortunately failed. The Hamas quickly killed the captive soldier, and one Israeli soldier and three Hamas terrorists died in the exchange of fire.

This tragic event ironically took place on the eve of the awarding of the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize to Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat. Consequently, the Hamas kidnapping is generally seen as a direct effort on their part to disrupt the ongoing peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, represented by Arafat and the PLO. While both the kidnapping and the subsequent rescue effort, combined with the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize made the front page headlines of every major newspaper in the United States, our local "objective" newspaper decided to include absolutely no mention of anything even remotely related to the incidents. While we realize that it is crucial for the MIT community to learn from The Tech's Oct. 18 issue that "Defense Firms Bill U.S. Government $4 Million For Entertainment Costs," it would have been a nice gesture to mention at least a paragraph about one of the most shocking events in the Middle East in the past year.

Perhaps there was a simple oversight on the part of The Tech and they missed that one minor incident which happened to occupy the front pages of every reputable newspaper in the nation. However, the weekend before, another severe terrorist attack took place on Ben Yehuda Street, the Harvard Square of Jerusalem. A gunman stood in the middle of this busy pedestrian area and opened fire on the crowd. Miraculously, only two innocent people were murdered, but many were injured. We find it interesting that this little factoid also slipped by The Tech's oh-so-watchful eye.

Up to that point we were not overwhelmingly impressed by The Tech's performance on the current situation in Israel. However, the final injustice was done in the Friday, Oct. 21 issue. Two days earlier, the Hamas used over 40 pounds of explosives to demolish a passenger bus in Tel-Aviv's Dizengoff Street during the peak of the rush hour. This street holds the highest concentration of Israelis of any street in the entire nation and can be compared to New York's Times Square. The bomb went off with such tremendous force that the top of the bus literally flew off, and the windows of a bus two lanes over shattered, injuring many people in a completely unrelated vehicle. In the fated Dan Bus #5, 20 people were killed and 48 more were seriously injured. Tragically, only 14 of those murdered remained as intact bodies. Limbs were scattered around the street and on the rooftops. The damage was so devastating that the city of Tel-Aviv actually trimmed all the trees in the area, searching for additional victims.

Examining The Tech on Friday, we expected there to be some mention of this tragedy, the most severe terrorist attack ever in the state of Israel. To put the situation in perspective, the infamous World Trade Center bombing resulted in only a tiny fraction of the damages Tel-Aviv incurred on Wednesday. However, to our shocked dismay, the headline, the last among five, read "Israeli Cabinet Seals Gaza, W. Bank." Though our hearts were warmed by the entire paragraph devoted to the massacre, the title and tone of the article seemed to be attacking the state of Israel for its reaction to the bombing.

Even if we ignore for a moment the ludicrous nature of this argument, it is absurd, and quite frankly offensive that without having printed any stories depicting what actually led up to the administration's decision to seal the West Bank, The Tech decided to print an article condemning the action. The fact that more of the article was devoted to explaining that Israel was considering destroying the house of the man who implicated himself in committing the bombing than to the actual incident itself is outrageous. In addition, the portrayal of the Hamas terrorist as being upset by the "deaths of three Hamas militants killed by Israeli soldiers" seemed to diminish the fact that those militants had kidnapped an Israeli soldier, killed him, and killed one additional Israeli soldier. The fact that a kidnapping had taken place at all was only mentioned several sentences later, almost as an afterthought.

We realize that The Tech staff did not write this article. However, of the literally hundreds of articles which appeared in every major paper in the past two days, this was a reprehensible choice. The Tech is supposed to be MIT's one objective newspaper and is a source of information on current events for many in our community. On the issue of the recent terrorist events in Israel, we feel that The Tech has done an abhorrent job and fail to see how it can seriously present itself as an unbiased organization. We do not know what solution to propose other than a pathetic "try harder next time." However, including several actual stories from other newspapers on the matter might still help, so that the MIT community will not have to rely on our letter concerning the outrage of your coverage for its information.

Yael Gertner '96 and Zemer Gitai '96

Editor's Note: The Tech's "World & Nation" stories come directly from other national newspapers and run in those publications the same day they appear in The Tech. The Tech's policy is to run up-to-date articles and not to print news that is more than one day old.