The wrong signals

The media

THERE is a country in the Middle East that lately has been flouting the will of the international community. This country has invaded one of its neighbors to the south and has carried out brutal strikes on the main minority group in the eastern part of its territory. This strong U.S. ally has been more than willing to cross international borders to pursue foes associated with that minority group. Most of you probably think you know who I am talking about, and most of you would be dead wrong. I am, in fact, talking about Turkey.

The Republic of Turkey has been fighting an on again, off again war with its Kurdish minority in the east for decades. During this conflict, Turkey repeatedly has invaded the Kurdistan region of Iraq to pursue the rebel fighters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party. Turkey also militarily sponsors the division of the Island of Cyprus, which it invaded in the 1970s. Turkey recently has been throwing wrenches in the unification talks between the illegitimate Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus. Even now, Turkey continues to engage in oil exploration - with a military escort no less - off the southern coast of Cyprus in defiance of both the international community and the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus. The most interesting part of this whole story is that it has gotten almost no media attention whatsoever.

When one compares the media scrutiny dedicated to the United States' two strongest Middle East allies, Israel and Turkey, wild discrepancies begin to appear. It is an international headline if a Jew builds a house on the wrong side of an arbitrary line in Jerusalem. At the same time, when Turkey butts heads with Cyprus and Greece about an equally arbitrary division in the Cypriot city of Nicosia, the media is silent. When an Israeli center-right coalition government debates laws regarding the loyalty of citizens it is charged with discrimination by pundits across the globe. Yet did Turkey attract the same reaction when its center-right government successfully amended its constitution in ways that directly combat decades of state secularism?

This less than balanced coverage is especially disturbing when we look at the facts on the ground. The high-end estimates of casualties resulting from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 1948 hover around 15,000. Compare that to the 40,000 deaths from Kurdish-Turkish strife in the last three decades alone. While there is no way to quantify the value of a life, it is clear that neither the quantity nor the quality of reporting about such losses is proportional.

This is true for numerous other conflicts that our media and our politics have sidelined. If I asked any student what the deadliest conflict of the last decade was, the answer likely would be either the War on Terror or the 'one and only' Middle East Conflict. Interestingly, neither of these conflicts even come close to rivaling the worst modern war of which no one has heard.

The Second Congo War formally ended in 2003. The official death toll of this war was put in the neighborhood of five and a half million, yet with continued violence in the eastern part of the country, the death toll is still rising. The fact is that people are dying every day, and few even have heard of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

No one in the media is talking about deaths in the provinces of North and South Kivu in Congo. No one in the media is talking about Turkey's assault on the sovereignty of Cyprus and the rights of the Kurdish people. No one is talking about these and other conflicts because our focus is mystically focused on criticizing just one of the United States' allies.

There is definitely room in the media and in our classes to discuss the actions of a great number of the nation's allies. That discussion, however, should not single out any one ally for special condemnation unless it is clearly deserved. This is true whether that ally is Israel, Turkey or even Saudi Arabia, which intervened brutally to help put down recent protests in Bahrain. Flashy, hyper-focused articles that simplify complex disputes may sell papers, but they only serve to keep the public misinformed about U.S. foreign policy. Our newspapers and educators instead should strive to give equal attention to and tell the unvarnished story of all world conflicts.

Joel Taubman is a third-year Engineering student.

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