Best of: Hail from the Chief

Walking down a narrow marketplace corridor in the heart of old Jerusalem this summer, I noticed a young boy playing with a soccer ball decorated with flags from several nations.

As I glanced up, I noticed his father towering above me behind the counter of a small shop. He displayed signs on his store that read, “It is because of the American dream that the world lives in a nightmare!” and “We make photocopies for only one Jew occupation Sheqel.”

The store was peppered with Arabic decorations. From a television, a Muslim cleric recited Qu’ranic verses, calling the afternoon prayer. It was an image that illustrated the clash-of-civilizations theory I had studied in classrooms for years.

How do we break down the stereotypes that all Arabs hate Americans, all Muslims hate Jews and Christians, and vice versa?

The U has pursued study abroad programs and has rich international institutions such as the Middle East Center through which Utahns can learn. But college students are just the start.

The world is ill, it’s contagious and the media can make drastic changes to cure this plague before it’s too late.

There are two options to reach the rest of the world:

1) Find a way to educate everyone. Teach people everywhere to tell fact from fiction. But with underperforming school systems in some nations or regions of the United States, this answer seems impractical.

2) The media can take on a more truthful role across the board. Al-Jazeera, FOX News and CNN should fairly report what is going on so reports of violence don’t become self-fulfilling prophecies.

On a blazing August day that made even the camels sweat, I stared into the innocent eyes of an Arab-Muslim child and saw another way of looking at the world-a vision open to new ideas but predisposed to deep-rooted hate for the Western world.

It was there that I realized the consequences of the current state of journalism.

When I turn on the television, I see Muslim Arabs detonating massive explosions in Hollywood movies. I see media footage of al-Qaeda training Islamic fundamentalists through target practice on prominent U.S. figures.

When this child watches television, he sees the United States and Israel teamed up against people with whom he identifies. But these images have a more potent impact on him than they do on college students-on people like me, a 23-year-old who has studied political science, mass media, the Middle East, globalization, modernization and the ways in which they all interact.

This child has nothing by which to judge the Western world other than some crude flags on his soccer ball and the signs his father places on his store.

Unlike some who monitor the United Nations and see the United States and Israel objecting to widely accepted organizations such as the International Criminal Court, this child may mature in the streets adjacent to his father’s shop, without schooling, hating the United States and hating Israel without such reasoning to rationalize his views.

And suddenly it all clicked for me-the world’s concerns, a clash of civilizations, hatred on all sides of the multifaceted issue-they came together with a stare from that little boy.

It might be easy for educated people to set aside media reports, but it’s not the same for young Palestinians growing up in poor makeshift villages or in the middle of a marketplace with crude or nonexistent school systems. And what’s more urgent is that a blossoming Palestinian demographic will overtake the Israeli population within the next 10 to 15 years.

The same follows for Americans and Israelis growing up with media indoctrination and limited schooling.

When people of all different cultures accept stereotypes and take things at face value, a breakdown in communication and understanding occurs-a breakdown that can lead to joblessness, despair, polarization and suicide bombings.

The problem in the world is horribly simple. The answer is less so.

You probably heard of Jewish settlers being dragged from their homes. After returning from the Gaza Strip during disengagement and seeing a New Zealand journalist put a Jewish settler in a headlock to clear the entrance to the Neveh Dekalim settlement, Jerusalem Post reporter Hillary Krieger urged me, along with a group of 11 other campus editors in chief, to be observers, not actors.

This is important now more than ever as Israel and Palestine take historical steps and journalists frame every one of them.

We have to open the eyes of the youth in order to foster a positive environment for future generations: a future where people are not raised by a man behind a counter who posts signs indoctrinating people with hatred; a future in which people do not turn on the television or open the newspaper to see embellishments of Christians, Jews and Muslims in constant conflict.

Even the poorest homes across the world pay for satellites and receive al-Jazeera or CNN, so there is still hope if media organizations are willing to adjust.

Do what you can by keeping an open mind and broadening your horizons outside of U.S. borders.