NYT columnist Cohen: US papers applied double standards to Israel's flotilla attack

Published 22.10.2010 14:39

A leading columnist at the New York Times has said US newspapers largely ignored the fact that an American citizen was also among the civilians who were killed during Israel's violent flotilla attack in May, primarily because the victim was Muslim and had a Muslim name.

Speaking at a conference titled "The Middle East Perception in the Western Press" organized by İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality's Kültür A.Ş. in cooperation with the Prime Ministry's Directorate of Public Diplomacy in İstanbul on Wednesday, Roger Cohen -- who has worked as a journalist for almost three decades now -- assessed the way the US media reported Israel's assault on the Gaza-bound international aid convoy. Pointing out that only the Wall Street Journal reported about Furkan Doğan, 19, a Turkish-American citizen who was killed by Israeli commandos aboard one of the ships in the convoy, Cohen said that, because he was Muslim, the rest turned a blind eye to the fact that Doğan was an American citizen and was murdered in an Israeli military operation. "Though he was a US citizen, not a single word appeared at other newspapers. If it was a different incident -- for instance if a US citizen named Michael Sendler was killed by a Palestinian in the West Bank -- that would be news on every page of all the papers in the US. That he had a Muslim name was perhaps one of the most important reasons why he could not get coverage in the US press though he was a US citizen. That's a bad thing indeed," he said.

Israeli naval commandos forcefully boarded the Comoros islands-flagged ship Mavi Marmara carrying hundreds of peace activists who aimed to break the strict Israeli blockade on Gaza and deliver humanitarian supplies to the impoverished people of the narrow strip in high seas on May 31, ending up killing eight Turkish citizens as well as Doğan. The fatal attack sparked outrage in the entire world and the UN human rights commission said it was "brutal and disproportionate."

"Israel's use of disproportionate force and the siege is unacceptable. We need to draw lessons from this incident," Cohen also said in his speech, adding that Israel's security problem should be recognized but it should not serve as "an excuse Israel could use and legitimize everything it does."

Commenting on Turkish-Israeli relations that have soured since the deadly attack, Cohen noted that it is of the utmost importance that the two countries remain diplomatically connected because otherwise people will start fabricating views about each other, as is the case between the US and Iran. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently said neither he nor any other Turkish government officials will talk to their Israeli counterparts unless Israel officially apologizes for the attack and compensates the victims' relatives.

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