When Rami Khouri, the editor-at-large for The Daily Star in Beirut, graduated from Syracuse University in 1970, he heard no mentions of Palestine in Western media.
Today, Khouri sees the same media bias as he did 43 years ago, but now he's capable of speaking out against the Middle East's misrepresentation in the press.
The columnist and editor for The Daily Star spoke to a nearly filled Maxwell Auditorium on Wednesday evening as a part of a discussion on politics of the Middle East and media bias.
Khouri said Western media's shortcomings consist of biased coverage of Iran, Israeli favoritism by the American media in the Arab-Israeli conflict and a spotlight on military conflicts with little political context.
"The way the American mainstream media covers Iran is professionally criminal," Khouri said. "When I measure what I learned about journalism at Newhouse as a student and weigh it against how I see the American media covers Iran, it's a crime."
Khouri said he disagrees with the way the American media target Iran with fear-mongering stories about weapons of mass destruction. He warned that the United States could repeat the Iraq war if this pattern continues.
"The consequences are really serious," he said. "It creates a political environment where it's OK to attack Iran. It's OK to use drones to kill people. It's OK to start wars."
Students such as Maggie Suter, a junior international relations and Middle Eastern studies major, agreed with Khouri's criticism.
"I think most people are willing to accept whatever Western media tells us about Iran, so I liked his gate-keeping focus on how it's not all true," she said.
Khouri criticized the media's slant against Palestinians in the Israeli conflict. He described the Zionist settlement in Israel as a crime violating international laws, but what he saw reflected in the media was a defensive Israel being attacked by Palestine. Khouri blamed this on the American media's view of Israeli security as a national priority.
"The media abdicated its responsibility as the watchdog of the world," he said. "The media plays a role now as an assistant to the U.S. government."
Khouri also focused on the lack of political context in the coverage of military conflicts in the Middle East. He noted that the Palestine-Israel conflict had a long and deep history, but the media would always portray it without looking at the bigger picture.
"We hear a lot about people in Gaza firing missiles at civilians, which is an international crime, unless you're being sieged by another country, which is what is happening to Palestine," Khouri said. "The media exaggerates the militarism of Palestine, but they don't give the context of the conflict."
For students like Julian Florez, a Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs graduate student, these points made for an eye-opening lecture.
"[It] was made clear that there was a basic bias in U.S. coverage of Arab issues," he said. "What I get is that we have to be careful where we get our information from."