Sri Lankan Student Receives Honest Media Award
Media watchdog group HonestReporting, which monitors biased reporting on Israel, has announced the winner of this year’s $2000 Blankfeld Award for Media Critique: Sri Lankan-born Timon Dias, who grew up in the Netherlands and is a Clinical Psychology Masters degree student at Leiden University.
His winning articles were all published in the Jerusalem Post and impressed the staff of HonestReporting above all of the other candidates.
In “The lack of Western disgust for Hamas,” Timon sought to explain why many Western college students and mainstream opinion makers tend not to loathe or despise Hamas in the way it deserves.
“The EU shows it doesn’t understand the conflict” explains how the anti-Israel bias within the EU can be traced back to its founding principle of undoing the concept of nation states, of which Israel is a demonstrably successful one.
In “Whose taxpayers fund UNRWA?” Timon asks why Western nations pay 71% of the annual UNRWA budget while Muslim countries pay next to nothing while addressing the role of UNRWA in keeping Palestinians dependent and incapable of making peace.
HR asked Timon what drives a non-Jewish student with no familial ties to Israel to defend what is an increasingly difficult cause on campuses worldwide.
“Of all places,” he said, “my interest for Israel started in Sri Lanka. In 2008 I was on a 5 month internship as an English teacher at a Muslim college. I taught children aged from 6 to 21. It was an amazing and even heartwarming experience, but among a not insignificant number of boys from age 14 and up, I started to notice a rather explicit antipathy or even hatred towards Israel and Jewish people in general. This came as quite a shock, for I thought racism, especially against Jews, was a thing of the past.
“When I enrolled in college, I started taking classes in Islamic Studies and Middle Eastern Politics. A field in which the state of Israel could not, and was not ignored. In my spare time, next to work, studying psychology and being the drummer in the band Audiodaycare (we’d love to perform in Israel!), I started writing about politics for the largest Dutch liberal conservative weblog: De Dagelijkse Standaard.
“I started defending Israel in my writing when it became clear to me that it had always been – contrary to what our academia and media always suggest – the Palestinian authorities in all their forms, that rejected peace when peace could be established. I also came to realize that this conflict was no longer about territory but about ideology. A Jewish national presence in the Middle East was a thorn in the side of Pan-Arab Nationalism first, and of (Political) Islam later. I found that the following is true: ‘If the Arabs would lay down their weapons, there would be peace tomorrow. If Israel would lay down their weapons, there would be no more Israel’.
“How can I not defend an allied nation where the rule of law prevails and that has done everything in its power to be at peace with its neighbors? How can I not defend a country which is an undeniable part of Western civilization, a civilization I hold dear?
“Many people have turned their backs on the Jews when they most needed a helping hand. Many people have turned their backs on Israel when her days seemed all but numbered. I will not be one of those people, and I can assure that albeit a slow process; more people feel this way every day.”
Responding to the award, HonestReporting’s CEO Joe Hyams said:
"Timon’s is a truly remarkable story and it’s a real privilege to be able to give the Blankfeld Award to someone who has proven that Israel’s story is compelling enough to bring people over to its side. We were extremely impressed with the quality of his writing and sophisticated and well-thought analyses of contemporary issues.
"Timon has shown his commitment to making Israel’s case and we believe that he will be a great asset in the future."