UCSB’s Students for Justice in Palestine organized a series of events this week to encourage open discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Gaza Awareness Week kicked off Monday in the MultiCultural Center with a lecture by journalist Alison Weir — founder of the non-profit organization If Americans Knew that focuses on media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The MCC Theater will screen a documentary today at 3 p.m. about the 2008 Israeli air strike in Gaza.

The week concludes tomorrow with a vigil for victims of the aforementioned military operation “Operation Cast Lead” at 6 p.m. in Pardall Tunnel.

According to Weir, the American media is politically biased in favor of the Israeli cause.

In her presentation, Weir presented a two-year study on the death tolls of each population. The report found that 165 Israelis and 549 Palestinians were killed during the first year of the dispute, but the U.S. media nevertheless reported five times more Israeli casualties than Palestinian.

She also said the U.S. gives Israel about $7 million per day — allegedly more aid than it distributes to all other nations combined.

“I saw a beautiful land and people being destroyed through the use of my tax money,” Weir said. “I was seeing intentionally created poverty through the use of my money.”

However, Jeremy Ely, executive director of American Students for Israel and fourth-year economics major, said the U.S. provides Israel with aid because both countries share the values of freedom of the press, religion and democracy.

“Israel also has unique and unmatched security threats,” Ely said. “The U.S. wants to see it secure and safe from the threats surrounding it.”

Although Ely agrees that the situation in Palestine is devastating, he said it’s time for the nation to unite against Hamas and accept Israel’s peace offer.

Students for Justice in Palestine member Maryam Griffin, a third-year sociology graduate student, said this week’s demonstration — stakes dug into a campus roundabout representing numbers of casualties from the siege on Gaza — conveys a striking message of unfair odds.

“It was a very bloody siege and massacre of people living in the Gaza strip,” Griffin said. “The reason I use massacre is because 1,400 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces and only 13 Israelis were killed — four of which were by friendly fire.”