The significant role of Israeli media in the region

Image #: 20040951 An Israeli man reads the Hebrew newspaper Yediot Ahronot featuring a photo of US President Barack Obama and his family on the cover and reads in Hebrew "Obama Four More Years" at a cafe in Jerusalem, Israel, November 8, 2012. UPI/Debbie Hill /LANDOV

November 8, 2012. UPI/Debbie Hill /LANDOV

It is possible to find many studies on Israeli media that investigate and study trends over the different time periods. Throughout these different periods in which the concepts of sovereignty and democracy stand on two sides of the scale, the priorities of society and politics determine the position of the media.

The parallelism between the media and the parties is obvious in these times, the times when independence and sovereignty are fragile, especially when Israel’s efforts to exist are more important than anything else. In 1948, there were twelve newspapers in Israel that were affiliated with political parties. The Prime Minister’s office was responsible for establishing and directing radios. “Voice of Israel” and the IDF-related media are the most obvious examples of these. Until the 1970s when the single party clearly demonstrated its domination over the Israeli political system, Ben-Gurion’s “Mamlachtiyut” principle was also effective in the media. The concept of “fighting democracy” has become the basic and most legitimate principle behind the media publishing about politics. Commercial journalism has gained influence since the 1970s and changes in Israeli political life have begun to affect the Israeli media, particularly newspapers and radio. The critical direction of the Israeli media began to develop during this period.

Decisions made by the army and the political authority have become more critical in terms of the integration of the state into the international system and social reconciliation.  Especially after the six-day wars, the political consensus of the Israelis, who started living with the Arab society in terms of the population and territorially, also began to take place in the media. In addition, 20 years since the establishment of the state of Israel, a media revolution began for the sake of polyphony, but the censorship has protected the concept for the first fifty years.

On the other hand, after the 90s, the Israeli media was severely affected by both technological and political developments. The critical attitude that began and developed by media organs in the previous phase evolved into a democratic multi-voice atmosphere in the media through the interaction of the multiple TV channels, cable broadcasts, and the international press in the 90’s with local media. Another reason why the Israeli press has developed a democratic stance on many issues, especially news that it has done in the Arab society, is the parallel development of the media with technology. Especially after the 67th war, the Israeli media have taken steps towards a more moderate attitude towards the propaganda activities of the neighboring Arab states especially in regards to Palestinians (even the international press outlets have taken a moderate stance).

Another feature that makes the 90s unique in the democratization of the Israeli media is its own political atmosphere. Ben-Gurion’s long-standing influence on the media was also established by the Rabin government during the Arab-Israeli peace talks that took place in the early nineties. Building news agenda, news flow control, and mobilization of consensus among the elites have become more integrated into politics. The most obvious example of this is the legal partnering with the PLO, which was considered a terrorist group until 1993.

Israeli mass media examples that help to create a positive Arab image

As Schudson said, “Journalism never stands entirely outside the community,” it has always been a difficult process for the media to report on any conflict or war news. Excessive sympathy is a vital argument that media instruments could face against coverage that is not liked by audiences or readers. In such cases, the language used by the media is more prominent than ever. The concepts of “we” and “them” stand out as the arguments that the media should pay attention to in such critical news broadcasts. One of the biggest breaks in the “Palestinian issue” of the Israeli press was the Cast Lead Operation on December 19, 2008. Subsequent media coverage on the same issue was hindered. Due to the Israeli army’s desire to control the flow of news broadcasts because of 2006 Lebanese war experiences and the fact that all the news was made publicly known as “pool news”, it attracted many reactions especially international public opinion. This decision of the army led to the “How we are seen by the world?” question asked by the Israeli media and the public. The rise of Israeli media organizations’ ability to make “moderate” news events, in addition to seeking legitimacy in the world of public opinion, also benefits the establishment of links between Arabs within the state.

For instance, in the Gaza operations of 2009, 49 Palestinian civilians (including women and children) lost their lives as a result of the bombing of the United Nations school in a refugee camp located in Jabalia. In such a difficult situation, the news of the Israeli media played a significant role. TV channels such as Channel 2 and Channel 10 used very sensitive methods to catch each news episode. The two channels first focused on the narrative’s humanitarian side, but their reporters also conducted an interview with IDF officers because the main culpability belonged to the army in that disaster. Suliman al-Shafi, the reporter of Channel 2, spoke with the army officer Eyal Ben – Revven about the school bombing. Mr. Revven’s words gave the audience information about the acceptance of responsibility. Secondly, Channel 2 and Channel 10 have used alternative vocabulary to describe the events in the Gaza Operation. Instead of using aggressive words like “carnage” or “savagery”, they used “bombed” or “hit”. These terms are milder than others and help to decrease the tension amongst Arab-Israeli audiences. Third, mainly in this case and also for the other tragedies, Israeli media broadcasted protests that were held against the operations. Such broadcasting enhanced a more objective role of Israeli journalism.

In conclusion, it is accepted that the Arab-Israeli conflict is a reality of politics and society in the period that prevailed from the pre-1948 period. The Israeli media looked at this reality under a controlled attitude until the 1970s because of sovereignty and independence priorities. The pressure on written and visual media started to decrease in the 70s and with the increase of the Arab population in Israel, the acceptance of peace talks in the early 90s made for increased tolerance and equal evaluation of Arabs (like Jews) in the Israeli Media.

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