Media coverage of the Israeli-Palestine conflict elicits mixed reactions. The West Bank barrier, for instance, is contested by both Israel and Palestine supported by their respective allies (Savigny& Marsden, p. 10). The Israeli government officially terms it “security fence” while the Palestinian authority describes it as the “Israeli apartheid wall” (Savigny& Marsden, p. 14). Media coverage on the contentious West Bank barrier is extensively varied and assumes the attitudes and perceptions of either alignment. Israeli sources term the West Bank barrier as a fence because the concrete structure has been entirely fenced for security purposes. The fencing is attributed to a 90% reduction in terrorist attacks by Palestinian suicide bombers targeting the Israeli territory.
On the other hand, Palestinian sources argue that the security wall is an elaborate expansionist strategy by Israeli colonial forces to take the Palestinian land by force. The fence covers the protected regions of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Qalqiliya (Moravitz& Cordesman, p. 20). The Palestinian Authority argues that 50% of the West Bank is part of their sovereign territory. Israeli television has also been selective and categorical in its coverage of Israeli wars. The coverage on the Second Lebanon War framed the war as the “business of men only” excluding the role of women in the Israeli society as far as war, conflict resolution, and leadership is concerned (Kamalipour, p. 15).
Media exclusion representation of women exposes the extent to which women have been marginalized in Israeli society. Gender parameters in the Israeli media reveal patriarchal systems are deeply rooted in Israeli society. Media representation of women is reserved in the background. News headlines focus on men and their leadership roles in society. Women are represented as victims of war by the public sphere (Kapitan, p. 18). Traditionally, women are represented as “suffering mothers, daughters and wives of dead or wounded soldiers” (Kapitan, p. 22). The role of women in Israeli society consists of motherhood, taking care of the invalids and the elderly. The number of women in active politics is scanty with a few exceptions such as the Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni.
Media is traditionally conceived as the mirror of society and as informers of the truth. The public sphere provides useful information relevant for both decision-making and problem-solving. Solving problem entails applying appropriate information in the right context. How information is represented by the media is strategic for effective decision-making and problem-solving interventions. The media is capable of confirming to the public information regarding official accounts or otherwise criticizing it (Sharoni, p. 25). It can also reveal corrupt dealings by the government as well as correct errors of omission.
The rapid development of information technology has facilitated the media in its role of gathering and disseminating information in society. The status of the Palestinian media internationally reflects limited autonomy in the Palestinian society concerning Oslo accords (Dunsky, p. 12). The Oslo accords prospect a future independent and democratic Palestinian state. The role of the media in nation-building is an end-goal of the Oslo accords. The Accords empowered media on both sides of the Israeli-Palestine conflict to facilitate the peacemaking process. The prospect of a future independent and democratic Palestine state relies on authentic, non-biased, and honest media (Dunsky, p. 16).
The media on both sides of the conflict is therefore expected to enhance confidence-building among the Israeli and Palestinian people through decisive and informative strategies which investigate the conflict transparently. The collapse of the Camp David peace negotiations and the subsequent “Intifada” spelled doom in creating peace shortly. “MIFTAH-The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy and KESHEV- Center for Protection of Democracy in Israel jointly agreed to provide oversight into the Israeli-Palestine conflict”( Savigny& Marsden, p. 19). The two professional bodies sought to monitor media coverage across the territories. The media is a pillar of society that thrives on the freedom of expression. The project of the two professional organizations in mediating a culture of tolerance between Palestinians and Israelis is a product of how independent the media in the region is.
Palestinian Media Landscape
The Media structure in Palestine comprises “print, audio-visual and an official news agency” (Moravitz& Cordesman, p. 25). The press consists of three daily newspapers with functional websites that are accessible for public scrutiny. Approximately 50000 newspapers are circulated daily. One of the newspapers, Al-Quds has been censored by the Israeli government. The number of advertisements determines the number of pages in a newspaper. Apart from daily newspapers, monthly and weekly journals make up the press. Some Palestinian politicians use mosques as their media outlet instead of mainstream media sources. The Palestinian Radio was based in Jericho while the transmitting station was based in Ramallah where technicians from Israel took charge. Finally, the Ramallah station was operationalized with the help of the European Union. The Palestinian television is operational in both Gaza and West Bank regions.
The television operates with limited transmitting powers according to internationally binding treaties between Israel and Palestine regulating its spectrum (Kamalipour, p. 23). The treaties were meant to prevent undue interference of existing Arab and Israeli television channels. The Israeli army has destroyed the Palestinian broadcasting infrastructure. Despite the dilapidated infrastructure, the Palestinian media does not meet international media standards, Israeli occupation notwithstanding.
Numerous accusations are therefore directed towards the Palestinian media in the manner in which it is being abused as an inciting tool in the developing conflict. It appears that Israeli occupation is the reason behind the Palestinian media incitement of its people as provoked by the Israeli military and political attacks. The Palestinian media requires urgent reform and transformation to comply with international standards, the Israeli occupation notwithstanding. The difficult situation in which the Palestinian media is currently operating provides the context through which appropriate reforms should be designed (Kapitan, p. 30).
Analysis of the media content in Palestine a distorted belief where Palestinians are made to believe the current Israeli-Palestine conflict is a consequence of the Israeli occupation. The media highlights the occupation as an immoral and illegal act by Israelis which should be resisted in its entirety. The Palestinian media focuses on the scenes where Palestinian people are suffering from human rights abuses by the Israeli army in the occupied territories (Sharoni, p. 25). In addition, the media selectively advocates for a two-state solution to the conflict and the resolution of land for peace. However, the Palestinian media does not represent human suffering in the Israeli context as well as the Israeli perspective on the issue.
Lack of journalistic ethics in the Palestinian media has undermined its role as a public watchdog in the context of the Israeli-Palestine conflict. The media does not criticize Palestinian militant attacks in Israel. The Palestinian media has also ignored the negative effects of the armed state in Palestine and the suffering it has caused on the Palestinian people. The anarchy of the military state in Palestine has equally undermined the entire peace process particularly with the rise into power by the Hamas terrorist group led by Mohamoud Abbas.
The Palestinian media also experienced a serious shortcoming as far as investigative journalism is concerned. The Palestine media failed on investigating “mismanagement, lawlessness, and corruption in both public and private sector its society” (Dunsky, p. 21). The Palestinian television is particularly selective in framing the entire conflict within the realm of the Israeli forces and their occupation of sacred and sovereign Palestinian territory. It repeatedly ignores the aspect of human suffering among innocent Israeli women and children by progressive militant attacks from Palestinian separatist groups. Palestinian children are involved in militant activities despite widespread public outcry. The Palestinian media is concerned with the dominant culture in the community as opposed to stimulating critical thinking in the wider society (Dunsky, p. 27). The Palestinian press is however dedicated to a two-state solution to the conflict through peaceful means. A positive aspect of this press is the dedication of two pages to Israeli writers allowing them to represent contrary opinions to the conflict. Editorial content is selectively chosen to reflect the viewpoints and perspectives of the Palestinian people as an oppressed lot.
Electoral and political programs
The Palestinian media should seek to be dissociated from political influence and patronage. There is a massive abuse of the journalistic code of conduct by journalists being used by politicians particularly during the electoral process (Savigny& Marsden, p. 28). The media is therefore limited to the extent to which news coverage on the conflict and during the electioneering process is concerned. There is a lack of objectivity as far as coverage of the Road Map and the Gaza disengagement plan is concerned. Dehumanization, incitement, and de-legitimization describe the approach of the Palestinian media concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Media coverage of the electoral process before the ascension of Hamas into power was biased. The news did not cover freedom of movement and expression in the contested regions of the West Bank and Gaza strip effectively. Whether candidates from both sides of the political divide, were free to campaign is not clear. The incitement label attached to the Palestinian television broadcasts is however judgmental. It should b noted that the media, as a public watchdog should be legally empowered to represent divergent opinions truthfully and in a transparent manner (Moravitz& Cordesman, p. 32).
The western media is biased towards the state of Israel. Military atrocities visited against civilian populations during Gaza and Lebanon wars were not properly represented in the western public sphere. However, television channels such as the Aljazeera exposed scenes of these human rights abuses satisfactorily. Western media supports the establishment of the state of Israel in Palestine (Kamalipour, p. 29). It believes that Israel is legitimate in its struggle to recapture its ancestral territory after its displacement. Israelis from different parts of the world are therefore encouraged to return home since the Israeli territory represents their promised land from God.
Terrorists and militants by separatist groups from Palestine are highlighted as the main cause of the current conflict. Western media is therefore biased towards the principle that Israel is a sovereign state while the Palestinian Authority is dependent on Israel (Kapitan, p. 35). This colonial mentality has framed Palestinians as underdogs while Israelis as the children of God inhabiting their promised land. However, western media advocates for material and financial support of Palestinian refugees displaced from their homes.
Dunsky, Marda. Pens and swords: how the American mainstream media report the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Washington: Columbia University Press, 2008.
Kamalipour, Yahya R. The U.S. media and the Middle East: image and perception. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007.
Kapitan, Tomis. Philosophical perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jerusalem: M.E. Sharpe, 2007.
Moravitz, Jennifer & Cordesman, Anthony H. The Israeli-Palestinian war: escalating to nowhere. London: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005.
Savigny, Heather & Marsden, Lee. Media, Religion and Conflict. Rome: Ash gate Publishing, Ltd., 2009.
Sharoni, Simona. Gender and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the politics of women’s resistance. Gaza: Syracuse University Press, 2005.