Where Do Watchdogs Watch: Palestinian and Israeli Media

In the today’s international media, Palestine is one of the hottest topics in the world. On 31st October 2011, Palestine joined the UNESCO for the first time in the organisations of the United Nations; then on 29th June 2012, the UN General Assembly admitted Palestine to become a non-member observer to the UN, and achieved to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 1st April 2015. Corresponding to its affiliation to these international organisations, more than 130 countries had recognised Palestine as a state as of now, that is, Palestinian participation has increasingly begun to have a significant influence on the international politics.

On 26th June, Vatican City concluded a treaty with Palestine, using the term “State of Palestine” for the first time and clearly established diplomatic relations with it. Vatican City is merely a tiny country with no power in terms of economy; however, it has an important role in having impacts on the people around the world, especially in religious way. Since Palestinian issue can be seen as a religious conflict, the fact that Vatican said yes to Palestine shall have a critical influence upon the most important political problem in the world in the Middle East. Having such significant impact, Pope Francis called Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas “an angel of peace,” which would be considered that the Pope strongly supports Palestinian rights before the visitation to the Holy Land including Palestine and Israel.

The pope’s controversial word made big news around the world. Jerusalem Post, an Israeli conservative newspaper, reported his remark and introduced Israeli Foreign Ministry’s indication that this one-sided term would not carry the peace process forward and would take Palestine away from the direct peace negotiations with Israel (1). Two days later, it carried an op-ed contribution article titled “Pope Francis whitewashed a terrorist” written by Shmuley Boteach, an American Orthodox rabbi, which blamed Abbas for his career as “the life murdering Jews” and pointed out the pope’s word drew the situation back in early 1970’s. He concluded that president Abbas was the “merchant of death (2).”

Meanwhile, Haaretz, an Israeli liberal newspaper was relatively calm. Basically, it explained the background of pope’s visit and various occurrences at that time related to the news. However, it is an Israeli paper after all. It never missed the point how the pope apparently expressed Israel—“the bad spirit of war”. The article says that the pope gave Abbas a medallion and told that it meant “an angel of peace destroying the bad spirit of war” (3). Almost every Israeli people who read this article would think the pope only supported Palestine and expected Abbas to “destroy” the Israeli occupation policy.

On the contrary, the Palestinian media, of course, reported this matter favourably. Ma’an News Agency, a Palestinian television station, praised the pope’s remark and stressed the point that president Abbas and Pope Francis had a private meeting for approximately twenty minutes (4), picking up the fact which president Abbas and Pope Francis would look to be in a close relationship. Moreover, it interpreted the background between Palestine and Vatican as the fact that the pope gave Abbas a medallion “was preparing to sign its first treaty with Palestine, two years after officially recognizing it as a state,” suggesting that the conclusion of treaty between Palestine and Vatican on 26th June was not the very first recognition of the State of Palestine by Vatican. These information are to help Palestinian presence strengthen in the world politics and to help people in the world understand the current political situation of Palestine properly. That is clearly what the Palestinian media would do to Palestinian Authority—representing their own country by expressing their voice.

In this connection, it is also interesting that Ma’an, Haaretz and the most international media reported the case that “the pope called Abbas to be an angel of peace” while Israeli right-wing media such as Jerusalem Post only stated that “the pope urged Abbas to be an angel of peace”. In fact, Jerusalem Post even published an article discussing which the actual remark was (5). It is easily observed that the Israeli conservatives wanted to minimum the effect of the pope’s remark on international politics by making the news itself less eye-catching. That is also surely the Israeli media would do to Israeli government—supporting their own country.

However, this kind of reports by government-like media would mislead the nation. According to Encyclopædia Britannica, media literacy means an ability to read, watch and listen to the media critically and it should be especially educated to children. Without it, people would be controlled as the media want; this indication also can be perfectly applied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There was so much news in the mainstream media that a Palestinian terrorist or terrorists suicide-bombed somewhere related to Israel targeting Israeli citizens or their endorsers. This is because these Palestinian suicide bombers have grown up with biased and limited information often contributed by the Arab extremist media surrounding.

Meanwhile, Jewish youth also have been affected by one-sided hatred towards overall Arabs including Palestinians. For instance, there are many walls with extremist graffiti like “No Arabs, no terror”, “Islam is religion of violence” and “there has been no area called ‘Palestine’ in Israel.” Quite a few Palestinians suffer from insults such as “Gas the Arabs” graffiti on their home’s wall and destruction of their possessions. It made serious news that some soldiers of Israel Defence Forces (IDF) shot Palestinians “for fun” in 2014 (6); incidentally, Jerusalem Post did not report “for fun” part and mainly introduced IDF’s denial of the report from start to finish (7). This tragedy definitely has connection with media literacy. Why?

I once went to Palestine and Israel; what surprised me the most was peoples’ prejudice against each other. On the one hand, Israeli people warned me not to become friend with Palestinians because they would introduce an anti-Semitism extremist organisation; in other words, a radical “Islamist” terrorist group. On the other hand, Palestinian people advised me not to ask the way to anywhere because they would call the police. None of them were right and they are all nice to me after all. Also, they strongly answered no when I asked them if they had talked with each other and added: No. They are not worth talking with. (Note: Palestinians living in Gaza and West Bank cannot physically meet and talk to Israelis because of their identification status to go through the check points.)

Human hatred comes from indirect interactions such as newspapers and television with propagandistic intentions. I asked a Palestinian why he hate Israel; his answer was “because they kill Palestinians,” and the source of information he gave me was Al Jazeera. However, I have another Palestinian friend from Gaza Strip who now lives in Europe and what interesting is is that his ex-girlfriend was Jewish. In short, inorganic typeface stirs revulsion against those whom you have never met face to face.

Mother of hatred which worsens the conflict can be journalism. There are some crucial factors of journalism; here is one of them, listed by two ex-journalists: “Journalists must serve as an independent monitor of power (Kovach & Rosenstiel, 2007, p.140).” Ma’an and Jerusalem Post are keeping this promise in a different way; they are the watchdogs staring at each other’s master, in other words, the government and the conservatives. These two watchdogs sometime give one glance at each other; but nonetheless, they hardly take a look at their own master even when the master is doing something wrong. In actual fact, these watchdogs even help their masters.

Nick Davies introduces a story from an anonymous journalist who exposed a farce of IDF in August 2005. According to that journalist, the removal of Israeli settlers from Gaza was talked between IDF soldiers and settlers; besides, it was partly posed for emotional reports. Even though Palestinians were made to flee due to Israeli demolition of houses, global media only focused on the tragedy of Israeli settlers (Davies, 2008, pp.167-168). At that time, journalists covering the new Jewish tragedy might think they were doing the best part of their job; however, eventually they were merely helping Israeli propaganda spread around the world.

It is clear that journalism is now new ism which affects people’s mind heavily in the current world. This ism can persuade people out of hating each other; at the same time, it also can lead the world to unneeded war and conflict. To achieve the original ideal of journalism, those who work under present journalism have to desperately keep this elements of journalism: you must be a sensitive, careful and clean watchdog.

In conclusion, journalism tends to give the audience partial points of views by picking up and missing out a certain points; therefore, it has the risk of changing the conflict situation worse. Since the media have a significant impact on the nation’s feelings against other nations, journalists have to be neutral on the issue and obtain acute sense which noses staged incidents correctly.

References

1. “Pope calls on Abbas to be an ‘angel of peace’ during Vatican meeting”, Jerusalem Post, 16 May 2015.
2. “Pope Francis whitewashes a terrorist”, Shmuley Boteach on Jerusalem Post, 18 May 2015.
3. “Pope Francis: Abbas is an ‘angel of peace’”, Haaretz, 16 May 2015.
4. “Pope meets ‘angel of peace’ Abbas after treaty announcement”, Ma’an News Agency, 17 May 2015.
5. “Debate simmers over whether pope called Abbas an ‘angel of peace’”, Jerusalem Post, 19 May 2015.
6. “Israeli Soldiers Admit to Shooting Palestinians for ‘Fun’ in Gaza War”, Sputnik News, 5 May 2015, Retrieved from , Retrieved on 7 July 2015.
7. “IDF: Video showing soldiers killing unarmed Palestinians ‘edited in a tendentious manner’”, Jerusalem Post, 20 May 2015, retrieved from , retrieved on 7 July 2015.
8. Kovach, Bill & Rosenstiel, Tom. (2007). The Elements of Journalism (United States: Three Rivers Press).
9. Davies, Nick. (2009). Flat Earth News. (London: Vintage, pp.167-168)

7 responses to “Where Do Watchdogs Watch: Palestinian and Israeli Media

  1. Y’see, I rarely read the same news media that their folk do, and I’m fully supportive of Jews and their culture and society.

  2. You guys keep forgetting that ISIS is going to kill all in Hamas and Fatah. And if you think that Israel is going to waste her precious time and resources dealing with the soon to be beheaded you have another thing coming. I told you ISIS was the new reality and now the NY Times and all major outlets are calling it thus. I told you ISIS was moving in on Libya and you know the rest. I told you ISIS was thick in Tunisia and guess what. I told you ISIS will move on Egypt to back them away from the Gaza borders and of course, you know the rest. what makes you guys think I’m not right again? My track record? That one is impeccable. Stop this nonsense, there will be no two state. The twelve tribes will unite. The world should have taken the Palestinians out when they had the chance. Now they’re going to die. And expect no help from the West, cause it ain’t coming. Nobody on earth, and I mean nobody will be allowed to drop bombs on ISIS in Gaza, Judea and Samria. Big brother Zionist says so.

  3. I try to read different angles – because although I am pro-human rights and actively involved in trying to ensure that Palestinian human rights are also respected, I am aware that the way news is presented reflects the perspective from which events are viewed! “The” truth is probably somewhere in the middle…
    But I wish all the media watchdogs would also watch their “own” sides for coherency and responsibility! I’d have more confidence in their conclusions if they could criticise their masters as well as “the other side”!

  4. When journalists share our views and biases we wholeheartedly agree with them if they don’t we reject them. I read the Jerusalem post, Aish and United with Israel and agree and support them because they express opinions I already hold. I unequivocally support the nation of Israel and all its actions.

  5. Media-bias and a lack of media-literacy is a huge problem everywhere. Not only do news agencies typically fail to watch their own chosen side, they will misrepresent or outright make stuff up about the other so often that they fail as watchdogs because they cannot be trusted. There are two reasons for this that I know, at least in the free press.

    The first is the business model. It is much easier to lose trust than to gain it, and they trade on the trust given to them by their audiences. That leads them to concentrate on audience retention to maintain sales. The most effective way to do that is to play “yes man” to the target audiences’ preconceived notions, avoid anything that might make them uncomfortable, and never admit any mistakes. Their duties might be to the truth, but their jobs are about sales.

    The second is the ideological core of most political conflicts. In Western civilization, for example, it comes down to whether one assumes that the differences between groups are due to external or internal factors, how much evidence it takes to abandon that assumption for a give case, and what weights different kinds of evidence are given. Looking at the same data, two people on different sides politically will typically fill in the blanks differently and create two different narratives. What goes in the blanks, the information that cannot be directly observed, or that one’s understanding of a situation does not lead one to investigate, is normally the core of the story, at least as far as reactions and policy-prescriptions go.

    In the end, new-agencies both often genuinely believe their own stuff and, even when they don’t, have incentive to publish and maintain it. It’s bad enough that even looking in the middle can easily fail. I don’t trust any major story until I’ve done the math myself.

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