Introduction: A review of the Story
The ongoing conflicts and prolonged but unsuccessful peace-making processes between Palestine and Israel have commonly been labeled as “the Palestinian-Israeli crisis”. The conflicts have been characterized by border disagreements, mutual recognitions, security threats, water rights, control over Jerusalem, fates, and legalities of the refugees among other key issues.
Palestinian-Israeli conflicts have continuously drawn the attention of International dignitaries, human rights bodies, and political leaders, many of whom have made several attempts in trying to broker a peace accord between the two Middle East States, to end their long time crisis.
The ongoing conflicts have also generated different views and opinions from across the world, with different leaders from the two States and elsewhere approaching the issue differently. The media continues to play a rather crucial role in covering unfolding events on the Palestinian-Israeli conflicts.
Purpose of the analysis
The purpose of this paper is to analyze the news coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli crisis” from the perspectives of two newspapers, reporting between 20th, October 2010 and 5th, November 2010. Publications considered for the analysis in the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicles.
The New York Times is a major daily publication with wide coverage and circulation, both at the national and international levels. San Francisco Chronicle on the other hand is a local Weekly publication with limited circulation as compared to the New York Times.
Definition of terminologies
A systematic process of making comparisons between different sets of media coverage within a given period amounts to what is termed as media analysis (Gould, 1-9). In media analysis, concepts such as framing, hegemony, ideology, propaganda, bias, pseudo-environment, critical theories, empirical research, among other key terms are commonly in use.
To begin with, “framing” as Schudson contends, has been used to substitute for the term “bias” (Schudson, 11). The concept is defined by Todd Gitlin as “persistent patterns of cognition, interpretation, and presentation, of selection, emphasis, and exclusion, by which symbol-handlers routinely organize discourse, either verbally or non-verbally”(Gitlin, 18). Framing reflects a given mindset or viewpoint. It involves looking into a story from the viewpoints of the people.
The following article extracted from the New York Times, dated October 11, 2010, may be used as an instance where framing has been done to convey additional meanings to the story. The article is titled “Netanyahu’s moves spark Debate on intentions”. Under this title, it is reported that the intention of the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to “freeze the West Bank Jewish settlement in exchange for Palestinians recognition of Israel as a Jewish State” was “instantly rejected by Palestinians”. It is also reported that this was the “latest complex maneuver engendering debate about” the PMs intentions.
From the above extract, an instance of “framing” is manifested in the statement, “instantly rejected by the Palestinians”, indicating how impossible it was for the Palestinians to tolerate the moves made by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Also indicating a case of framing is the sentence “…was the latest complex maneuver engendering debate about his intentions”. In this statement, it is apparent that there have previously been some complications in attempts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflicts. This clause may also imply that the move made by the Israeli prime minister was another complex one, making him be perceived as a hardliner in the peacemaking process.
Turning to the same story coverage by the San Francisco Chronicle, there are instances of framing evidenced. Considering the following extract from the San Francisco publication, dated, 11th, October 2010. “Israel aims the Palestinian “incitement”.This is the title of the article, under which it has been reported that the Palestinians were accusing the Israel prime minister of his attempt to “divert attention away from the impasse in the negotiations”.
From the above report, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu is portrayed as a hardliner and not so keen on reaching an amicable solution to the crisis between his State and Palestinian.
In both articles, drawn from the New York Times and San Fransisco, the Israeli prime minister is at the focus of the media coverage. These indicate the importance of the role played by the Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, in the peace negotiation processes regarding the conflict between his state, Israel, and Palestine, their long-time opponents.
The media trend of promoting, through emphasis, a given power structure or political leadership constitutes hegemony. Enough to mention that how the conducts of the Israeli prime minister have to some extent been given attention is hegemonic.
According to Antonio Gramsci, Marxist Social Philosopher, hegemony is the promotion of dominant power structures by the media. Antonios theory of hegemony explains that we live in societies made up of structures that are maintained not by force alone, but people must be involved in keeping the power structures and the powerful individuals on top of the societal structure (Gramsci, 8-22).
On the 3rd of October, the New York Times reported that a police spokesperson asserted that a police a “Hamas police officer” that was accused of shooting at an opponent, was only trying to “intervene to stop a quarrel when a bullet was accidentally discharged from his gun”. According to the report, witnesses alleged the Hamas police officer was also engaged in serious a disagreement with a salesman by the name “Alaa al-Sourri” before he finally shot him.
The above is an extract from the New York Times publication, titled “Israel Attack Kills a Top Militant in Gaza “.The article, dated,3rd, November 2010, is part of the series of media coverage on the Palestinian-Israeli crisis. From this extract, it is not known whether the Hamas police intended to “stop a quarrel when a bullet …accidentally discharged from his gun…” as reported by the New York Times publication. The statement seems to have been distorted by the reporter or the editors of the New York Times publication to make it free from incitation, controversies of any kind and to avoid any statement that can make the opponents feel they have been provoked or incited. This aspect of the media distorting or twisting reality to serve a rather different purpose has been termed as ideology.
Ideology and propaganda are the other terms often used in the media
The ideology which has attracted a plethora of definitions is perceived in Marxist thinking as “distorted knowledge that presents a false view of reality” (Gitlin, 19-24). Like the concept of ideology, propaganda has also received an overwhelming account of definitions. However, among the famous definitions of propaganda is that of Harold Lasswell, a philosopher, and political scientist. Lasswell defines propaganda as “the control of opinions by significant symbols… rumors, reports, pictures and many other forms of communication included” (Czitrom, 123).
If the “control of opinions by significant symbols” amounts to propaganda, then the recent circulation of a publication about the Israeli building plan resumption in the controversial East Jerusalem, and the midst of peace talks, is a sign of propaganda manifested in the coverage of the ongoing peace talks between Palestine and Israel. This story was covered by both the New York Times and San Francisco Chronicles on the 8th, November 2010, with both publications posing a question as to whether the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was informed prior, about the news coming from his government when he just traveled to the States to broker a peace talk (Teibel, 3-5, & Kershner, 7-8).
The same story has also been framed synonymously by the two newspapers. Major emphases are given on the move taken by the Israeli government during this “sensitive time”, as quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle (Teibel, 3-5).
In the New York Times, a chief Palestine officer, Saeb Erekat, notes that “the Palestinians “condemned” the latest plans in the “strongest possible terms”.In the San Francisco Chronicles, the Washington State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, notes that “the Monday announcement was “deeply disappointing” and “counter-productive” in paving way for the ongoing peace efforts(Teibel, 3-5, & Kershner, 7-8).
The two publications have at least considered such quotes that would make their coverage more appealing and attention-drawing. Such terms as “Sensitive time”,” strongest possible terms”,” condemned”, “deeply disappointing” and “counter-productive” have thus been used by the two publications in framing the story (Schudson, 11)
Throughout their coverage, both publications have continuously pointed at or referred to key individual figures that have dominated the “Palestine-Israeli crisis” stories. Such persons as the U.S President Barrack Obama; Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu; Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad; Yitzhak Rabin, the later Israeli PM; the Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, among other International dignitaries have clouded the stories. This trend of the Media incessantly using the top leaders and heads of State as reference points have been considered very critical in establishing the power structure in the society. Who says what, when, and how becomes a significant issue in the media coverage, as they try to shape the reality. This has “partly” been coined as “Hegemony” (Gramsci, 8-22). Partly in the sense that other philosophers like Harold Lasswel termed such as politics rather than hegemony.
Evidence of hegemony is well portrayed in recent news coverage by the San Francisco Chronicle, an article titled,” Israel moves ahead with the east Jerusalem housing”, in which case, the statement “President Barrack Obama will be traveling in Asia during Netanyahu’s trip” to the States”, seems to be out of the contextual reality. To some greater extent, mentioning the president’s name was as crucial as making attempts to resolve the Palestinian-Israel crisis, even though the visiting of the Israeli prime minister to the States might have had nothing significant to do with him or his absence. This is because he is a key world figure generally perceived to be so powerful in the global society. The media has made people believe so, and this can be hegemonic. Others would beg to argue otherwise.
Ideology is yet another concept that has weighed more in the coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli crisis. Considering an extract from the San Francisco Chronicle publication, dated 12th, October 2010, it has been reported that as much as the Israeli expected the Palestinians to acknowledge or recognize the Jewish State as their Israeli nation sate, the Palestinians also expect Israeli to recognize “the Palestinian state as their nation-state”.According to this report, this was the stand of the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli PM added that “his demands were not a condition for negotiation”.
The last statement “Netanyahu said, adding that his demand was not a condition for negotiation”, could have been a matter of the publication’s way of presenting the message in its best interest, therefore distorting the original implication of how Netanyahu voiced his concerns about the Middle East fiascos. This can be an ideology described by Marxist thinking as “distorted knowledge that presents a false view of reality” (Gitlin, 19-24).
Generally, the Palestine-Israeli conflicts and the ongoing peace-making processes have undergone tremendous transformations, courtesy of the role played by the media in informing the world about the Middle East state of affairs. Unfortunately, success in reaching an amicable solution is yet to be brokered. The publications considered in this paper have particularly given the Palestine-Israeli crisis exceptional coverage.
However, it’s very crucial to note that the media coverage made so far on this matter may at times have been characterized by or even subjected to ideologies, biases, propaganda, hegemony, not to mention politics, and other socio-economical issues.
|Amy Teibel||San-Francisco Chronicle||8-11-2010||“Israel moves ahead with the east Jerusalem Housing”|
|Isabel Kershner||New York Times||8-11-2010||“Israel Plans East Jerusalem Housing”|
|Feres Akram||New York Times||3-11-2010||“Israel attack kills a Top Militant in Gaza”|
|Ethan Bronner||New York Times||2-11-2010||“Israel: Defying Ban Palestinian Renovate East Jerusalem schools”|
|Joel Greenberg||San Francisco Chronicle||12-10-2010||
“Palestinians reject Israel building-freeze offer”
|Ethan Ronner||New York Times||11-10-2010||
“Netanyahu’s moves Spark Debate on Interventions.”
|Ian Deitch||San Francisco Chronicles||3-10-2010||
“Israel takes aim at the Palestinian “incitement””
Czitrom, Daniel. Media and American Mind: From Morse to McLuhan Chapel Hill NC: University of Morth Carolina Press, 1982. Page 123.
Gould, Douglas. Writing a Media Analysis. New York. Communications Consortium Media Center. 2004.1-9
Gitlin, Todd. The Whole World is watching: Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of the New Left. New York. University of California Press.1980.18-34.
Gramsci, Antonio. Hegemony and the Media Studies: Theory of the hegemonic media. New York. Naomi Rockler-Gladen.2008.8-22.
Kershner, Isabel. Israel Plans East Jerusalem Housing. New York. New York Times. 2010. 7-8.
Schudson, Michael. Why democracies need an unlovable press. Great Britain. Cambridge CB2 IUR, UK. Polity Press.2008.11-48.
Teibel, Amy. Israel moves ahead with the east Jerusalem housing. New York. San Francisco Chronicles. 2010.3-7.