Joseph's MENA Blog

Used for various classes at Dickinson College

Journalism in Israel

Top image from: Kremlin and Times of Israel

The point of journalism, at its root, is to record and then convey to an audience current events of significance. It is to arm the public with knowledge so they may respond to the conditions they live in. According to the American Press Association, “Democracy depends on citizens having reliable, accurate facts put in a meaningful context” (APA). In order to give the public the clearest picture of what is happening, portraying events as fully and truthfully as possible is crucial. However it is this that makes journalism an inherently political field. Truth is often subjective and the reporter, viewer, or both may be influenced by personal biases which can affect how they interpret the events. Furthermore those in positions of power may find that coverage are not favorable to them, unfair to them, or perhaps threatens their hold on power, giving them an incentive to try to control how they are reported or to attack journalists. In this way, it is crucial for free societies to have multiple independent sources of information, to minimize the effects of individual biases on the public sphere and to provide a robust field of journalism that is resilient in the face of attack by those with power.

In the case of Israel, a democratic state as well as an occupying force, journalism plays a unique and crucial role.

Image from Axios

As a democracy, the Israeli press acts as a watchdog against Israeli politicians and public figures and keeps them accountable to the public. This is especially true today as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has won elections and maintained his role as head of government consistently since 2009, is embroiled in investigations into multiple cases of corruption committed by him and his wife. Due to the press informing the public of these investigations, and the potential for him to be indicted before early elections in 2019, Netanyahu faces what appears to be the greatest threat to his political career. As Netanyahu fights to defend his position the press will play a large role in informing Israeli voters’ decisions. (Jerusalem Post and Axios) Reporters face public attacks from Israeli politicians (Freedom House).

Image from Yahoo/AFP (Gaza border protests)

Israel while unique among other states in the region for being a relatively liberal democracy, it is unique among liberal democracies in that it is an occupying force. The Israeli military, the IDF, maintains a system of oppression for Palestinians in the West Bank, limiting their freedom under an imposed system of military law. Similarly in Gaza, while Israel pulled out of the territory, it controls its water, electricity, borders and airspace. It is involved in wars with the territory periodically ranging in length and deadliness. In 2014, Israel was engaged in a deadly war with Gaza in which over 2,100 Palestinians were killed (mostly civilians) and roughly 70 Israelis killed (mostly soldiers) (Independant and CJR). Since March of 2018, Gazans have protested against Israel at the border fence in which journalists, medics, and children were among hundreds killed by Israeli snipers since protesting began (Haaretz). The IDF holds that these killings were defensive in nature and were intended to stop rioters from breaching the fence and harming nearby neighborhoods (Haaretz).

Due to the intensity of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and both sides blaming the other for aggression while claiming moral justification, it is important that journalists are present in these situations in order to relay the facts on the ground. Not only is it so that informed and effective policies be implemented by policymakers attempting to solve (or entrench) the conflict, but so that Palestinians and Israelis can be made aware of the consequences the conflict has on their daily lives.

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