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Racist reporting gets free hand in Israeli press

Examples of racism are abundant in the Israeli press. Both individual journalists and the media outlets that publish them must be taken to task for stereotyping Palestinians, and in some cases, inciting violence against them.

By I’lam: Media Center for Arab Palestinians in Israel

It is not altogether true that free expression is under threat in Israel. Sure, one may have been led into believing so, what with the passing in 2011 of the “Nakba Law,” penalizing commemoration of the Palestinian Nakba, and the “Anti-Boycott Law,” restricting anyone calling for a boycott of Israeli institutions, including in the occupied Palestinian territories. Yet, for decades, the Hebrew media has essentially been given free rein to incite to racism and violence against Palestinians, with seemingly little self-reflection and even less accountability.

I’lam: Media Center is a media rights NGO that regularly monitors the Israeli Hebrew media. We’ve reported racist patterns in media performance during wartime coverage, such as during the Lebanon War in 2006 and during the war on Gaza at the turn of 2008, and also recorded similar patterns in the recent offensive on Gaza, to be published soon. During wartime, we note that the Israeli media plays the role of cheerleader for war, downplaying civilian losses on the enemy side, while patriotically rallying the troops. But how do the media perform during times of “peace?”

Our latest compendium of weekly monitoring of the mainstream Hebrew media highlights how the space for free expression for racist reporting in the Israeli media encounters little restriction, even during times when things are “quiet on the war front.”

The Ethics Tribunal at the Israeli Press Council (IPC) is meant to monitor ethical performance of the media. However, its underfunding and lack of independence make its interventions ad-hoc and ineffective. In our opinion, the racism we have monitored in everyday media performance is considered acceptable in the political culture, which is why it is not flagged as problematic enough to justify intervention.

In our most recent monitoring, we were able to highlight five dominant patterns regarding racial incitement in the media: lack of objectivity and racist opinion pieces; generalizing in the service of legitimizing the occupation; portraying Arabs as primitive; incitement of religious tensions; and incitement of violence against Palestinians. The full report can be read here.

For example, on March 23, 2012, the religious newspaper Hamodi’a published an article by Yosef Lavi, where he generalizes by accusing all Muslims of being terrorists. He also claims that the religion teaches violence and that it “urges its followers to kill Jewish children and celebrate their death,” and that Arab Muslims are on “a modern day bloody crusade.” A major theme in Lavi’s article is his claim that Palestinians’ main goal is to murder Jewish children, and that the entire community is comprised of barbarians who want nothing more than to commit awful crimes against the Jewish people and do not care about decency or even the well-being of their own children. Articles like the one written by Lavi are both dangerous and unethical, as they present a very general and stereotypical view of the Palestinian people, and accuse them of unspeakable crimes. Unfounded accusations and generalizations such as these further fuel misunderstanding and mistrust of Palestinians.

During monitoring between October 25 and November 10, 2011, Ariel Kahana published two articles in the newspaper Makor Rishon that were racist and instigated against Palestinians. Both articles de-valued Palestinians as people and painted them as worthless barbarians. In one of the articles, he called for a strike against Gaza, and rationalized it by saying that “killing Palestinians is not worth attention. Israelis don’t care about those who get killed on the other side; the only thing that matters to them is stopping missiles that target them.” By saying this, Kahana dehumanized millions of Palestinians in the occupied territories. He goes on to say, “I wish that they would value life like we do. What we need to do now is clean Gaza.”

A prime example of inciting actual violence against Arabs can be seen during monitoring conducted between July 8 and 15, 2011. Alon Marom published an article on the NRG website, where he justified war and even ethnic cleansing against Palestinians. Marom claimed that the amount of settlements springing up in the West Bank will make it impossible to separate the Jews from the Arabs. He argued that separation is necessary, since without it, the well-being of the Jewish state is in danger. “This is impractical in Israel because the Arabs’ rights jeopardize Israel’s Jewish character,” he writes. He goes on to suggest that the only solution is to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from the West Bank through deportation on the grounds that they will help Arab armies that may invade Israel.

Such patterns in Israeli Hebrew media exacerbate conflict and incite to racism and violence. Such practice is absolutely unacceptable from a human rights and ethical journalistic standpoint. Aside from individual journalists and contributors being held to account to such writing, the media houses that carry such articles and editorials should also be taken to task – but who will do so given the limited effectiveness of the Ethics Tribunal at the IPC? Free expression is under threat in Israel, but not so much for racism and incitement to violence. In this zeitgeist, where spaces for free expression are closing in, the force of journalism that incites to racism and violence is only amplified.

I’lam Media Center for Arab Palestinians in Israel is a non-profit NGO based in Nazareth, founded in 2000 by a group of Arab Palestinian journalists and academics. It seeks to strengthen the media cadre, raise awareness and educate Palestinian society in Israel in media practices. Visit I’lam’s website here.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Philos

      The Alon Marom article: http://www.nrg.co.il/online/1/ART2/258/249.html
      .
      It’s so vile that I still can’t my head around it. I thought NRG was decent (relatively) but this reminds me the academic literature on the build-up to the genocides in Yugoslavia and Rwanda. This kind of drip drip of hate speech until the final cataclysm of slaughter. This is truly terrifying. What will become of us?

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        It is so vile because it isn’t meant to be taken seriously. It was written by a leftist to demonstrate where the right is leading the country, which in his claim is a replay of the 1948 war which he equates with premeditated ethnic cleansing.

        First, read the other articles by the guy. He is not a right-wing guy. Second, look at the way he describes 1948 and plan dalet. It is unlikely a rightist would have that take on 1948.

        Reply to Comment
    2. XYZ

      I think those complaining here about Israeli-Jewish racism should look in the mirror if they want to see the side that has the real racists. The Arab press is continually full of lurid antisemitic propaganda such that the supposed “racism” described here pales in comparison. I suggest the Arab side clean up their own act before preaching to others.

      Reply to Comment
      • Nite Owl

        So you’re saying it’s only bad when the other guy does it.

        Reply to Comment
    3. sh

      “Visit I’lam’s website here.” has no link on it.
      Here it is: http://www.ilam-center.org/eng/

      Hate speech is a kind of grooming. I think you can turn hitherto normal people into complete crazies if you do it for long enough.

      Reply to Comment
      • Philos

        Exhibit A – XYZ comment above. I’ll stop being a bigot if you stop being a bigot first. And leftists are accused of bring puerile

        Reply to Comment
        • Oscar

          @XYZ

          This is how Philos described recruits to the magav on Larry’s blog:

          - socially, educationally and economically disadvantaged sectors of Israeli society;

          - poor Mizrachim, Ethiopian and Russian immigrants, Druze and Bedouin.

          He also called them trigger happy brutes.

          Would a non racist specify the ethnicity or the socio economic background of people he calls trigger happy brutes?

          Is it just me? Or doesn’t a non racist person recognise the fact that some people from all backgrounds, rich, poor, Mizrahi or Ashkenazi and maybe heaven forbid, some Arabs too are trigger happy brutes?

          But he innocently asks what will become of us because an Israeli newspaper relates to Arabs in a similar way that most Arab media relates to Jews. And he calls you purile for reminding him of that fact.

          Go figure.

          Reply to Comment
          • The Magav do tend to be drawn from a particular ethnic and socioeconomic section of Israeli society – do you dispute that? The question is not whether a non-racist would specify their ethnicity/economic background, but what sort of military deliberately drafts people from that background into such a notorious role, and why. What sort of educational system grooms and preps kids of that background for this role, and why.

            It’s pretty common to hear IDF soldiers disparaging Magav as abusive arsim who are Not Like Us™, and I remember the comments when the Shani Sevilla case came out – oh, she’s typical of the Magav, disgusting frecha, giving IDF a bad name, not a real soldier, etc. It might be useful to ask why this happens as well. I don’t think that it’s because the Magav are uniquely awful; it’s more likely to be that abuses from Magav allow others to forget or at least gloss over what they themselves have done, and feel responsible for. However, it’s important to be clear that the Magav’s reputation is by and large fostered and maintained by the military system itself, not people with the view of Philos. Why?

            I don’t know for how long you have been reading this site, but I look at Philos’ recent comment on ‘trigger happy brutes’ in the light of something he wrote just over a year ago now, on a post about abuse committed by a border policewoman. “I shouldn’t have called them yahoos but I’ve seen what they’re capable of with my own eyes and it was deeply traumatic. I have strong resentment against anyone in that uniform and maybe I shouldn’t judge all individuals with the same brush.” I don’t think racism is the particular problem he has here.

            Reply to Comment
          • Oscar

            “The question is not whether a non-racist would specify their ethnicity/economic background, but what sort of military deliberately drafts people from that background into such a notorious role, and why”

            Thank you Vicky for that great explanation. I now understand everything. The Israeli army is at fault. This is why:

            The below:

            - socially, educationally and economically disadvantaged sectors of Israeli society;

            - poor Mizrachim, Ethiopian and Russian immigrants, Druze and Bedouin.

            Are good candidates for becoming trigger happy brutes. The Israeli army knows that and recruits them into the magav. They don’t recruit the rich or the Ashkenazim because they could not possibly be turned into trigger happy brutes.

            Such sentiments are not racist or bigotted. Especially not if elitists like Philos utters them because they are lefties. And everybody knows that lefties cannot be bigotted or racists.

            Animal Farm anyone?

            Reply to Comment
          • Philos

            Thanks for putting it so eloquently Vicky. I don’t mean that the ethnic or social background determine the brutality of the magav rather the ethnically and socially disadvantaged are sent to be magavnikim. They become the “other” of the army. Lowly trash all other branches can look down upon, barely worthy of respect. Not real soldiers. It’s important to point out their ethnic and social backgrounds because it’s important to show how the system exploits them. These are people who don’t have a voice; the poor, the discriminated against, and so on.

            Reply to Comment
          • Oscar

            There is only one problem with that excuse:

            The only ones who look down on Magav are the Philoses and the Vickys in here. They are the ones who call magav:

            “trigger happy brutes.”

            Normal Israelis know that Magav does an important job for Israel. They keep us safe from trigger happy brutish Arab terrorists. And we don’t call them trigger happy brutes.

            Reply to Comment
          • Oscar

            Not only that but unlike Philos, we don’t disrespect:

            - poor Mizrachim, Ethiopian and Russian immigrants, Druze and Bedouin.

            They are part of our people. Ordinary people, some good, some bad, most of them ordinary people.

            Only Philos thinks of mentioning their ethnicity while calling them trigger happy brutes.

            Reply to Comment
          • Philos

            Go back to America foreigner! How’s that for racism?

            Reply to Comment
          • Oscar

            “Go back to America foreigner! How’s that for racism?”

            Not bad Philos LOL.

            But your racism against the Mizrahim, the Russians, the Beduin and the Druse was worse.

            Reply to Comment
          • Oscar

            Oh and against the Ethiopians too, Philos.

            Reply to Comment
          • What you say about being without a voice is an important point. It’s a sentiment that I’ve heard quite often in and around Hebron – and not just the feeling of voicelessness, but of lacking basic choices and control.

            Thinking about it, this is the main reason why I get uncomfortable when I hear people using derogatory terms for magavnikim. A conversation with a border policeman in the Old City stands out in my memory here. I was struck by how defensive he got at the most innocuous comments and questions. He read insults into everything I said, and I was just getting irritated by this when it hit me – he was doing this because he expected me to insult him. He assumed that my questions must be sarcastic because he couldn’t get that I would be interested in anything he had to say.

            This is one of the consequences of brutalisation: people may try to be all aggressive and macho but underneath they don’t see that they matter. They certainly don’t expect other people to treat them as though they do. Magav conscripts understand full well the widespread contempt in which they’re held and the insults that get used for them, and I have the uncomfortable sense that if we adopt that language too, we risk pushing them further into that thorny isolated space where they don’t expect anything better – either of other people, or of their own actions.

            I’m sure I had a more coherent thought in my head somewhere when I started to reply, but it’s the small hours of Christmas morning and it seems to have gone west…

            Reply to Comment
          • Oscar

            Oh Vicki, I do admire you for trying so hard but it just does not wash.

            Only a few days ago Larry Derfner was lamenting in his blog about the reaction in Israel. He was not happy that the female magav soldier was hailed as the heroine of the day.

            So you see? It seems that only you guys in here are the ones who hate the magav. Most Israelis hail them as heroes.

            You are certainly not fooling most of us. But I am also sure that , unfortunately, you are fooling some. That is why you keep trying so hard to whitewash your friend Philos. Unfortunately, in trying, you are also implicating yourself.

            Ok, your choice.

            Reply to Comment
          • If you see my last comment as an attempt to fool you or anyone then you’re overestimating the value I attach to your opinion of me and my ideas. The comment was directed at Philos. I’m interested in talking with him because he describes what I see, only from the other side of the checkpoint. That’s a useful perspective for me to hear. I’m far less interested in justifying myself to someone whose romantic view of military life requires him to shut out the voices of people who have experienced its sectarianism first-hand.

            The adulation heaped on Nofar Mizrahi by Israel HaYom reminded me of the testimony that Shovrim Shtika chose to open their anthology of women’s stories: “Somehow, a female combatant has to prove herself more, on the ground too. Again, a female combatant who can lash out is a serious fighter. Capable. A ball-breaker…That was the thing to do…It’s obvious, you don’t even need to spell it out.” The lionisation of a woman who manages to play the role into which she has been shoehorned is hardly an indicator of flourishing equality and respect and it certainly doesn’t cancel out the existence of a pecking order in military culture or in wider society. These two things can even be read as part of the same pattern.

            Reply to Comment
          • Oscar

            The feeling is mutual vicky.

            Cluck along then. I have had enough of this oppressive, deceitful hypocritical place.

            Reply to Comment
        • That’s because XYZ is in a subjective race war. Winning matters, kind acts within one’s kind, but little outside. The only way to fight the reification of race is rights adjudication within Israel. But there seems little if any of that. Rights adjudication creates a platform for attacking racism within one’s society. But in the Citizenship Law Case, the Court majority effectively signed on to the logic of a “demographic threat,” thereby sanctioning racial calculus. If the courts are silent, or indeed on the side of race conflict, there is no place to stand. Perhaps the universities–but consider what is happening in them.

          Reply to Comment
        • XYZ

          Precisely. Jews/Israelis are under NO OBLIGATION to be “better” than anyone else. Either standards of behavior are universal, or they aren’t worth anything. Since the Arab media is far more racist than the Israeli one, when they clean up their act, then they will be the ones to emulate. But, as of now, I would be happy if they were no more “racist” than the “progressives” claim the Israeli media is.

          Reply to Comment
          • These authors are Israeli citizens – are you honestly saying that until media racism ends in countries of which they have no part, they have no business to critique racism in their own society? You seem to be making this argument because instead of seeing them as individuals affected by racism in Israel, you simply view them as some personification of ‘the Arabs’ (all four hundred million of them) and whatever ‘the Arabs’ are doing now, whether that’s in Sudan or Mauritius. This is bizarre to say the least.

            Your second argument (about standards of behaviour being universal and Jews being under no obligation to be better than anybody else) is doubly strange considering how distasteful you find it whenever anyone suggests that Jews might be just the same as other people. You have often presented, “The Jews are a divinely chosen people whose heavenly-mandated message to humanity is that there is no Deity and the Jews are the same as everyone else,” as the value system of Jews whom you class as ‘progressive’. But it seems that there are times when you too are not so keen to emphasise Jewish difference – such as when it comes to ethics. Then you’re content to really scrape the bottom of the barrel and take comfort in the fact that everyone else is down there with you. And you angrily declare as much whenever anybody criticises Israeli policy (and treads on your sore spots). How exactly do you envisage being ‘different’ when you keep taking refuge in sameness and hobbling yourself with some crippling multilateral approach to ethical behaviour? That’s a serious question. I don’t understand you.

            Reply to Comment
          • XYZ

            Jews have a long history of being a self-critical people, it goes back to the Bible. I do believe we have to be critical of ourselves, and if we are being racists, we should strive to end it. But just this morning, on the radio, I heard a news report that said “several youth from a Haredi town were arrested”. Why was it pointed out that they were Haredim? Would we seee a piece on 972 complaining about this? NO. Because the complaints about racism appearing here at 972 are not about “correcting the flaws in Israeli society. the authors of this column are Israeli Arabs adn they have a clear propaganda goal. They are meant to blacken Israel’s repuation in world opinion. Over and over and over we hear a tone here and at other Jewish “progressives” blogs implying that Israel is a uniquely evil society that has no place in civilized society. IT IS THIS I AM OBJECTING TO.
            As am Orthodox/Religious Jew I do recognize that we have distinct obligations to live up to, and among these are universal obligations to behave as civilized people, but for someone to come up to us and who openly says they don’t accept these rules for themselves but they demand that WE accept them is pure hypocrisy. There is even another word for it.

            Reply to Comment
          • I do not see Israel as a uniquely evil society. In fact, I have long thought that many of the de facto racial policies in play in Israel today were fully implemented and effective, in a different time, by the US; that is, I see progressives saying “What the US was able to do, you shall not do.” Israel never finished its Independence War in the way such things usually played out throughout history. What Israel faces, the US never had to face–or wouldn’t, couldn’t. But discourse on human rights has evolved since that time, and Israel is stuck with that–although you can’t really tell this day.

            As to intra-Jewish racism and discrimination–I have no doubt it occurs. I would like to think that the Israeli State does pretty well on such issues, but suspect in some areas not. Why? Because the State is composed of people. 972′s focus is indeed selective. I guess the independent journalists forming this site indeed have other priorities. But would they refuse a well written, topical piece in this area? I couldn’t say.

            Reply to Comment
    4. Deborah

      Thanks for posting. This is an important organization in Israel that I didn’t know about and will share with my students.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Aaron Gross

      I don’t like people publishing that stuff at all, but I’m a little wary about censorship of so-called hate speech. I’ve been called a racist plenty of times by contributors and commenters here at +972, and while I’m sure they were only trying to be helpful, I wouldn’t want folks like them telling me what I can and cannot publish.

      Reply to Comment
      • There is always social censorship in the press, but I agree completely that the State should not try to mold opinion through imposed censorship. But if the State will not act to stop of punish criminal acts invovling race–such at the South Tel Aviv riot, which seems inflamed, mounting to incitment, by MKs, what do you expect will happen to discourse in the press?

        When missles are being fired into one’s homeland it is very difficult to NOT employ group responsibility and group hatred as a means of cognitive self protection. But when the State ELSEWHERE employs racial calculus in its actions, race hatred is going to be foregone. The Israeli left is important precisely because it denies racial and group reification. It permits asking this question: what are you going to do with the remainder when you win? To avoid such questions, perpetual war is asserted as ever the case. I have no doubt what I would have been like if I had matured in a State in apparent perpetual war. But I doubt I would have the views and courage of the “leftists” on this site. Even if you disagree with them–you will need them in the future.

        Reply to Comment
        • I garbaled the end. “I have no doubt” should have been “I have great doubts as to …”

          Reply to Comment
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