Where are the Palestinian Journalists in Israeli Media?

While Palestinian citizens make up 20% of Israel’s population they are only covered 2% on prime time news. Part of the reason why lies in who reports the news.

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Story Transcript

LIA TARACHANSKY, TRNN PRODUCER: Following Israel’s drastic drop in ranking last year in the Reporters Without Borders’ freedom of the press index, The Real News investigated why. The resulting report concluded that it was not so much Israel’s Military Censor or official forms of silencing journalists, but it was in fact self-censorship of Israeli journalists that lay at the root of the problem.

In this second segment, we look at the Palestinian journalists in the Israeli press.

I’lam is a Nazareth-based media research center. In their recent report, they show that the Israeli media largely ignores the Palestinians, except in cases of crime and security. The report concluded that the Hebrew press in Israel was in desperate need of more Palestinian journalists.

Amal Jamal is the center’s director and head researcher.

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TARACHANSKY: What percentage of Israeli journalists are Palestinian?

AMAL JAMAL, DIRECTOR, I’LAM MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER: Very, very small. Very, very small. We are talking about around ten to 12 Israeli journalists in the entire Israeli media.

TARACHANSKY: Have there ever been in the history of the country senior editorial positions that were–

JAMAL: Arabs?

TARACHANSKY: –that were Arabs?

JAMAL: In the Israeli media? No. No.

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TARACHANSKY: Faiz Abbas was a veteran Palestinian journalist who worked for Israel’s biggest circulation paper, Yediot Ahronot.

FAIZ ABBAS, FORMER JOURNALIST, YEDIOT AHRONOT (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): My generation, the old generation that worked many years in the Israeli press, I think that it wanted to shed light on the stories of Arabs, their suffering and also their successes.

TARACHANSKY: The paper’s editor published an editorial stating that the life of civilians in Lebanon is not worth as much as the life of one Israeli soldier. Despite 13 years at the paper, Abbas quit in protest.

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ABBAS: I quit because I wasn’t willing to work under a person that calls for the killing of children, regardless if they’re Lebanese or Palestinians. But I think that it had never happened before that the editor of a paper wrote an editorial calling for massacring children.

TARACHANSKY (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): And you went not only to the Arab press, but you actually moved to Ramallah. I think it’s a very strong symbol. Of what?

ABBAS: It’s a symbol of You don’t want us? Fuck you.

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TARACHANSKY (ENGLISH): Today in Israeli TV news, there’s only one Palestinian reporter, /furak.mu’sAr/. In the printed press, there’s only one journalist, Jacky Khoury, who writes for Haaretz.

JACKY KHOURY, JOURNALIST, HAARETZ (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): I began my way into the Hebrew press through a local paper in the western Galilee, in Israel’s north. And then Haaretz offered me to cover the north, meaning everything in the north, Jews and Arabs, and especially in the Second Lebanon War (2006), when I was their main journalist in the north, meaning covering sites where rockets had fallen, and cover difficult stories of Jews and Arabs.

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JAMAL: Most Arabs work as reporters. Most Arabs work as reporters. And usually, of course, on Arab affairs.

TARACHANSKY: What is this topic, Arab affairs?

JAMAL: Well, this is a creation of the Israeli media. For instance, when we talk about environmental issues and we’re talking about Nazareth, for instance, why environmental issues of Nazareth are not covered in the general topic of environmental issues? Why it has to do with Arab affairs or the other way around? Which means that there is a structural separation between the Arab community and the rest of the Israeli society when it comes to coverage.

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KHOURY: Today, unfortunately, because of many cuts in many papers, you can’t just write about Arab affairs inside Israel. You have to also write about the surrounding Arab region, and now also the Palestinian leadership [in the territories].

JAMAL: We are talking about a context that is very, very complicated. We’re talking about, actually, an Arab-Palestinian community that belongs to the Palestinian people but citizens of Israel. So the basic relationship is conflictual. We are talking about a reality where we have a linguistic gap–the Arab community speaks Arabic, the Jewish community speaks Hebrew.

ABBAS: I am a part of the Arab world, of the Palestinian people, but I live in Israel. There’s no other situation like this. So I–the country in which I live wages war on my people.

JAMAL: Well, the lack of representation of Arab Palestinians in the Israeli media is very well known today as a result of several research that were done by Israeli as well as foreign scholars. One of the most famous was conducted by the second authority for TV and radio in Israel, showing that whereas Arab Palestinians are 20 percent of the population in Israel, they are covered by a maximum 2 percent on the screen on prime time, which means a very marginal amount. They are covered mostly negatively and related to usually either criminal acts or terrorist acts.

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ABBAS: Covering the Arab minority is really hard because their stories didn’t interest the Jews. And that also depends on the specific editor on your shift. It’s not a coordinated policy. If the shift editor was a leftist or one who likes human stories, then my pieces would get in [the day’s paper].

TARACHANSKY (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): But what are the chances?

ABBAS: That the editor was a leftist? There were a few. So with the time, we–I learned how to speak in the language of the Israeli press, but with my content that I want to get published.

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KHOURY: And when you, as an average Jewish citizen, all day long hear “Fifth Column” and “they’re not a part of us”, etc., etc., etc., even with another 50 Jacky Khourys nothing will change. So today we are in a place where right-wing opinions are much more in the mainstream and in positions of power and control processes on the ground, and the Arabs in Israel are stuck in the middle.

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ABBAS: I was beaten many times. I was cursed at. I was kicked out of soldiers’ funerals. I was kicked. My car was damaged. It wasn’t because I am a journalist. It’s only because I’m an Arab.

TARACHANSKY: What path exists for a young Palestinian who wants to be a journalist in Israel?

ABBAS: Look, he doesn’t have a lot of opportunities to be a journalist unless he’s really talented, really very talented.

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JAMAL: Most of the Israeli prominent journalists have experienced, you know, working as journalists in the army, in the Army Radio, and being educated by the Army Radio, and later on leaving the Army Radio after the military service and going and integrating, being integrated in the regular media. Since the Arab citizens of Israel don’t serve in the Israeli army and have no access to such option, they are excluded completely from this tradition. And, therefore, if the channel to be integrated in the Israeli media comes through their experience in the military radio, Arabs cannot have this option at all.

KHOURY: Unfortunately, because the path is a very tough one today, many don’t even try. But we don’t need to tell the story of discrimination to the Arab reader. We have to tell it to the Israeli reader, and particularly to the decision makers.

ABBAS: If I was to get even one story a week about the struggle of the Arab [citizens], whether in the north or in the south, that was very important to me. That’s what kept me going, to serve the community that I want to help.

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KHOURY: And if you ask me what story I prefer telling, it is the stories of discrimination and racism and to have it published in the paper or online.

TARACHANSKY: Why?

KHOURY: Because … first of all these things need to be exposed. You can’t just say that everything is nice and peachy. And so you have to show what’s happening in our reality, what’s happening in this society.

TARACHANSKY: And if you don’t cover these stories, who will?

KHOURY: In the Israeli press? Almost no one.

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TARACHANSKY: For The Real News, I’m Lia Tarachansky in Tel Aviv.

End

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.