A paper work done by Joseph Salloum (kindly ask for my permission if you want to copy or use any information provided in this article)
In the context of morality in journalism one must take precision when it comes to conflict. A single direct prominent judgment is not expected. Instead an affluent reporter has not to be marginalized and ethically literate. In this context we will take the Israeli-Palestinian conflict understudy. And will, consecutively, debate two selected articles under this dispute. What are the factors that affect the media coverage of this conflict? And How media can desensitize or inflame the attitude of people toward conflict?
The texts chosen for this debate; first by the political science professor Benjamin Ferron, a criticizing note published by the center of research on the political action in Europe – CNRS. The latter text is the 34th chapter From “The Handbook of Global Communication and Media Ethics” written by Oliver Witte Published in 2011 By Blackwell Publishing.
The first text serves as a critic to “Media and Palestinian-Israeli conflict” a study by Beatrice Fleury and Jack Walter. Ferron argues that no conflict in the world where media coverage is the objective field of debate is more intense than Palestinian/Israeli conflict. The article under study is to make a contribution on the media reflection in palestinian conflicts supported by social sciences methodology.
Daniel Dayan’s (researcher) theory further supported by Beatrice Fleury and Jack Walter’s article, considers the advance of pro-palestinians parties dominated on the treatment of french media in the second “Intifada”. Daniel Dayan claims that the treatment of french media to second Intifada appeared through permanent transgression of the norm of french journalist’s professionalism . He also says that the legitimate media and legitimate journalists show a favourable point of view to palestinians and devilish to Israelis. He did his analysis according to words and images used. Daniel mentioned two reading pathologies that control the treatment of media. He wished of a balanced journalistic treatment.
So the 14 articles that were mentioned in Ferron’s response to Dayan’s work. The main problematic in Ferron’s critic is how to articulate a work of scientific research and how to take decisions in public sphere. Do heavy limits journalists face impact media coverage more than ideology affects this coverage?
Dayan argues that the defense of palestinian cause is a delusional religion- finding new forms of pity over what palestinians suffer. Is it that easy that media could be dedicated to palestinians?
Patrick Charaudeu, a french linguistic, declares that it’s exaggerating to force french journalists to delegitimize Israel ,and it’s naive to think that journalists are not influenced by the discourse which circulates in the french society. Journalists are affected by the discourse they hear in their society and this affects how they get to know the conflict, and this also affect the way they transmit it. At the same time Roseline Koren thinks that we don’t justify aggravation of attacks against israel by previous attacks for example the treatment of Sabra and Shatila. Vocabs used to talk about conflict is not authoritarian or tyrannical. Speaking for Sabra and Shatila Oliver Witte, in the selected text presents that when Israelis were indirectly involved in the massacre of Palestinians at The Sabra and Shatila refugee camp in Beirut in 1982, the story was front-page new for weeks in the middle-eastern newspapers. When “lebanese Shiite” when directly involved in killing palestinians in the very same camps, from 1985 to 1988, it was almost always back-page news- if it was reported at all. Despite that 3000 palestinians were killed during those three years.
This conflict is over-mediatized according Jerome Bourdon. Errors journalists commit include victimizations of palestinians and diabolization of Israelis, the thing that bursted a debate between researchers.
On further notice, the discussions of Daniel Dayan’s thesis focuses over limitations and influences journalists go through, and not only the ideological frame. And the fact that Daniel Dayan stems from a public debate doesn’t make his thesis’s positions and analysis valid. An example of these limitations could be found in Michael Palmere analysis of the international Anglo Saxon agencies; some precautions are given to journalists whilst covering conflict. Which means those agencies determine how the journalist deals with topics under treatment, e.g. in 2004, AFP controlled the use of some terms in this conflict through a manual they distributed on the journalists. Treatment of this conflict is dictated by a prism determined by U.S and Israel.
Neutrality, a one perspective of morality in the coverage of any conflict, is sometimes questionable. French journalists, being neutral in their work, are accused as pro-palestinians. In a sense that neutrality is impossible because there’s a primitive systematic of grandiose versus the weak. Another tempting example is the massacre of Jenin where pro-israeli signify it as “Battle of Jenin”, meanwhile journalists who consider it a massacre are accused of being pro-palestinians. Isn’t it implicit to take a side/ position from that [Morality]?
On another note, Claude Aubertin headed her : “Israel: Le Projet de Barrier se precise”, it’s obvious she’s pro-israelian that she used the word barrier not Apartheid wall. The title in this case is as important as the placement of article in journals (which page, number of columns).
Social characteristics of journalists and position of journals and the editorial position, aren’t all factors to analyse a text?
Two forms of truth claim are distinguished according to Gregory cunt and Jerry palmer, being mobilized by journalists. The first one consists of the affirmation of a superior conscience of facts. The second one considers that the coverage of facts/ events contains fedile representation of a range of opinions focused in the political elite.
Still talking about terms used in the media, the utilization of the term colony when talking about urban agglomeration which beholds israeli citizens in wesbank, is it cognitively superior to utilize for example of the terms implantation or village of Jerusalem? The first term (colony) implicates a normative reference for international law, while the latter is an israeli vocab. Sometimes the social construct of reality implicates taking a position.
Claire Gabrielle Talon points out that the dominant point of view in the Arab world about the israeli-palestinian conflict relays a remarkable passionate rampage that the media relies on, e.g what the french media considers a targeted operation, the arab media considers a bloody shower. And this fracture in media is of not help to create a consensus of international public opinion.
After all, Jack and Beatrice didn’t make an effort to question Daniel’s purpose of inciting this theory. They even claim he says nothing about his political engagement, thought he mentions in his books being in the “Peace Now” movement . the fact that journalists are present in occupied territories creates a big cleavage between foreign correspondents and local journalists. It is important to mention that the condition of work of Israeli and Palestinian journalists whose considered sources of information for foreign journalists aren’t analyzed in Dylan’s discourse, e.g palestinian journalists who’re living under occupation regime face military censure which limits their mobility, being the most important natural requirement in their working environment as journalists.
In the other text under debate we find out that ethical values determine the way media represents its own rightful interpretation. Witte starts off by defining law, ethics and morality. Noting that law is a role of conduct, established by a government with power to enforce it, and offenses to which are punished by sanctions like imprisonment. While ethics are dictated by a social group (e.g. family, business) and its offenses are punished by banishment or censure. Lastly morality, defined as a personal value system, it’s offenses are punished by guilt, which is imposed by internal conscience that sticks for a lifetime (rather than the former two , which are punished by external sanctions, and are subject to change).
Oliver then views the terms in a pyramid law being in the base, forming a legal system informed by consensus of orderly society and enforced by judicial process. Above comes Ethics, where the ethical system is informed by what’s accepted by one’s environment from social groups to community of nations. And finally, morals constitute the apex where people have to obey law, social values and one’s own social values.
An exception stems from this perfect image into our own political standing; the Arab-Israeli conflict, where lawful is not always moral or ethical. Especially that most ethical values in this conflict are boosted by the Fourth Geneva Convention on the Rules of War and various United Nations resolutions.
Put in words, after the Islamic resistance movement HAMAS was brought to power, rocket attacks on Israel increased in number, range and lethality. This has increased in 2007 when Hamas forced out Fatah and seized total control of Gaza, continuing rocket attacks. By time shooting ended in 2008, 13 000 palestinians died and 13 israelis died. Hamas thought it won since it forced Israel to withdraw unilaterally, while Israel thought it won because it switched off Hamas culture of resistance. All being said while both are kept afloat by foreign aid.
Hamas’ covenant implies to obliterate israel calling for Jihad for Allah’s sake and stating that Jihad is an “individual duty” and that “peace and quiet wouldn’t be possible except under the wing of Islam.” Hamas then releases what’s called the Goldstone report on Feb. 2012 in which Hamas regrets its rocket attacks. 7 days later Hamas regrets its apology. The Goldstone report was rejected by both israeli and hamas anyways, though Judge Goldstone did a valuable service to the cause of peace; by showing the world the effect of rockets and retaliation on one side , and by focusing each side’s attention on it’s own identity. Hamas might have come under domestic pressure by UN investigators for apologizing. Had Hamas’ Khaled Meshal say what he believes and committed an ethical decision, it could have get him assassinated. This is the theory of all, what’s more important? Ethics or Survival!
On the other side of the sharp-knife Israel is afraid of the deadly image it is spreading. Torah scrolls will be replaced with the image of a helicopter that speaks of power and might without ethics or morality. Speaking of Israeli policy, Sharon’s speech to UN in 2005 implies that palestinians will always be “our neighbors”. But israel had shown worse; being put under orders not to enter palestinian camps in Lebanon, sharon encouraged and coordinated Lebanese Phalangists’ entry into the camps saying “I don’t want a single one of them left”. At that time 700-800 were killed in Sabra and Shatila massacre.Sharon was punished for basic ethical and human values, though he wasn’t punished much; lost his job as defense minister, elected as Prime Minister for being supported by populace and viewed as “war hero”.
All this numbs the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights. And poses ethics only as a code meant to apply to one’s adversaries. Overall numbness of rights is boosted by rationalization of friends’ and leaders’ criminal acts.
But there comes the Tel-Aviv bombing, a case that put the ceasefire held and continued to hold for several months after Badran blew himself up in the Stage Club of Tel-Aviv under question. The answer would be that all palestinian groups disclaimed responsibility and viewed the incident as an anomaly. One could sense that the desire for peace overcame revenge and this gives hope for future conflict resolution.
Media, though, has symbolized this ethical dilemma in absolute context. The use of words Shahid (martyr) by the arab journalists of Al Quds newspaper refers to a holy and religious sacrifice, making out of Badran a freedom-fighter. Whilst the use of Mkhabel by the Israeli journalists of Yadeot Ahronot refers to the sabotage act of random destruction.
So the difference between the terrorist and the freedom fighter is not what they do but how they are treated in media. In palestinian invective, Zionist has come to mean all Israelis, all Jews worldwide, and their supporters, not some of them. Whilst Sharon often used the word terrorist as a synonym for Palestinian. There is no such thing as ‘terrorists’ being massacred when speaking of Sabra and Shatila.
Speaking of government censorship to media, Israeli media are subject to government censorship . A study (Dor,2001) shows how Israel’s two largest newspapers covered the first three weeks of the second Intifada, found that reports appearing in Maariv and Yediot Ahronot were “fragmented and highly censored”. Whilst palestinian media are subject to censorship by both the Israeli government and a mixture of palestinian political fractions. An exception Al Quds , generally recognized as relatively independent not the organ of a specific party. But as ever in the Middle East, it is risky for any person or medium to stray too far from accepted boundaries. In this context of ethical journaling, the best that can be hoped for in an account that touches on the political or religious is accuracy.
Another example is the clandestine pamphlets published during the first Intifada. An unmediated encounter with the leaflets will expose the reader to the ideological intensity , the political complexity, and the behavioral codes of the Palestinian uprising. Their thesis is that behind the youngsters and the stones and the barricades are words. They dictate the way of life and determine the borders of the permissible, they bring the people in the streets and instruct them what to do, when and how. The Hamas leaflets left no room for diplomacy, e.g. Leaflets 6 and 13 ended with, “ Allah is great, death to the occupiers” That’s honest communication, in that it comes from the gut. It’s ethical, in that it complies with a code of conduct (the Hamas covenant). It’s even moral, in that its commision would not trouble the believer’s conscience one bit. It’s not a guide to right action for after a century of conflict – it is not working. The same lesson might be considered by the Israelis, subjugating and humiliating an entire people, might be legal, ethical, and moral, but such methods are not working either.
It is tempting to conclude that the story of the Arab-Israeli conflict is nothing but a never-ending parade of “horribles”: assassinations, suicide bombings, etc.. “Ethics? Morality? What is that in a war?” asks Witte.
In a study, the two Israeli newspapers – Haaretz and Jerusalem Post- were significantly more likely to be self-critical in a way that Palestinians would find offensive. On the other hand, self-criticism by the independent palestinian newspaper Al-Quds and other regional arabic media was more heavily weighted toward conciliation. Overall, the literature does contain occasional examples of kindness by Israelis toward Palestinians and by Palestinians toward Israelis. Tragically, the examples too often are wrapped in violence.
When it comes to religion, Israel has inherited the two Jewish roles in Western eyes- the yardstick of morality and the symbol of hope, While it’s difficult for westerners to understand that the Qur’an doesn’t distinguish between law, ethic, and morality. Religions and politics are one.
“The best that can be hoped for in the absence of a comprehensive solution is for communication professionals to be aware of their role and to be aware of the power of the words they choose in shaping the attitudes of people toward conflict or conciliation.” declared Oliver. Labeling violent actors either as “terrorists” or as “ freedom fighters” in the press encourages the cycle of violence. They become socially constructed- and legitimated- symbols, which become stimuli that encourage replication. Who said language could desensitize as well as inflame.
“The Arab-Israeli conflict will not be resolved until a consensus develops on both sides that peace is better than war. Facilitating consensus-building through dialogue and debate is what communication professionals do best. Reporting accurately causes both the actors and observers to examine the values that direct laws and ethics and, perhaps, to build a moral foundation for peace.”
In conclusion, Dayan’s thesis doesn’t take into consideration what journalists may face au milieu, and the limitation imposed on them, the thing that disturbs the content of the media coverage. Sometime it’s difficult for journalists to step away from their own ideological “shoes”. The psycho-social pressures that journalists are raised under make it harder for them to tell the truth, which may not be the truth. Thus, telescoping ethics of journalistic work and questions the validity of the media content/discourse. When will communication professionals be aware of the power of their words in shaping the attitude toward conflicts? And as Derrida said:” the first problem of the media is posed by what does not get translated or even published in the dominant political language.”