All too often, the media play a detrimental role in the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, as news organizations often seem to be in competition over who can
publish the most shocking images of violence, terror and occupation.
focusing almost exclusively on negative reports about the extremists on the
other side, the media misses a moderate majority that exists in every society.
It thereby betrays its role to properly inform people, and perpetuates hatred
between the opposing sides of the conflict.
A friend once told me that
China passed a law many years ago requiring news networks to report at least one
positive story in every broadcast.
While such laws are of course
illegitimate for democratic states, one cannot help but slightly envy that sort
of regulation. That is particularly true from the point of view of someone born
and raised in a conflict zone.
Following are some examples from my own
experience as the leader of OneVoice Israel, a grassroots movement working
toward the two-state solution. A little more than six months ago, 1,000 members
of OneVoice Palestine were planting the seeds of the first “Peace
A thousand trees were planted in an area between Bethlehem and
Jericho, in an act of nonviolent resistance to the occupation and to protect the
land from settlement expansion.
The act itself and the language around it
were nationalistic, but also peaceful and pragmatic. I was eager to share this
story about the Palestinian peace camp with reporters from prominent Israeli
news channels, and was told that they would consider publishing the story once
the rockets then being fired from the Gaza Strip stopped.
So the media
chose to extensively cover the work of a few Iranian-funded Kassam launchers,
while completely ignoring the story of the voluntary peace activism of 1,000
The following week, 175 Israelis and Palestinians were
killed by Hamas rockets and IDF bombs launched in Operation Pillar of Defense.
The extremists got their way, and the news channels which covered the violence
received extraordinarily high ratings.
On Sunday US Secretary of State
John Kerry left the Middle East after a weekend of strenuous talks with Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
It is still unclear what will come out of it.
What is certain is that
headlines from interviews with far-right wing members of the Israeli government
like Naftali Bennett or Danny Danon were at best unhelpful.
On the other
side of the political map, 2,000 people gathered last Sunday in 11 cities across
Israel for a rally to revive the peace process, support the efforts of Kerry and
endorse the Arab Peace Initiative. OneVoice Israel, along with 20 other leading
Israeli peace organizations, co-hosted the event in an unprecedented display of
alignment of the Israeli peace camp. The event connected the elites with the
grassroots: 18 members of the “Knesset Caucus for Ending the Israeli-Arab
Conflict,” from both coalition and opposition parties, spoke with the crowds at
Again, mainstream media in Israel, Palestine and abroad did not
report a moderate voice for peace.
The media coverage of Israel and
Palestine is in desperate need of a bit of hope and some positive stories, which
journalists can find without any effort on either side of the conflict. While
China is far from being an example of good democratic standards, we just might
have something to learn about making space for good news from the biggest
autocracy in the world.
The author is executive director of OneVoice
Israel, a grassroots movement working in Israel and Palestine for the two-state