Israeli Arab voices hardly heard in mainstream media, survey finds

"People see Arabs in demonstrations and not as people talking about economics or culture."

December 25, 2017 22:13
3 minute read.
An Israeli Arab woman casts her vote at a polling station in the ‘Triangle’ town of Umm al-Fahm

An Israeli Arab woman casts her vote at a polling station in the ‘Triangle’ town of Umm al-Fahm. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Israeli Arab politicians and experts are vastly under-represented in air time in the Hebrew-language media, according to the NGO Sikkuy, which seeks to promote Arab-Jewish equality.

The group recently released results of a survey it took with the publication Haayin Hashviit (The Seventh Eye) and other organizations which showed that  in 2017 only 4.6% of interviewees on news and current events shows in the mainstream media were Arab citizens despite their constituting about twenty percent of the population. The survey covered Channel One-Kan, Channel 10 and Channel 2 and its recent successors Keshet 12 and Reshet 13. Radio stations Kan-Reshet Bet and Galei Zahal were also included in the survey.

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A separate survey focusing on the first month of Keshet and Reshet broadcasts, which started operating its own channels in November, found that only 1.2% of interviewees on each of them for news shows and current events programs were Israeli Arabs.

The two stations did not respond to a request for comment on the results.

Sikkuy spokesman Amjad Shbita termed the findings “very worrisome because Israeli citizens get their information from the Hebrew media and because of the language barrier they know only the Hebrew media.”

“This means that the majority of eighty percent hardly knows anything about the minority 20%. And when they do see them its negative coverage, just conflict and violence. People are not exposed to the positive in Arab society,” he said. “When you speak about Arabs and not with Arabs there is a tendency towards stigmas and hurtful expressions.”

Shbita stressed that Arabs are hardly ever called in as experts in civilian fields such as medicine or engineering. “People see Arabs in demonstrations and not as people talking about economics or culture. So in their subconscious, they think that Arabs know only how to protest and go wild. This strengthens stigmas and the idea that Arabs don’t contribute to society.”

He termed the Keshet and Reshet figures “woeful.”

“We very much hope that they will improve. When you start you have to show society in all its variety. They have started on the wrong foot and it doesn’t bode well,” Shbita added.

MK Anat Berko (Likud) concurred that there should be more air time for Arabs. “There has to be greater representation in order to really know the stance of Israeli Arabs on all sorts of issues,” she said.

But Berko said a major problem with the television coverage is that interviewers sometimes don’t ask the difficult questions when interviewing Arab personalities. “I saw interviews with people from the Islamic movement who said awful things about the state of Israel and the tough questions were not asked,” she said.

Still, she said the channels should bring Arab doctors, engineers and lawyers on panels as experts “in ordinary matters.”

MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) said, “There is a historic exclusion of our politicians, experts and our human stories from the mainstream Israeli media. The new figures of Sikkuy show the exclusion is continuing and our voices can hardly be heard on the Israeli channels.”

He said that sometimes for Arab politicians “it’s more of an interrogation than an interview. The journalist takes a side and tries to question your position. You are accused of being extreme before you are heard because your opinion differs from the mainstream.”

Jabareen said the reason for the dearth of Arab media appearances is “that their issues and opinions are not regarded as important to the general audience. It doesn’t serve the ratings of the channel. And there is some racist attitude in the subconscious if not officially.”

In Jabareen’s view “exclusion serves the right wing by not enabling us to reach out to the mainstream Jewish public and influence it. There is a lot of misrepresentation and inaccuracy on our issues.”

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