There are youngsters in Israel who want to serve in the Israel Defense Forces,
but are prevented from doing so by the state and the media, which do their
utmost to keep this from happening. No, not the haredi community, but the
Christian Arab community.
According to Yishai Friedman, a reporter for
the Makor Rishon and Ma’ariv newspapers, Christian Arab Israeli youths who want
to serve in the army not only experience lack of cooperation from official
governmental bodies, but are also subjected to ridicule and public pressure in
the Israeli Arab media.
Friedman has done his best to bring this issue to
the attention of the Israeli public, but his colleagues in the Jewish Israeli
media do not seem that interested.
Can we imagine the storm that would
erupt if the haredim were to do the same? Actually, they do – and our media
icons relish it. They demand justice and blame the whole haredi world for the
actions of a few, while some politicians further use the issue to swamp us with
negative news about the haredi community.
But when it comes to Israeli
Arabs, the situation is very different. The youths Israel’s Media Watch has
spoken to are frightened. They do not want their identities revealed in this
connection, as in their experience no one will defend them against the negative
onslaught that would result.
On Wednesday of last week, the Knesset
Economics Committee held a first session concerning the Arab-language media.
Israel has only one daily newspaper in Arabic, along with three weeklies and
various local newspapers. The Israeli Arab community – which makes up 20 percent
of Israel’s population – has only one legal radio station, Ashams, whereas the
haredim have two. But even this one radio station is extremely problematic –
Radio Ashams has “starred” more than once in our column.
The drafting of
Christian youths to the IDF was dealt with recently by the station in a program
hosted by Makbula Nassar titled “drafting Christians to the occupation army.”
Moreover, anyone who tried to put in a good word for those who served in the IDF
was stopped by Nassar.
Only recently, the same radio station was fined
NIS 20,000 by the Second Authority for TV and Radio for broadcasting on
inappropriate conduct last year during Memorial Day. As reported by News One,
Dr. Dalia Zelikovitch, chairperson of the SATR committee that dealt with the
matter, noted that “the committee viewed with severity the usage of public
resources of the State of Israel in a manner which hurt the feeling of many
citizens of Israel.... Opening their broadcasts [on Memorial Day] with ‘Our best
wishes to our valiant prisoners who are imprisoned in the occupation jails’
...hurts the feelings of large segments of the Israeli public.”
problem is even more serious for, as noted in the Knesset committee discussion,
Israeli Arabs are discriminated against even with regard to such elementary
issues as advertisement or ratings. For example, official Israeli advertising or
public information campaigns dealing with topics such as drowning, employment
opportunities for women or even the latest from the IDF’s Home Front Command
were not broadcast in Arabic. It is no wonder that many in the Arab sector feel
they are outsiders.
An Adalah 2006 report pointed to the fact that
television news anchors are still almost exclusively secular Ashkenazi Jews,
whereas America’s CNN and the British BBC expose their viewers to broadcasters
reflecting minority groups. After all, Arabs are 20 percent of the general
population. The situation has not changed dramatically since then.
well recognized that Jewish journalists tend not to be sufficiently conversant
with the intricacies of the political, social and economic aspects of Israel’s
Arabs, not to mention the internal dynamics, which are based on family ties,
religion, ideology – as well as commitment to the State of Israel.
honestly say the Arab sector is properly represented by such extremists as MKs
Haneen Zoabi or Jamal Zahalka? Is the Islamist Movement-Northern Branch the
norm? Even in this newspaper, the coverage of the Palestinian Authority would
appear to be more thorough than that of events in the Galilee.
point to an initiative, jointly promoted through Channel 2’s Keshet, the Du-Et
Fellowship Program, which facilitated appearances of Arabs in the mainstream
television channels, even the inclusion of Arab participants in popular
prime-time shows such as the Supernanny reality show and Kochav Nolad (A Star is
Born), Israel’s American Idol.
But are the Israeli Arabs to be relegated
solely to reality shows and sports? The fact that the Israeli Arab population is
largely ignored by our media has two severe repercussions.
The first is
that democracy is not served within the Arab community. The Israeli media knows
how to hit hard at Jewish politicians who do not do their jobs, but the Arab
population does not enjoy the same commitment to democratic
The Israeli media does not pay serious attention to
governance within Arab cities, towns and regional councils. Is the tax-paying
Arab citizen receiving the same level of service as Jewish Israelis? The Israeli
media also doesn’t look too hard at the educational system within the Arab
community. Why is it that the scholastic level there is so much lower? Why is it
that there are hardly any Arabs within the higher academic system? Even on
issues such as traffic accidents, the media is not diligent. The percentage of
fatalities within the Arab community is much higher than within the Israeli
community. Does no one care? Why doesn’t our media highlight such facts and so
force Arab leaders to do what is right, to take serious measures to assure
positive driving habits? The everyday of Israeli Arabs could be much improved in
many areas if our media would simply pay more attention.
But there is
another side to this. The Jewish population, as a result of this
under-reporting, is ignorant of what really goes on within Israeli Arab
This leads to misunderstandings, discrimination and
Israeli Jews are perhaps not sufficiently aware of the ideological
struggle taking place within the Israeli Arab community. We do nothing to
support those Arabs who are proud to be citizens of the State of Israel, who
appreciate the fruits of Israeli democracy and know that of all the countries in
the region, only in Israel can they live freely.
The media in a democracy
has a special duty, and Israel’s media, unfortunately, is in dereliction of this
duty when it comes to the Israeli Arab population.The authors are,
respectively, vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch
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