How Did the Israeli Press Handle Disengagement?

How balanced was the Israeli press in its coverage of disengagement? Not very, according to the Columbia Journalism Review. In a long feature examining coverage in Haaretz, Yediot Aharonot, and Maariv, the CJR claims the press of provided “unequivocal support” for the government’s policy and failed to carry out any meaningful analysis of the plan.

The negative portrayal of settlers was only a small part of how the press helped prop up the disengagement. In the year and a half of preparations and discussion about the pullout, the media failed to ask the kind of questions that are becoming increasingly obvious, now that we are in what Israeli’s had taken to calling “The Day After.” What was really behind Sharon’s proposal? Was he trying to put the peace process back on track or, as Dov Weisglass, Sharon’s chief adviser, said in a controversial interview, to place it in “formaldehyde” by shaking off Western pressure and solidifying Israel’s hold on the West Bank? And why the insistence on unilateral action, withdrawing without negotiating with the Palestinians? Shouldn’t the November 2004 death of Yasir Arafat — always portrayed as the main obstacle to negotiation — have provoked a shift in policy? And where did the Palestinians stand? In the buildup to August 15, Israel’s press made little attempt to understand how they viewed the withdrawal. In Palestinian eyes, was Israel running away, succumbing to the relentless terror campaign, or, as Israel framed it, leaving as an expression of its own strong will? And where would the withdrawal leave the Palestinian Authority? Would it be able to assert control over Gaza in the face of the popular extremist group Hamas? And, importantly, would the unilateral move strengthen Hamas and undermine Abbas, who has always claimed that negotiation was the only way to end the occupation? Would the withdrawal help to a establish a Palestinian state or doom it?
Such questions might have altered the way this piece of history unfolded. Instead, throughout the spring and into the summer, hardly anyone was doing the asking. The press fell short of its journalistic responsibility to scrutinize the policy, to explore its many implications. Five years of incessant violence had had a paralyzing effect. Reporters and editors, like most Israelis, were willing to ignore the complexities of this quick fix, if only for the hope that it might break the unbearable status quo.

Read the whole feature here.

6 thoughts on “How Did the Israeli Press Handle Disengagement?

  1. I have commented about this post on my blog. Anyone in Israel during the hitnatkut shouldn’t be surprised that the media unquestionly supported the disengagement and criticized any critical analysis of the plan. Also, Israelis (i.e. the Israeli mainstream majority, not talking the fringe) will support any plan if it brings even the slightest promise of peace.

  2. Truth be told, the media did not have to do much to make the settlers look bad – they did an excellent job themselves, calling soldiers Nazis and antisemites and such. Not to mention being the biggest bunch of crybabies in Israeli history.

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