The Arab media as seen through Israeli eyes
Fadi Abu Saada
BETHLEHEM, Jan. 8, 2008 (MENASSAT.COM) – For Ali Waked, a Palestinian journalist from Yafa working for the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, there can be no doubt about it: the Arab press is one of the main sources of news for the Israeli press. “We cannot deny the dynamism of some of the Palestinian and Arab news websites, which are sometimes the first to cover many events, even before the international news media,” he says.
Despite ongoing concerns about the professionalism and reliability of the Arab media – and the Palestinian media in particular –, Ali Waked assures us that Israeli journalists rely on Arab newspapers such as Ashraq al-Awsat and Al-Hayat , “because they are on the same level of expertise and professionalism as international newspapers, such as The Guardian, The New York Times and others.
Not everybody agrees.
Jacob Irza, of the Arabic-speaking service of Voice of Israel, doesn’t deny that some local, alternative Palestinian radio stations have been doing good work recently, outshining the official Palestinian media, which are severely handicapped by obsolete technology. But, says Irza, “I count on the Palestinian media for Palestinian news only. And even then, I continue where they stop. Whenever we see something of interest to us, we will investigate the story ourselves.”
Irza views the Palestinian media as very weak, even in comparison with the already weak Arab media. Primarily, it continues to suffer from a lack of freedom, especially in its dealings with political leaders and governments.
Arnon Rigoler, an analyst of Arab news in the Israeli media, laments the lack of accountability in the Arab media. He gives the example of The Guardian, and how that U.K. newspaper regularly publishes apologies for mistakes in past articles – something that is quite unimaginable in the Arab media.
“There are both positive and negative aspects to what is happening in Arab media is witnessing,” says Rigoler. “On the one hand, we have more media outlets than ever before, and that’s positive. On the other hand, only very few work with true professionalism or principles.”
In its defense, Rigoler admits that an important reason for the lack of professionalism in the Palestinian media is the weakness of the Palestinian Authority, and by extension, its laws and institutions.
Rony Shekid, of the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, is the most dismissive of Palestinian media. He feels there is no such thing as independent Palestinian media, and consequently he never relies on the Palestinian media as a news source. According to Shekid, any Palestinian news item needs to be checked not only for its veracity, “but also for the [political] reasons and the purpose behind it being published.”
Yoav Stern, an Arab news reporter for Haaretz, is less harsh in his judgment of Arab media.
“We consider many Arab newspapers, especially the ones published in London, and some of the satellite TV channels such as Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera to be reliable sources with no need to review or check,” he says.
Of course, he admits, “There definitely are different levels in the Arab media. Some news is worth being quoted and other news is not. Anything to do with Israel, for instance, we would never quote the Arab media; we would use an Israeli source instead.”
As far as the Palestinian media is concerned, Stern says, “We can’t deny that coverage of the local Palestinian news is good and professional.”
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