Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Israeli Arabs and al-Jazeera

Right now I'm getting ready to teach a class tomorrow on the Arab media, with readings from Hugh Miles's Al-Jazeera, introducing that station's popular shows and public and government reactions, and Charles Hirschkind's The Ethical Soundscape, about the circulation of cassette sermons in the Arab world. In another part of Miles's book, I just ran across this paragraph:
"Its (al-Jazeera's) truthful reports from the West Bank and Gaza have probably made peace and reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis more elusive too. By graphically showing Palestinian suffering, Al-Jazeera may well have contributed to a hardening of the Arab position against Israel, not least among the Israeli Arab community. The difference in scale between Arab responses to the first and second intifadas, which came before and after the advent of satellite news, is evidence for this."

I don't buy the first part of this argument, as the only Arab country where popular opinion exercises a significant influence over national diplomacy is among the Palestinians, and they don't need al-Jazeera to tell them about the occupation. The role the network may have played in linking Israeli Arabs together with a broader Arab public and its grievances, however, is interesting. Something definitely shifted during the 1990's.

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