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Quotes and Agendas: Israelis vs. Palestinians on Media, Public and Policy Agendas
Unformatted Document Text:  Fan-Page 14 Even the French AFP, which usually gave the Palestinians more first quotes in their news stories, gave the Israelis a 50.8±3.2% opportunity to speak first during this period. Xinhua (Fig. 9) quoted the Israelis first consistently more often than Palestinians from mid-2000 through March 2002. The time trend for TASS (Fig. 8) showed a pattern with larger fluctuations than those of the other news wires. This was due to TASS having news story volumes that were only in the range of a tenth of that of the other agencies. Overall, the September 11 events did not cause large perturbations in the coverage of Israelis and Palestinians speaking first – for any news agency including TASS. All changes were in the range of fluctuations occurring at other times. In general, speaking first changed more dramatically than speaking at all. The directions of changes were usually the same for the two measures. Discussion The theme of this paper has been the media, public and policy agendas of the United States and other major regions around the world. The agendas studied were those important to Israelis and Palestinians as they try to gain help from allies in furthering their causes. The analysis also extended over time periods as long as a quarter century in order to see if slowly evolving changes might provide new contexts for the conflict between the two Middle Eastern peoples – contexts that might point to avenues for resolving the dispute. Given the emphasis on long time trends, the decision was made to concentrate on those aspects of the agenda that persisted over time. For the media agenda, it was quotes of the two sides; for the public agenda, it was sympathy, and for the policy agenda, it was the relative weight given to Palestinians as compared to Arab nations. Perhaps the most striking feature of the three types of agendas was lack of abrupt changes in any of the three agendas throughout the 25 years of the study. All shifts were so gradual that even cataclysmic events such as wars and the September 11 terrorist attacks did not lead to agenda shifts that were obvious by inspection of the time trends. Therefore, parties to the Middle Eastern dispute might not be able to count on a single event to lead to their allies to push effectively for a resolution to the conflict. In principle, an increase in public sympathy is obviously advantageous because it permits and encourages the government in a third party country to be an ally. However, high sympathy also suggests caution so that actions are not taken to jeopardize that support. The Palestinians with lower amounts of sympathy can afford to take riskier actions because not much sympathy can be lost. However, the absence of dramatic changes over 25 years in the United States shows that neither side has actually done anything to gain or to lose much sympathy. One possibility is that the two sides have consistently been able to muster about the same amount of domestic support from American governmental and other informational elites with access to the news media – regardless of actions taken. Another scenario is that much of the American public is sufficiently disengaged that it does not take the time and effort to resolve the conflicting information about the region. The result is indecision leading to polls showing around half the population not favoring either side.

Authors: Fan, David. and Weimann, Gabriel.
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Fan-Page 14
Even the French AFP, which usually gave the Palestinians more first quotes in their news stories,
gave the Israelis a 50.8±3.2% opportunity to speak first during this period. Xinhua (Fig. 9)
quoted the Israelis first consistently more often than Palestinians from mid-2000 through March
2002. The time trend for TASS (Fig. 8) showed a pattern with larger fluctuations than those of
the other news wires. This was due to TASS having news story volumes that were only in the
range of a tenth of that of the other agencies.

Overall, the September 11 events did not cause large perturbations in the coverage of Israelis and
Palestinians speaking first – for any news agency including TASS. All changes were in the
range of fluctuations occurring at other times. In general, speaking first changed more
dramatically than speaking at all. The directions of changes were usually the same for the two
measures.
Discussion

The theme of this paper has been the media, public and policy agendas of the United States and
other major regions around the world. The agendas studied were those important to Israelis and
Palestinians as they try to gain help from allies in furthering their causes. The analysis also
extended over time periods as long as a quarter century in order to see if slowly evolving
changes might provide new contexts for the conflict between the two Middle Eastern peoples –
contexts that might point to avenues for resolving the dispute.

Given the emphasis on long time trends, the decision was made to concentrate on those aspects
of the agenda that persisted over time. For the media agenda, it was quotes of the two sides; for
the public agenda, it was sympathy, and for the policy agenda, it was the relative weight given to
Palestinians as compared to Arab nations.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the three types of agendas was lack of abrupt changes in any
of the three agendas throughout the 25 years of the study. All shifts were so gradual that even
cataclysmic events such as wars and the September 11 terrorist attacks did not lead to agenda
shifts that were obvious by inspection of the time trends. Therefore, parties to the Middle
Eastern dispute might not be able to count on a single event to lead to their allies to push
effectively for a resolution to the conflict.

In principle, an increase in public sympathy is obviously advantageous because it permits and
encourages the government in a third party country to be an ally. However, high sympathy also
suggests caution so that actions are not taken to jeopardize that support. The Palestinians with
lower amounts of sympathy can afford to take riskier actions because not much sympathy can be
lost. However, the absence of dramatic changes over 25 years in the United States shows that
neither side has actually done anything to gain or to lose much sympathy. One possibility is that
the two sides have consistently been able to muster about the same amount of domestic support
from American governmental and other informational elites with access to the news media –
regardless of actions taken. Another scenario is that much of the American public is sufficiently
disengaged that it does not take the time and effort to resolve the conflicting information about
the region. The result is indecision leading to polls showing around half the population not
favoring either side.


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