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Quotes and Agendas: Israelis vs. Palestinians on Media, Public and Policy Agendas
Unformatted Document Text:  Fan-Page 15 As mentioned above, the dramatic shift in the policy agenda away from an interest in the Israeli/Arab nation issue toward the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is not surprising result given the course of events in the Middle East. First of all, government-to-government agreements were achieved in the past 25 years between Israel and two of its neighbors, Jordan and Egypt. These peace agreements settled the territorial disputes between these countries and led to a peaceful co-existence. Second, there were Palestinian uprisings that caused the Mid-Eastern conflict to center on the Palestinian issue. Moreover, since 2000, the dominance of the Palestinian issue has been furthered by numerous terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians followed by Israeli military reactions. With attention directed to the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, it is important for both sides that they have a forum to present their viewpoints. In this arena, the Palestinians have definitely made progress in the United States since their quotes in the AP have been just slightly below those of Israelis since the early 1990s. This is in contrast to the 1970s when the AP quoted Israelis first with a three to one advantage over the Palestinians. Among the five news wires examined, only the AP gave the Israelis a statistically significant advantage over the Palestinians in 2002. Among the non-U.S. news wires, the AFP stood out with Palestinians and Israelis speakers appearing about equally in volume and order in the story, especially since 1986. Until 2002, balance was about the best that was accorded to the Palestinians in recent times by any of the five news wires studied. Besides the AFP, Israelis were consistently quoted more and more often first at percentages above 50 for the time period 1994-2002 How can we explain the differences among the news organizations and the changes over time? The findings clearly suggest that several factors are involved. If it was only the impact of key events, we would not be able to explain the differences across the agencies. If it was only the political and media climates in each state, we would not expect similarities in changes across organizations. So, the findings imply a multi-factorial explanation with the most promising combination being the interaction of the political climate of a society with key events and the target audiences of each news organization. This may help to explain why various news agencies react in a similar way to events with the magnitude of this reaction varying with the medium’s audiences and political environment. Moreover, our findings highlight the impact of the political mainstream on journalistic practices. The pattern of coverage of a disputed topic can reflect the dominant political attitude of a state and can be interpreted by the notions of “Climate of Opinion” and “Spiral of Silence” (Noelle-Neumann, 1984). Journalists may feel pressured to report in a manner consistent with the views of their administration, leaders, or dominant ideology (or, as Noelle-Neumann would have argued, those that are perceived by the media to be dominant). Obviously, a full analysis of all aspects of the media, public, and policy agendas is a much larger task than has been undertaken in this paper. The data can be mined further in such dimensions as individual policies sought by the two sides. This paper is an initial overview of issues that share the common feature of persistence over time. Also, new approaches have been introduced. One of these is quantitative assessments of not only the speakers in a news story but also the order of speaker appearance. Another innovation is the use of the very existence of poll questions to infer the policy agenda.

Authors: Fan, David. and Weimann, Gabriel.
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Fan-Page 15
As mentioned above, the dramatic shift in the policy agenda away from an interest in the
Israeli/Arab nation issue toward the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is not surprising result given the
course of events in the Middle East. First of all, government-to-government agreements were
achieved in the past 25 years between Israel and two of its neighbors, Jordan and Egypt. These
peace agreements settled the territorial disputes between these countries and led to a peaceful co-
existence. Second, there were Palestinian uprisings that caused the Mid-Eastern conflict to center
on the Palestinian issue. Moreover, since 2000, the dominance of the Palestinian issue has been
furthered by numerous terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians followed by Israeli military reactions.

With attention directed to the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, it is important for both sides that they
have a forum to present their viewpoints. In this arena, the Palestinians have definitely made
progress in the United States since their quotes in the AP have been just slightly below those of
Israelis since the early 1990s. This is in contrast to the 1970s when the AP quoted Israelis first
with a three to one advantage over the Palestinians. Among the five news wires examined, only
the AP gave the Israelis a statistically significant advantage over the Palestinians in 2002.

Among the non-U.S. news wires, the AFP stood out with Palestinians and Israelis speakers
appearing about equally in volume and order in the story, especially since 1986. Until 2002,
balance was about the best that was accorded to the Palestinians in recent times by any of the
five news wires studied. Besides the AFP, Israelis were consistently quoted more and more
often first at percentages above 50 for the time period 1994-2002

How can we explain the differences among the news organizations and the changes over time?
The findings clearly suggest that several factors are involved. If it was only the impact of key
events, we would not be able to explain the differences across the agencies. If it was only the
political and media climates in each state, we would not expect similarities in changes across
organizations. So, the findings imply a multi-factorial explanation with the most promising
combination being the interaction of the political climate of a society with key events and the
target audiences of each news organization. This may help to explain why various news agencies
react in a similar way to events with the magnitude of this reaction varying with the medium’s
audiences and political environment. Moreover, our findings highlight the impact of the political
mainstream on journalistic practices. The pattern of coverage of a disputed topic can reflect the
dominant political attitude of a state and can be interpreted by the notions of “Climate of
Opinion” and “Spiral of Silence” (Noelle-Neumann, 1984). Journalists may feel pressured to
report in a manner consistent with the views of their administration, leaders, or dominant
ideology (or, as Noelle-Neumann would have argued, those that are perceived by the media to be
dominant).

Obviously, a full analysis of all aspects of the media, public, and policy agendas is a much larger
task than has been undertaken in this paper. The data can be mined further in such dimensions as
individual policies sought by the two sides. This paper is an initial overview of issues that share
the common feature of persistence over time. Also, new approaches have been introduced. One
of these is quantitative assessments of not only the speakers in a news story but also the order of
speaker appearance. Another innovation is the use of the very existence of poll questions to infer
the policy agenda.


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