NGO Monitor Analysis (Vol. 2 No. 10) 15 June 2004
I'LAM - Media Center for Arab Palestinians in Israel:
The Facade of Human Rights and Democratic Principles
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Created in 2000 and based in Nazareth, I'LAM
describes itself as: "the only non-for-profit Palestinian Media
Center in Israel. With its commitment to media democracy in Israel,
I'LAM plays a key role in invigorating civil society and promoting
democracy and human rights in Israel, and make it more inclusive
and balanced towards its Palestinian citizens."
"Through our work we aim to empower the Palestinian media landscape and society by promoting equal access to the Israeli media, encouraging a fair information-flow, and fostering professional standards. We seek to strengthen the commitment of Palestinian media institutions towards the Palestinian society addressing their real media needs. In addition we aim to shape Israeli media policy to support impartiality, fairness, and equity and to influence Israeli media institutions to adopt more professional and unbiased standards in their coverage of Palestinian citizens of Israel."
According to its website, I'LAM is funded by the Swiss Federal
Department of Foreign Affairs, the New
Israel Fund, the Heinrich Boell Foundation, and the Foreign
Office of the British Council as well as the support of the Open
Society Institute Development Foundation. In
addition the EU's European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights
(EIDHR) has accepted a funding proposal from I'LAM for its
project "Responsible and Professional Media". (I'LAM's website does
not provide additional budgetary details.)
Examining I'LAM's activities, one finds a systematic pattern of distortion and a political agenda focused on demonization of Israel.
The dominance of I'LAM's political objectives are demonstrated
in its December 2000 report "The
Israeli Media and the Intifada" which states: "the war is taking place on the territories of the party, who is completely under siege and possesses mere rocks and rifles, whereas, the other party possesses the largest military arsenal in the Middle East." Repeating the standard Palestinian propaganda images, this document places the responsibility for the violence solely on Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount, thus ignoring the role of the Palestinian leadership in the situation. Ironically, the Israeli media is criticized for taking what I'LAM sees as a one-sided approach to its reporting on the violence.
I'LAM's website provides a link to Further
Literature including an "Account of the Events that Unfolded
at the Jenin Refugee Camp on April and March 2002". The book is
written by Wadea Awawdy, a board member of I'LAM. Another link goes
to an April 2002 article from Al-Itihad daily entitled "Report
from Jenin Refugee Camp: Even Flies Reveal What the Israeli Army
Wants to Hide."
The author concludes: "I imagine the picture: The soldiers are the grandchildren of the Nazis' victims, the Nazis' survivors. They have come here to consume food quickly and consume life quickly. This is the true image of Israel. The real Israel is not in the clean, lofty suburbs of Northern Tel-Aviv...It is not in the literary cafes and journalists' clubs...It is not its High Court. I saw the real Israel, its ugliness in the Jenin Refugee Camp on Monday, April 15, 2002. The rest remains decor for murder." Thus, I'LAM contributes to the myth of a massacre in Jenin that has been used to demonize Israel, and includes many of the Holocaust themes in such propaganda.
Furthermore, even when I'LAM returns to the media evaluation for which it
ostensibly receives funding, the political agenda remains dominant.
Ignoring Israel's dynamic, open and free media sector, which regularly
engages in criticism of governmental policies, I'LAM's description
is highly distorted. For example, I'LAM states that the Israeli
media "is to a large extent controlled by the national government,
which uses it to control and manipulate public knowledge and opinion.
Such anti-democratic tendencies in the Israeli media system have
their origin in governmental policies, legislative regulations,
and in self-censorship practiced by media representatives." Relying
on its own limited and
self-serving evidence I'LAM concludes that "the media in Israel fails to satisfy the fundamental responsibility of the media to disseminate balanced and accurate information and to promote democratic values, civil society, and pluralism."
Thus, while I'LAM engages in advocacy work, through its media-related projects, on behalf of Israel's Arab citizens, the organization also promotes an anti-Israel political agenda. I'LAM also contributes to the media distortions that have characterized coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through its criticism of the professionalism of Israeli journalism and the promotion of biased Palestinian narratives. On this basis, funding provided by government organizations and private philanthropies needs to be reviewed.