Summary: The Media Center for Arab Palestinians in Israel, funded by the EU and other sources, deliberately distorts Israel’s democracy and freedom of the press to serve its own agenda behind the guise of human rights.
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.