Palestinian-Arab Media Frames and Stereotypes of Israeli-Jews

By Katy Steele
Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications
2014, Vol. 5 No. 1 | pg. 3/4 |


The six topics reflect the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that media stories highlighted, while the frames provide a more detailed explanation of a specific aspect of each topic. It should be noted that each article does contain multiple topics and frames. This is due to the complexity of the conflict in each story, which can be interpreted in a multi-dimensional way. As the author read each article, she identified frames while making a detailed mark. Rather than just marking a tally every time a frame appeared, she noted the frame’s occurrence along with descriptive words or phrases that triggered the identification of that frame. For example, in one article from Ma’an News Agency, the phrase “[Palestinians] shot on site by the Israeli Army” triggered the researcher to note the presence of the Military violence frame. For another example, a reference to “the rogue State of Israel” indicated the presence of the Occupiers/Colonizer frame, and earned one mark for the corresponding frame and topic. A simple frequency count for each topic and frame is shown in Table 2.


This study found that the existing literature accurately matches the stereotypes that are portrayed in Palestinian media, which perpetuate these stereotypical images in editorials, opinion pieces and news analysis stories. The “Land Rights” topic was the most prevalent out of the six major topics identified. Four individual media frames stuck out as being the most prevalent: (1) Dominance; followed by (2) Inhumane and (3) Military violence; and lastly, (4) the True victim. These frames offer insight into the Palestinian-Arabs’ attitudes toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israeli-Jews. As seen in the literature on common Israeli-Jewish stereotypes, the Israeli Army is the basis of the Palestinian’s stereotype of the Israeli-Jews, and the fight to claim the role of the true victim is emphasized.

The fact that “Land Rights” was the most common topic confirms Seidel’s argument that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is much more a secular conflict over territory than it is a clash of religions, cultures or civilizations.53 This finding suggests that the current driving force behind the conflict is a fight of ownership over a disputed territory. The “Dominance” frame, which falls under this topic, was used the most out of all eighteen frames (53.3% of 30 articles). Stories using the “Dominance” frame depicted the Israeli-Jews as power-hungry, greedy and self-serving at the cost of others, namely, the Palestinians. Dominance was most often expressed in terms of domineering land and unjustly building Israeli settlements. One article said that Israel was “devouring” the Palestinian state with “an orgy of settlement building.”54 Palestinians were commonly described as “reclaiming” and “defending ” their right to the land, while Israel was often described as “confiscating,” “seizing,” “razing,” or “stealing” the Palestinians’ land. Israel’s state system was also described as a faulty, hypocritical, or false democracy.55 The state system was portrayed as against Palestinians in a zero-sum game, as in one article, which wrote, “Israel exploits cheap Palestinian labor force that benefits the Israeli economy and crushes the Palestinian economy.”56

Land Rights (48, 35.0%)* Violence (30, 21.9%) Miscellaneous (18, 13.1%) Palestinian Unity (16, 11.7%) Finger pointing (14, 10.2%) Values (11, 8.0%)
Dominance (power-hungry, greedy) (16, 53.3%) Occupiers/Colonizers (12, 40.0%) Aliens (immigrants, trespassers) (5, 16.7%) Apartheid (5, 16.7%) Zionists (10, 33.3%) Inhumane acts (merciless) (14, 46.7%) Military violence (14, 46.7%) Aggression (exaggerated intention, destruction) (6, 20.0%) Human rights abuses (10, 33.3%) Admiration/Envy (3, 10.0%) Anti-Semitism (2, 6.7%) True victim (13, 43.3%) Rally for Palestinian solidarity (12, 40.0%) Romanticizing Palestine (4, 13.3%) Blame for peace failure (10, 33.3%) Poor Israeli leadership (4, 13.3%) Religious undertones (5, 16.7%) Western puppets (6, 20.0%)

Notes: *Numbers refer to the count of frames employed under each topic and its percentage out of a total of 137 frames the six topics covered. Each article may have multiple frames.

Forty percent of the articles (12 out of 30 articles) also employed the Occupier/Colonizer frame using key words like “liberation” and “colonialism.” One article made reference to “the scar of occupation,”57 another to a “colonial-style divide-and-rule policy designed to oppress Palestinians,”58 and yet another to the “rogue State of Israel.”59 About Seventeen percent of the articles framed Israeli-Jews as aliens, outsiders, immigrants or trespassers. One article stated that Israel was “artificially created” by “invading aliens of Zionist settlers.”60 This study found a stereotype that was not detected through the literature review: a comparison of the Israeli state to apartheid South Africa. This frame, which appeared in five of the sample articles, was often tied to the phrase “racial supremacist.”

The next most prevalent topic was violence (21.9%), which has four frames. The “Inhumane acts” and “Military violence” frames each appeared in 46.7 percent of all articles. These frames confirm Shipler’s characterization of the stereotype of the Israeli-Jew, for which he aptly names a chapter in his book, “The Violent, Craven Jew.” The most common pattern involved stories on acts of violence committed by the Israeli military. Words used in relation to the Israeli military included “harassed,” “raided,” “targeted,” “brutality,” “vicious,” and “lethal.” One article pertained to Israel’s “hugely lucrative arms and security industries” as “warporn” and “hard core evil” that is “tested on Palestinian populations” by “Israeli killers.”61

Another commonality was tying Israeli-Jews to acts of inhumane violence, many times, acts connected with the Israeli military. The most common phrase used along this line was “ethnic cleansing,” and an overarching pattern was a portrayal of Israeli-Jews as ruthless, merciless killing machines. This pattern was often noted from stories detailing acts of violence committed against children. For example, one article discussed a 6-year-old boy in a Palestinian refugee camp who lost one of his eyes to a rubber-coated bullet fired by the Israeli military. The author of this article wrote, “you make me drink heartbreak and bitterness, and you don’t even have mercy on my children”62 Another article described Israeli military threatening children with rape or genital injury, as well as Israeli soldiers using Palestinian children as “human shields.”63 Although the stories mostly attributed the actual acts of violence to the Israeli military, Palestinian-Arab’s often apply the stereotype of the Israeli-Jew as violent and inhumane to the entire Jewish population. This confirms the literature’s definition of stereotypes as “reduce[ing] people to a few, simple, essential characteristics, which are represented as fixed by nature.”64 Using children again as an example, one article extended the military’s discrimination against Palestinian children to all of Israel: “When it comes to Palestinian children,” the article said, “Israel discriminates against them all.”65 Thus, this study affirms that Palestinians’ perception of Israeli-Jews is vastly influenced by the Israeli military.

Another common pattern that should be noted for appearing frequently in the “Inhumane” frame is a comparison of modern-day Israel to Nazi Germany. The word “genocide” was used several times in this frame, and the Israeli Security Agency was compared to heads of Hitler’s Gestapo.66 One article addressed the criticism that comparing Israel to Nazi Germany is anti-Semitic, by arguing “where parallels can be made, is it not right that they should be?”67

The “True victim” frame, which belongs to the topic of Miscellaneous, emerged as the fourth most prevalent by appearing in 43.3 percent of the articles. In order to win the battle of being the true victim, Shipler says one side must “create a picture of the enemy as a huge monster.”68 The stories under this frame did this by casting Palestinians as innocent bystanders who had been attacked by Israeli-Jewish aggressors. Frequently stories emphasized Palestinian suffering in order to arouse pity and sympathy for the Palestinian cause and incite anger at the Israeli-Jews. Many articles cited Palestinians as “unarmed protestors,” including one that details the account of a rural Palestinian man returning home from work after selling vegetables all day. The article wrote that the Israeli military had opened fire on the man’s village when he was just standing there with his donkey and his cart in the middle of the chaos. The article put it this way, “They [the Palestinians] weren’t fighters, they didn’t have weapons, and they were just coming home from work.”69 Still another story described a woman who needed to take her 6-year-old son to the hospital but was held up at an Israeli-Jewish checkpoint for so long that the her son died in her arms.70 Still another story related the account of a 17-year-old Palestinian boy who was shot by Israeli military on the way to picking up his birthday cake.71 Several articles using the “True victim” frame portrayed the Palestinian people as abandoned by the international community using words like “helpless” and “alone.”

Many of the frames can ultimately be tied back to the idea of victimhood, as the Palestinians are ultimately aiming to be the “true victims” of the conflict. For example, in the political realm, the “Blame for peace failure” and “Poor Israeli leadership” frames under the topic of “Finger Pointing” depict Israel as sluggish, stubborn and incompetent, making Palestinian leadership victims of an unwilling peace partner.

Two other topics were detected: “Palestinian Unity” emerged as the fourth prevalent topic (11.7%), while “Values” was the least prevalent topic as it upholds Arab religious and cultural beliefs over a clash of values (8.0%).

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