Today’s course with Professor Dov Shinar was a continuation of our previous discussions on media coverage during times of conflict or war. In the communications field, there seems to be nostalgia for the days of radio news. With television reports, information is often disseminated through the biased lens of the reporter. Instead of allowing the public the opportunity to digest facts, experts are brought in to explain the meaning of events.
The media has the ability to spread alarm. In the two weeks that I have been in Israel, I have noticed that my classmates are glued to their phone screens. Every few minutes, I’ll hear a beep or buzz and someone will notify me of the number of rockets fired. Before the more violent side of the conflict kicked up, no one was really updating me on the continued peace process between Hamas and Israel. Now, I can’t turn around without new stats on the casualties or trivia questions on the Iron Dome.
The media also has the power to shape reality and perception. Carol Daniel Kasbari’s Ted Talk, “Israel-Palestine: Going Beyond the Dialogue of Words,” outlines both negative and positive outcomes in living in a world dominated by screen-filtered appearances. Kasbari is now a conflict transformation specialist. However, years ago, she was just a young Palestinian girl living in Nazareth. She held Israeli citizenship, unlike her future husband Osama Kasbari. The couple was working on obtaining Osama’s permanent residency up until 2003 when the government pasted the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law. The order denied residency or citizenship by way of marriage to any Palestinian living in hostile areas.
As a conflict transformation specialist, Carol Kasbari works to change the Israeli-Palestinian narrative. She provides four tips: engage in open dialogue of words and action; invite media professionals to see personal perspectives; bring the unconvinced into the circle; and build up a supportive community. Kasbari admits that as a young girl she was heavily influenced by the stories told from her parents and the television. Of the Arabs living in occupied territories, she only knew to be afraid. Kasbari realized that her perspective was inaccurate once she entered college in Bethlehem. Since then she has been working to invite others to engage in open dialogue.
Although television had a part in shaping Carol Kasbari’s incomplete perception of Arabs living in occupied territories, the specialist does not discount the media’s positive influence. After class, we were taken to a highly respected news station, the Voice of Israel. There we spoke with employees at the station, including a colonel tasked with broadcasting safety procedures to Israeli citizens.
Our tour guide explained that the reports mostly remain neutral and does not lean right or left. This is extremely commendable. However, I was disappointed that there did not seem to be a strong Palestinian narrative present at the station. I wholeheartedly agree with Carol Kasbari’s assessment that in order to transform the conflict there needs to be open dialogue between both sides. The media has the power to facilitate the sharing of narratives.
Professor Shinar’s class and the trip to the Voice of Israel was a good ending to our Politics and Communication course in Jerusalem. Hopefully the course picks up the same momentum once we enter Tel Aviv. As a wrap up to the first half of our dialogue, the students were treated to a group dinner. Before dinner ended, we went around to share highlights from our time in Jerusalem. Several people commented on the Israeli resilience during and after bomb shelter pit stops. Others were glad to be privy to the sense of friendliness and community. Yet still were the students who appreciated the conversations amongst peers about the various religious groups represented in the program. Proving once again that open dialogue bridges gaps and brings people on opposite ends of the spectrum closer together.