conflict & communication online, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2003
ISSN 1618-0747




Lea Mandelzis
The changing image of the enemy in the news discourse of Israeli newspapers, 1993-1994

Given that media representations are closely linked to public opinion and political policy, they are especially important during transitional periods, when people are most open to change (Dennis, 1991). The 1993 Oslo accords marked a radical change in Israeli politics. The mutual recognition between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the handshake on the White House lawn between Prime Minister Rabin and Chairman Arafat on September 1993 were dramatic and revolutionary steps. They reflected shifts in the attitudes of the Israeli government and media towards the Arab world in general and the Palestinians in particular.
This study examines changes that occurred within the news discourse of two leading newspapers as Israeli society evolved from a war culture towards a vision of peace. It focuses on stereotypes and myths relating to the perceived enemy of the State of Israel, namely Yasser Arafat and the PLO.
A sample was selected on a weekly random basis over two consecutive periods, separated by the signing of the Oslo accords, which marked a "transitory" breakpoint. (Azar and Cohen, 1979:159), i.e., a turning point and apex in a transformation from war to peace. Discourse content analysis was applied to 1186 news articles published on the first two pages of Ha'aretz, a quality newspaper, and Yedioth Ahronoth, a more popular publication. The chosen news articles related to security, peace and politics.
The pre-Oslo period was defined as lasting from 20 January 1993 to 26 August 1993; the post-Oslo period, from 3 September 1993 to 31 October 1994, when the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan was signed. The most prominent topic or actor in the news article was defined as 'primary'. The second most prominent topic or actor in the text was defined as 'secondary'. Quantitative research methods were complemented by qualitative data, i.e., selected quotations from news articles and interviews with key Israeli policymakers.
The findings show how mass communications introduce 'reality' elements into news discourse. It can be argued that the newspapers faithfully reproduced and legitimated different political attitudes during each period. Comparisons among the representation of security, peace and politics topics and actors in each period show that the routine news strategy was to highlight official policies and their assertions.


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On the author: Lea Mandelzis was awarded a Ph.D by Leicester University, Leicester, UK. Currently, she is a full time lecturer in the Department of Communication, Creativity and Criticism at the Academic Sapir College in Israel. The author's interests include the relationship between media and politics, with a focus on Media Representations of Security, Peace and Politics in News Discourse.

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