conflict & communication online, Vol. 4, No. 2, 2005
ISSN 1618-0747




Samuel Peleg & Eithan Alimi
A Palestinian State - Yes or No? Constructing political discourse in the Israeli print news media - An experimental design

This paper describes a research project which examines how attitudes are shaped and formed and how opinion makers and agenda setters influence such attitudes in their followers. We concentrate on the written media as our research environment. We explore how framing of news items affect readers. Our research design creates three articles which describe an identical topic: the ratification of a Palestinian state by the Israeli Cabinet. The three articles are framed differently: one advocates the decision and thus is imbued with positive framing, the second condemns it, and accordingly is permeated by negative frames and the third is frameless. Three different reader groups grapple with the texts and are being tested with the same three tests: memory, categorization and meaning tests. We predict that people who read the pro-state text would respond favorably to the idea of a Palestinian state, whereas those who were exposed to the opposite framing would develop an adverse attitude.
In sum, the interaction between leaders and followers is extremely important in shaping attitudes such as adherence, loyalty and commitment. Leaders with established authority and command have the potential of molding and forging beliefs, judgments and evaluations. Our results demonstrate significant support for this claim. This research might have long-range implications beyond indicating the nexus between manipulating a text and the comprehension of its readers. The suggestions and conclusions elaborated here can be incorporated into a broader research agenda, which deals with issues such as: authority and legitimacy (how do leaders lead, why do adherents follow?), recruitment and mobilization (how to animate and stimulate crowds?), political activism (how to elicit loyalty, commitment and willing to sacrifice?), propaganda and incitement (how to sway opinions and positions?), and from there, to even larger scaled explorations into the political, psychological and structural dimensions of regimes, political parties and social movements.



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On the authors:
Samuel Peleg is a Senior Lecturer of Political Communications and Political Violence at Tel Aviv University. He is also the Academic Director of the Strategic Dialogue Center at Netanya College. Dr. Peleg has published books and articles in various journals. Among his recent books: If Words Could Kill: the Failure of the Israeli Political Discourse. Jerusalem: Academon Books, 2003 (Hebrew);Zealotry and Vengeance: Quest of a Religious Identity Group. Lanham MD: Lexington Books, May, 2002; and Spreading the Wrath of God: From Gush Emunim to Rabin Square. Hakibutz Hameuhad, Tel Aviv, 1997 (Hebrew). Dr. Peleg writes often in the Israeli Press and is very active in civil society organizations in Israel. He is a consultant to several governmental Ministries and is also involved in Peace research with Palestinian scholars and activists.
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Eitan Y. Alimi teaches conflict and conflict resolution, social movements and the news media at both the Political Science Department, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Communication Studies Department, Ben-Gurion University. He received his Ph.D. from Boston College in 2004. He has researched and published articles on national insurgencies, the role of cognition in contentious politics, and the role of the news media during peacebuilding. His forthcoming book is titled: The Palestinian Intifada and the Israeli Society: Political Opportunities, Framing Processes, and Contentious Politics.
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