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Israeli Apartheid: Separating Fact, Fiction, and (Public) Opinion

By Shaheen B. Merhej


The present study analyzes the fundamental disconnect between Israeli policies consistent with apartheid in the West Bank, and the reticence to accept the apartheid label as displayed by the Israeli state and society (evidenced by an increasingly hostile reaction to the label in Israeli web-based news-media). The media serves as a critical go-between in political signaling, responsible for the repackaging of state information for public consumption, both at home and abroad. The emergence of the “new media” in the 21st century adds another dimension to this – due to the preoccupation of modern media enterprises with profitability and survival in an increasingly competitive and oversaturated market, the products of “new media” outlets can be seen as a reflection of public opinion in that a given outlet’s survival is tied to its readership, which is in turn dependent on an agreeable “message” in line with that outlet’s ideological positions and the dominant public opinion within that context. An analysis of major Israeli web-media outlets was conducted over a yearlong period centered around the publication of a controversial March 2017 United Nations report accusing Israel of apartheid practices, and focusing on discussion of the apartheid label in the public discourse. Regardless of ideology, these outlets displayed an increase in hostility to the apartheid label over the course of the study period, a change which is even more stark when comparing pre-report and post-report aggregations of data. Further, despite an increase in hostility to the apartheid label, these outlets lacked substance in their arguments, relying instead on misleading writing tactics to dispute its veracity rather than evidence to support their claim that Israel is not an apartheid state. The results of the study can be construed as follows: that Israel is an apartheid state; that the Israeli state and society are unwilling to accept the apartheid label, despite the abundance of evidence; that Israeli apartheid deniers lack evidence to their argument because such evidence does not exist; and that the driving factor behind apartheid denial in Israel is the potential harm the label poses to Israel’s economy and grand strategy in the near future

Topics: Apartheid, Constructivism, Israel, Media, Realism, West Bank, Communication Technology and New Media, International Relations, Mass Communication, Near and Middle Eastern Studies
Publisher: ScholarWorks at UMass Boston
Year: 2018
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