Saariaho, Katri. Representation of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in American Newspapers, BA Thesis, Dept of Languages, University of Jyvaskyla, Finland, 2015.
The aim of this thesis was to find out how two American newspapers, The Washington Post and The New York Times cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The focus was on the representation of groups, individuals and the depiction of the power relations between the two sides of the conflict.
The analysis showed that the representation of Israelis and Palestinians is not as equal and neutral as the ideals of the press give reason to assume. Washington Post often depicted Israeli violence as institutionalized and Palestinian as militancy, sometimes even terrorism, which gives Israeli violence a certain justification. Israeli violence was often represented in a rather opaque and distancing way, but certain lexical choices also implied its condemnation. References to Israeli victims were sometimes such that they evoke sympathy for them, but Palestinians’ situation was also discussed with emotionally affective lexical choices. New York Times similarly presented the Israeli military as institutionalized, although it did also acknowledge institutionalization in the Palestinian military. Israeli violence was again depicted more opaquely that Palestinian violence, but the representation was more equal than in the case of Washington Post. NYT’s references to religion were, however, more unequal since they only gave prominence to the religion of the Israelis, both as victims and in other positions. References to civilians focused on Israelis and ignored the position of the Palestinians. The results also showed analogy with previous studies: the asymmetry in the power between the two sides was largely ignored, and Israel’s actions were shown as more institutionalized and legitimized than those of Palestine.
Finally, it has to be acknowledged that the research space of the present study was rather limited, and the research could have been conducted further, regarding both the amount of data and the depth of analysis. The method of study was also limited to only a few aspects, so there is room for a more all-encompassing study that pays more attention to, for instance, multimodality and selection of quotes. The results showed, nevertheless, that the representation of Israelis and Palestinians was unequal. In case the conflict sees no end in the near future, it is important to continue scrutinizing the coverage so that the unequal representations do not continue to influence the public’s understanding of the nature of the conflict.