Sahhar, Micaela. Occupied Narrative: On Western Media Collusion with Israel’s ‘Wars’ and Recovering the Palestinian Story, PhD thesis. Melbourne: School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne, 2015.
This thesis seeks to capture the effects of decline in normative narrative structure about the Israel–Palestinian conflict. By engaging in analysis of Western media, the work illuminates the reliance of Western media coverage on Israeli narrative, and the way in which the media has conditioned Western publics to view the conflict. It argues that, historically, privileging a perception in which Palestinians are primarily defined through an Israeli optic has been key to the dissolution of Palestinian narrative internationally and has diminished the weight of contemporary Palestinian claims in diplomatic process. However, it is argued that the first decade of the 21st century saw a growing critique on how Israel-Palestinian relations are defined.
Accordingly, the project takes as its source material the reports and editorials of three different newspapers during two Israeli assaults on the Occupied Palestinian Territories: Operation Defensive Shield (2002) and Operation Cast Lead (2008–9), to document both the way in which certain kinds of narratives are privileged in portraying the Israel–Palestinian conflict, and the decline in narrative dominance which Israeli narrative had previously enjoyed. Both events occurred at the start of a radically different media age for capturing and disseminating information, which created an environment in which depiction of the operations in Western media could not be received as absolute, but circulated alongside other, contestable, narratives. This expanded traffic of information, and Israeli and Western media’s command over and response to this, evince a growing friction between Israeli-driven perspective and emerging alternatives in mainstream discourse. Thus, this thesis seeks to interrogate the inadequacies of received knowledge about the Israel–Palestinian conflict in the West at a moment in which the edifice of dominant narrative has become untenable, and simultaneously a moment in which new narratives might be advanced with hope of a willing reception.
The thesis concludes by evaluating the impact of, and response to, these operations on narrative about the conflict, and considers how this change in narrative direction since Operation Cast Lead could contribute to transforming the dynamic of Israel–Palestinian relations. It argues that shifts in media representation are indicative of the external pressures which have forced Israel to engage in a battle for legitimacy. It considers how certain discourses, such as securitisation and terror, which have privileged Israeli objectives through a matrix of deflection, could be (re)incorporated into an analytical rather than political framework to transform the current discourse on Israel–Palestinian relations, in particular by enabling the international community to scrutinise Israeli action and hold Israel to account. Finally it considers what effect these signs of narrative transformation could have on Israel’s relations with the Palestinians. However, it is concluded that work towards reconciliation will ultimately require radical shifts in the Israeli subjectivity in order to create a willing partner in Israel for meaningful change.