Article by Mira Feuerstein & Lea Mandelzis
This study is based on a critical media literacy education (CMLE) program in a “peace education through media” (Pet- Med) project conducted simultaneously in three Israeli academic colleges amongst Arab and Jewish students. It sought to assess general short-term trends of changes in the students’ perceptions of the media coverage of the conflict and the role a critical approach towards the media can play in promoting tolerance, and recognizing mutual-victim roles. The pre-post quantitative questionnaires evinced a general trend towards a more moderate position than the students took in response to the conflict. In the wake of the program, more of them acknowledged the importance of knowing the “Other” and the media effect upon constructions of extreme reality and their own perceptions.
This study forms part of a CMLE program that sought a) to enhance students awareness of the way in which the mainstream media tends to focus on the threat of continued violence in the Israel-Palestinian conflict via the use of war frames; and b) to demonstrate how adopting a critical approach to the media coupled with learning about the vested narratives of both sides, can deepen students’ understanding of media frames effects, and mitigating their suspicion of the “Other.”
The theory of framing posits that the media selection of certain aspects of reality makes them more salient, promoting particular definitions of an issue, causal interpretations, and moral evaluation and/or treatment recommendation (Goffman 1974; Entman 1993). The manner in which information containing diverse facts, perspectives, and opinions is presented and the narrative form chosen are essential (Cappella & Jamieson 1997).
In this sense, the media can either fuel conflicts or promote reconciliation by employing de-escalation-oriented peace frames. Peace journalism can thus frame stories in such a way as to encourage analysis and non-violent response, explaining the underlying causes of the conflict and seeking to avoid polarizing the parties (Lynch & McGoldrick 2005: 5). Proscribing black and white stereotypes, it contributes to gaining genuine understanding (Kempf & Thiel 2012). War journalism, in contrast, presents conflict as competition, framing it in win-lose terms and reinforcing typical misconceptions that escalate the conflict (Deutsch 1973) and in the long run harden into social beliefs (Kempf 2003). Inter alia, these beliefs include the justness of one’s victim role, de-legitimization of the enemy, and the defense of national security through a policy of strength (Bar-Tal 1998).
The present study was based on the core principles of CMLE in accordance with the National Association of Media Literacy Education (NAMLE), and the current academic research in the field.2 Constituting the attempt to examine the attitudes of Jewish and Arab college students engaged in intercultural dialogue about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it set out to assess whether and how this context affected their frames of the conflict (short-term effects)—in particular, their attitude towards the Other. Based on a narrative approach (Bar-On & Kassem 2004; Litvak-Hirsch & Bar-On 2007), the dialogue was designed to familiarize the students with diverse narratives and identities and help them reexamine them. It focused on the nature of media intervention and its interpretation in order to allow the students to work cognitively (ideas and conceptions) and emotionally (feelings) through their views concerning the conflict.
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