Joseph Zissels

Analysis of Ukrainian Mass Media Publications
on Conflict in the Middle East

Within the past year - the period of aggravation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict - the Ukrainian mass media significantly increased the volume of publications, radio and TV reports on the confrontation in the Middle East.

Most of these materials are news reports on specific actions of the confronting parties: acts of terrorism, military operations of Israel, interpretation of the events by the sides involved in the conflict.

A lot of publications are devoted to the nuances of the negotiation process: reports on meetings between representatives of the two sides with intermediaries in the negotiating process; reports on meetings with representatives of the third-party countries; positions of the sides, and commentaries of the participants in the talks.

In its majority, information of both kinds is drawn from reports of the world's news agencies. As a rule, these reports are repeated by the Ukrainian mass media without any essential corrections, editorial commentaries or evaluations. The positions of specific bodies of mass media are usually found in their selection of news reports to this effect, in the accents they make, or in the character of presentation of their materials. At the same time, we need to note, first of all, that there are very few original materials, based upon Ukrainian sources abroad or reports of Ukrainian correspondents. Secondly, there are practically no analytical materials in the Ukrainian editions that would deeply and comprehensively analyze the essence of this confrontation, the positions of different parties involved, prospects of development of events and ways of settling the conflict.

A certain place in the covering of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is devoted to reports on the position of Ukraine in this regard: statements of the supreme leadership of this country; information on the visits of Ukrainian officials to Israel and other countries of the Middle East, during which issues of the Palestinian-Israeli confrontation were discussed; reports on Israeli representatives' visits to Ukraine. Such reports, as a rule, contain only official disclosure of the position of the state, the essence of initiatives offered, statements on the results of the meetings and talks. Such reports are usually published without any comments even by editions that are critical about actions of Israel. However, these editions often ignore such events and don't even let people know they took place.

A special place among materials on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is devoted to publications and statements in electronic mass media of official representatives of the Arab countries - workers of embassies accredited in Ukraine, leaders and members of delegations that pay visits to Ukraine. Hostile attacks upon Israel in such materials can be found most often. But one should notice that there are very few of such materials in the general body of reports on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. They can be found much more seldom than publications and electronic mass media statements of Israeli representatives, in particular, of workers of the Israeli Embassy.

General analysis of publications in the Ukrainian mass media on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Autonomy over this year shows that in its majority the Ukrainian press and TV express a neutral stand on these events and give no preference to any of the warring parties. At the same time, there are both pro-Israeli mass media bodies in Ukraine and mass media bodies that are critical about Israel's position in the conflict in the Middle East. The first kind prevails.

Examining the mass media evaluations in their dynamics, we can state that some editions, which used to be pronouncedly objective in their covering of the conflict, have lately begun to demonstrate more tolerant attitude towards the position of Israel. We can remember, for instance, that not so long ago a number of radical publications interpreted the confrontation between the Palestinians and the Israelis as the "genocide of the Palestinian people", and even publications of moderate views talked about the tragic events in Sabra and Shatila as the "bloody slaughter" of innocent victims of the conflict.

The number of publications that present the Israeli side in this conflict in a negative way has declined on the whole. Moreover, the number of articles has increased, in which authors share and support the stance and actions of Israel.

Most mass media in Ukraine represent nonpartisan editions. But some of them still prefer a certain party or ideology, without declaring out loud their belonging to any party. Despite the fact that political parties of Ukraine have practically no influence on Ukraine's foreign policy carried out by the executive power, some of them have nevertheless got their own foreign-policy priorities, which are sometimes linked with certain foreign-policy interests or ideological aims. As a rule, the choice of foreign-policy priorities is never announced publicly, nor gets the form of special items on the party program; however, it is constantly present in the practical activities of the parties, in particular, in their publications.

Today's mass media, whose sympathies mostly belong to the Palestinians, are either bodies of one of the rightist parties, or editions of radical nationalistic views. But even they rarely express their views openly. Most often their attitudes are veiled and are demonstrated only in the fact that while covering the developments in the Middle East they pay greater attention to the Palestinian position in the conflict, sympathetically and emotionally describe the losses of the Palestinians only, thus presenting them as victims of violence. Not condemning the actions of Israel in a direct way, in their publications, which look neutral on the surface, they quite subtly push the reader to the conclusions and evaluations that are spearheaded against Israel. Even in the recent act of terrorism against the United States these editions hint at "the hand of Israel", motivating it by the formula "Who benefits from this?".

We should also note that the number of mass media publishing anti-Semitic materials has declined in Ukraine lately. At the same time, those of them that are still in the business of promoting anti-Semitic views devote practically no attention to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and concentrate solely on internal problems of this country. They mention Israel usually in the context of infamous anti-Semitic myths of the geopolitical power of the Jews, the secret plot of the world's Jewry against Ukraine, etc. And certainly the negative attitude to the Jews, formed by such publications, even though they are marginal among the Ukrainian mass media, is transferred to the image of Israel and evaluation of its actions in this conflict.