How Does Peace Journalism Apply to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?

Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian National Authority and Shimon Peres, now the President of Israel, meet at the Davos World Economic Forum in 2007.

(Editor’s Note: Some students in the International Media program at American University are now researching their final capstone projects. These projects will take the form of either scholarly papers, or professional and creative projects. We are posting proposals and updates on these projects to demonstrate their progress.)

by Rachel Kohn
Special to Sutradhar’s Market

In health communication campaigns (Think of the style of public service announcement like “This is drugs, and this is your brain on drugs,” for example) the architects of the campaign aim to affect attitudes in the interest of public health. Similarly, peace communication campaigns uses vehicles ranging from so called “edutainment” to dialogues to positively influence attitudes among people involved in a conflict situation. Just as a health communication campaign does not take the high-calorie bear claw out of the hand of a diabetic, a peace communication campaign does not take the gun out of the hand of a child soldier. Its aim is to influence the individual and/or group’s decision-making process, hopefully in a long-term, meaningful way, discouraging harmful attitudes and encouraging constructive attitudes.

For my capstone, I am conducting research to design a peace journalism campaign. Peace journalism, a subset of peace communication, is defined in different ways by different practitioners.

My area of interest is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the context of my project, peace journalism consists of the use of deliberately crafted media to guide the attitudes of people in a conflict zone in the practitioner’s desired direction. At present, I plan to synthesize theory and observations from the fields of ethnic conflict, peace communication, and development. Then I will collect new data through focus groups with students of Israeli and Palestinian descent and in-depth interviews with experts in the fields of communication, social media, and conflict psychology. Finally, I will use all this information to create a preliminary framework and content for an online, participatory portal where constructive, equal exchange of day-to-day information and long-term narratives can take place between Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, guided by administrators maintaining the content and tone of the platform in keeping with the theory and goals on which these media are based.

While it is not within the scope of my capstone, if the launch of such a portal and research evaluating its impact on participants and casual viewers supported its effectiveness as a vehicle for positive change, the model could be used in other cases of ethnic conflict.

(The photo is by Yoshiko Kusano for the World Economic Forum via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.)

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