Peace Journalism vs. War Journalism, A Report and Analysis

Astrid-Margrete Johannessen, 5 May 2008


8 dead as gunman attacks school in Jerusalem

Alaa Abu Dhein, a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem has killed 8 Jewish students, at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, according to Israeli police. The dead are all boys aged n their 20s who attended the religious school. (SMH, March 8, Reuters, March 7)
Dhein, 20, who was familiar to the school as he used to work there as a driver, managed to smuggle a AK – 47 rifle and a pistol hidden in a box into the school at 8.30pm Thursday local time and shot 8 students before he himself was shot by an off-duty Israeli soldier. (SMH, March 8, Reuters, March 7) The grieving students gathered to comfort each other, as the police investigates how this tragic event unfolded and is looking into security measures. Large numbers of police were patrolling Jerusalem last night in response to the attack. (SMH, March 8) Peace talk between Israel and Palestine will continue regardless of the attack, in Jerusalem, Foreign Ministry spokesman Aryeh Mekel said Thursday.
Dhein, 20, is reported to have been arrested four months ago and held in an Israeli prison for two months. (SMH, March 8, Reuters, March 7)
The Mercaz Harav Yeshiva is a right- winged spiritual centre for Israel’s religious settler movement, something which is seen as a motivation for the attack. The yeshiva is a symbol of the national religious strain of Judaism that provides the backbone of the settler movement. (SMH, March 8, Reuters, March 7)
The attack has been widely condemned by foreign Governments, including the US, France, Britain and Germany. (Reuter, March 7) Also, the Palestinian Authority chairman, Mahoud Abbas and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the attack. (Reuters, 7 March)
The incident is the deadliest on Israeli civilians in nearly two years and the first attack inside Jesrsalem in four years. (Reuters, 7 March, SMH, 7 March) Hamas has not claimed responsibility for the attack, however, according to Hezbollah’s television station in Lebanon, a group called “Galilee Freedom Battalions” claims responsibility. (SMH, March 8)
The attack comes only days after an Israeli offensive in Gaza which, according to the United Nations, killed more than 120 Palestinians of whom 52 were civilians including 27 children. (SC/9266, 1 March 2008) The Israeli offensive was carried out in a quest to stop the firing of Qassam rockets into Israel. (SC/9266, 1 March 2008, The Guardian March 3) Israel’s representative, Daniel Carmon, has claimed Israel’s right as well as duty to defend its people against rocket attacks. However, it has been acknowledged that military action alone is not likely to succeed in stopping the rockets being fired and might indeed rather provoke more violence, according to Israelis and UN spokespersons. (SC/9266, 1 March 2008, The Guardian March 3) According to Middle East expert and conflict-resolution analyst Helena Cobban, a ceasefire requires negotiations with Hamas, which the Israeli leadership is currently unwilling to undertake. (Kamiya, 2007, Reuters, March 7) The US backed peace process refuses to include Hamas, which won the Januray 2006 elections in Palestine. (Reuters, March 7) Cobban claims "the need to embrace political inclusiveness in the peacemaking” and warns that not including Hamas can lead to frustration, and thus cause increased violence. (Kamiya, 2007)
Director of the Prospects for Peace Initiative and the Middle East Initiative, Daniel Levy, claims the importance of including all parties to the peace talk and suggests that including Hamas could be positive for the peace process and lead to a “de-escalation followed by a formal ceasefire understanding, prisoner exchanges and the significant easing of conditions in the Gaza Strip.” (Levy, March 5 2008) According to Levy “64 percent of Israelis express their preference for ceasefire negotiations with Hamas.” (Levy, March 5 2008)
Egypt has recently held inclusive talks with leaders of Hamas, who are controlling the Gaza strip. (Reuters, March 6) Israeli and European officials regard Egypt as key to brokering a truce between Hamas and Israel. (Reuters, March 6) “I hope that all Palestinian factions in Gaza will cooperate with Egypt in order to reach to a full truce," said Saeb Erekat, a member of the Palestinian team negotiating with Israel. (Reuters, March 6) Hamas official, Sami Abu Zuhri, calls for Israel to stop aggression and end the blockade of Gaza. (Reuters, March 6)

Israel’s use of force has been condemned for being disproportionate and excessive by the United Nations and several human right organizations. In a UN press release, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon stated that “While recognising Israel’s right to defend itself, I condemn the disproportionate and excessive use of force that has killed and injured so many civilians, including children. Israel must fully comply with international humanitarian law and exercise the utmost constraint. ” (Security Council, SC/9266, 1 March 2008) He also called for the International community and important stakeholders to influence the parties to end the violence and allow humanitarian relief. (SC/9266, 1 March 2008)
Riyad Mansour, the Permanent Observer of Palestine, calls for the UN Security Council to take action against “military assaults carried out by Israel against civilians.” (SC/9266, 1 March 2008) He calls for the occupying forces to open all border crossings in Gaza and to allow humanitarian supply, medical treatment and access to hospital for injured people in Gaza. (SC/9266, 1 March 2008)
UN agencies are currently working on the ground and UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) is assisting people in distress. (SC/9266, 1 March 2008)

The conflict which goes back more than 80 years, is about self-determination, statehood and territory and involves issues concerning national, religious and cultural identity, according to Dr. Edy Kaufman, at the Center for International Development and Conflict Management. She claims that disconnections between official- level negotiations and the reality of the public as well as power asymmetries and a failure to address structural roots of the conflict has prevented progress in the peace process. (Kaufman, Salem and Verhoeven, 2006) She also claims that oppression, abuse, powerlessness and despair are causing some Palestinians to engage in violence against Israelis such as suicide attacks. (Kaufman, Salem and Verhoeven, 2006) She claims that a peaceful situation can only be reached if these issues, including human rights, justice and economic opportunities for Palestinians are being addressed. (Kaufman, Salem and Verhoeven, 2006)
Diana Francis at the Middle East Nonviolence and Democracy (MEND) says that there is a ‘culture of fear’ within both Israel and Palestine which needs to be dealt with through cooperation and dialogue between communities and civil societies. (Francis, MEND) “There need to be a multifaceted approach to break the mindset of mistrust, fear an violence”, she says. (Fransic, MEND) According to the Middle East Nonviolence and Democracy, non-violence is the only alternative to create peace in the Middle East.


Diana Francis, Middle East Nonviolence and Democracy (MEND) and (Accessed 27 April 2008)

CNN world, March 7, 2008, Libya block U.N. condemnation of Jerusalem seminary attack (Accessed 28 April, 2008)

Kaufman, Edy, Salem, Walid and Verhoeven, Juliette (2006) “Looking Back, Looking Forward: Toward Transforming the Conflict” In Bridging the Divide:Peacebuilding in the Israeli- Palestinian Conflict, p.191-219, Edited by Kaufman, Edy, Salem, Walid and Verhoeven, Juliette, Lynne Rienner Publishers, Colorado

Last chance for Mideast peace, While Bush and Olmert cling to their hard line, hope for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is slipping away forever. By Gary Kamiya (Accessed 28 April, 2008)
Levy, Daniel, 5 March 2008, Prospects for Peace, Rice, Gaza and Annapolis: what next? (Accessed 28 April, 2008)

Reuters, Thu Mar 6, 2008, Egypt holds inconclusive talks with Hamas on truce,

Reuters, Fri Mar 7, 2008, Gunman kills 8 in Jerusalem Jewish college,

Sydney Morning Herald, March 8. 2008, After the slaughter, sickening jubilation (Accessed 24 April, 2008)

Sydney Morning Herald, March 7. 2008, Eight dead as gunman infiltrates school (Accessed 24 April, 2008)

Sydney Morning Herald, March 8. 2008, Gunman was Arab working at the school (Accessed 24 April, 2008)

Sydney Morning Herald, March 3. 2008, Israel hits back, threatens more (Accessed 24 April, 2008)

The Guardian, March 3 2008, Punishing the people (Accessed 25 April, 2008)

United Nations Security Council SC/9266, 1 March, 2008 (Accessed 25 April, 2008)


Front page of Sydney Morning Herald, March 8, 2008 reads: “After the slaughter, sickening jubilation” and is followed by two images: one is a close-up of grieving Jewish students. The other is depicting celebrating Palestinians: in the middle of the picture is a smiling man with a gun pointing upwards, and a child on his arm.
The first image depicts decent and grieving Israelis, embracing each other. It communicates the meaninglessness and injustice in the killings of these innocent students and that the students on the picture had to experience such trauma and grief.
The other image depicts what the heading calls “sickening jubilation” – Palestinians happily celebrating the killings. It depicts them as inhumane, uncompassionate and cruel. The images awake sympathy for the Jewish boys and provoke disgust for the Palestinians, who are being portrayed as the enemy. The article does not mention any reasons for the violence, and so the reader gets the impression that the reason for the killings is in the cruelty of the Palestinians. The act of only one man is seen as representative for the whole Palestinian community and the whole group is portrayed as guilty. Dividing the parties to the conflict into the dichotomy of “good – evil” in this way is typical of War Journalism. (Lynch and McGoldrick, 2005) The visual images as well as the text in this article are giving a simplified and propagandistic representation of the conflict, by depicting the Israelis as the good, innocent and grieving victims, and Palestinians as killers, inhuman and cruel.
The images speak louder than the text where it says that 8 Israelis and 120 Palestinians have been killed during the previous week. Ottosen (2007, p114) claims that “visual elements play an important role in creating enemy images, which is an important part of propaganda in war journalism.”
The article describes how the “gun massacre of eight Jewish students in Jerusalem” was followed by “thousands of Palestinians pouring to the streets to celebrate, firing shots in the air.” It mentions that Hamas calls the killings “heroic” and “God’s vengeance”, thus drawing a clear enemy image of Hamas as cruel killers. Hamas and the fact that Gaza is Hamas- ruled are seen as the main problem.
The article briefly mentions that a while ago “more than 120 Palestinians were killed during an Israeli offensive in Gaza” and that the recent violence puts “strains on the faltering US- backed peace process.” There has not been much reporting on the 120 Palestinians that were killed compared to the front- page news of 8 Israelis killed. It does not give any reason for why 120 Palestinians were killed.
In the article, the perpetrators of the violence are labelled “terrorist” which is common in War Journalism. (Lynch and McGoldrick, 2005) The article explains that in the UN Security Council, Libya refused to agree on a condemnation of the attack without also condemning the recent Israeli incursions into Gaza.(Smh, 8 march 2008) The article quotes the Israeli ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman, as saying: “Unfortunately this is what happens when the Security Council is infiltrated by terrorists.” On the other hand, Libya’s deputy UN representative refers to Israel as “the Israeli terrorist regime.” Thus, the word terrorism is used to label the enemy. Calling each other terrorists and accusing each other of being the evil- doer is only reinforcing hostility and the cycle of violence and creates the impression that the conflict cannot be resolved. This kind of War Journalism is likely to create negative feelings of hopelessness and compassion fatigue in the viewer. It can also have a negative effect among the parties to the conflict, by fuelling hatred and instigating more violence due to the polarization and creation of an enemy- mage. Thus, labelling either Hamas, people in the Security Council or the Israeli Government ‘terrorists’ is destructive both in terms of the conflict itself, in terms of creating understanding among media audiences and in terms of creating journalism which aims to be constructive and solution- oriented. (Peleg, 2007, ) Peleg (2007, p.48) claims that “if the depiction focuses on killings and destruction, the tangible and observable impact of aggression, it might elicit counter-violence, reprisal and enhancement of the conflict”. The article in SMH paints a dehumanising picture of Palestinians, without referring to any motivations for their actions and with no explanations for their needs and interests. It does not attempt to view the conflict from different angles and does not look into root causes for the violence nor the structural violence endured by the Palestinians living in the occupied territories. Thus, war journalism creates ignorance and prejudice in media audiences, and can be a negative influence in the conflict by indirectly instigating revenge and an escalation of violence.
Focusing on psychological damage, investigating the underlying structural problems, such as oppression, poverty, lack of opportunities and humiliation might be a starting point to making the conflict more transparent instead of opaque. (Peleg, 2007, Lynch and McGoldrick, 2005) This is important when reporting a conflict according to peace journalism.
In a related article in Sydney Morning Herald, March 7 2008, called “Eight dead as Gunman infiltrates school”, Yehuda MeshiZahav, head of the Zaka emergency service is reported saying: “It was a slaughterhouse”. The article also mentions briefly that “a recent Israeli offensive killed more than 120 Palestinians, about half of whom were identified as civilians.”
Yet, in the following sentence, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman is quoted saying: “terrorists are trying to destroy the chances of peace but we will certainly continue peace talks.” No explanation is made as to why 120 Palestinians were killed and how this relates to the chances for peace and peace talks. Thus, the article manages to create an enemy image of Palestinians and Hamas by calling them ‘terrorists’ who want to destroy the peace talks. Instead of looking at the situation from different angles which might contribute to understanding and promote the chances of peace, the articles create an enemy image of Palestininas by referring to them as terrorists, even though a much larger number of Palestinians is reported to have been killed lately by the Israelis. A crowd of Israelis outside the school is reported to be shouting “Death to the Arabs”.
It is painting the image of two parties fighting each other, without giving any nuanced explanation of the situation or any background information or any information of living conditions or of structural oppression and poverty.

The article in the Sydney Morning Herald, March 8, 2008, called: “Gunman was Arab working at the school” says that “the incident brings to at least 62 the number of civilians killed in the 10 days since Israel’s assassination of five Hamas leaders, in respond to a fatal rocket attack in the Israeli town of Sderot.” Here the violence is explained as being in response to previous violence, which was in response to previous violence again. Violence is seen as part of an ongoing cycle of violence, without explanations for how it come about in the first place, nor any consideration for how it might come to an end. Thus, under the pretence of being ‘objective’ by only reporting the facts, the choice of these facts is creating expectations in the media audience that further violence will continue and that there are no alternative solution or possibility for hope.
Ottosen (2007, p.112) claims that media can “escalate conflicts by reproducing propaganda developed as part of media strategy and PR campaigns by the parties involved.”
Because Israel, with its substantial support form the US is very powerful compared to Palestine, the reporting can easily be biased. The perspective from the Western world, and especially the US is often biased in favour of Israel due to close trade, economic relations and military cooperation.
When writing peace journalism it is therefore important to be aware of this, and to report on the conflict from different perspectives, giving a truth- oriented approach without sympathising with one part and condemning the other as ‘terrorists’. Peace journalism has a crucial role in being people- oriented and giving voice to the victims, the weak and powerless and thus reporting on conflict from a bottom- up perspective instead of a top- down perspective. (Galtung, 2000)
Thus, in order to change the perspective from war journalism to peace journalism it is important to look into different sources. When reporting on this development, SMH used mostly official resources. A strong focus was given to powerful leaders within the Israeli and US government. In order to instigate peace journalism which can provide a more nuanced picture, other resources must be looked at. This includes reports from civilians who were there and sources such as United Nations Resoultions and Press releases, Human Rights Reports, spokespersons from groups such as International Crisis Group, Human Rights Watch or spokespersons form a peace initiatives.
In order to create peace journalism, it is important to abandon the simplistic dualism of good/ bad, us/ them propaganda and the creation of enemy images, and to rather focus on possible solutions to the conflict. (Lynch and Mcgoldrich, 2005, Galtung, 2000) It is important to be aware of all parties to the conflict and to change focus from the violence and who is ‘winning’ to instead investigate and analyse underlying issues and processes. (Lynch and Mcgoldrich, 2005, Galtung, )
In making these issues more visible and understandable, peace journalism aims to look at how the conflict can be resolved in terms of non-violent and peaceful action. Lynch and Mcgoldrich, 2005) Also, Galtung claims that peace journalism needs to dig deep into a conflict to discover the underlying issues, and then to suggest creative solutions (Galtung, 2000)

War journalism can create fear in media audiences, due to its focus on violence, enemies, revenge and it’s use of words such as terrorist, killer etc. (Thussu, 2006)
In my report, I tried to avoid using words with very negative connotations and to avoide judgements and simplifications. My report is different as it does not portray the parties as good vs bad and it looks at the situation form different perspectives. It tries to explain the violence by looking at deeper structural problems and by looking at oppression and frustration. It emphasises the importance of listening to all parties, including Hamas, and stresses the importance of including Hamas in peace talks. It suggests that it might be more possible to reach ceasefire and a peace deal if all parties come together to negotiate. It gives voice to people who deal with peace initiatives at the grassroots and people who are experts on conflict resolution.

The articles in the Sydney Morning Herald were reporting the facts and avoiding giving personal opinions about the incident. Still, it cannot be called objective, as it chooses which facts to report, how to frame the incident and who to quote. Thus it excludes other angles to the story. It chooses to quote the opinions of the elite and of official sources, including from Israel, the US and the UN. It gives a black and white and polarized picture of the conflict. A reason why conflicts are often reported in this war journalism style might be because this kind of journalistic simplification makes it easier for the media audience to categorise the conflict, that is, to create order out of chaos. It makes them think that they have understood something, without having to go into the complex nature of reality. Simplifications and good/ bad dichotomy creates the illusion in the reader that he/ she can fathom what happens in the world, and so it satisfies the curiosity and the need to be informed. At the same time it satisfies a thirst for drama and to ‘witness’ action and tragedy that happens far away at the same time as he can feel that he himself is safe.

My report was not objective either, as choices were made as to what angle to take on the reporting, what people to quote and which voices to include and which to exclude. Yet, it does go deeper into the problematic issues and it tries to be more optimistic and solution- oriented. It does not give a black/ white picture of the conflict but is showing more nuances, which means that it tries to give a more authentic picture of reality compared to the report which simplifies and favours event over the bigger picture.


CNN world, March 7, 2008, Libya block U.N. condemnation of Jerusalem seminary attack (Accessed 28 April, 2008)

Galtung, Johan, 2000, The Task of Peace Journalism, Journal: Ethical Perspectives 7 (Accessed 26 April, 2008)

Hackett, Robert A., 2007, Is peace journalism possible? Three frameworks for assessing structure and agency in news media, In book: Peace Journalism: the State of the Art, Germany

Lynch, Jake and McGoldrick, Annabel, 2005, Peace Journalism, Hawthorn Press, UK

Ottesen, Rune, 2007, Emphasising images in peace journalism: A case study from Norway’s biggest newspaper, In book: Peace Journalism: the State of the Art, Germany

Peleg, Samuel, 2007, Peace Journalism through the lense of conflict theory: Analysis and practice, In book: Peace Journalism: the State of the Art, Germany

Reuters, Thu Mar 6, 2008, Egypt holds inconclusive talks with Hamas on truce,

Reuters, Fri Mar 7, 2008, Gunman kills 8 in Jerusalem Jewish college,

Ross, Susan Dente, 2007, (De)Constricting conflict: A focused review of war and peace journalism, In book: Peace Journalism: the State of the Art, Germany

Sydney Morning Herald, March 8. 2008, After the slaughter, sickening jubilation, (Accessed 24 April 2008)

Sydney Morning Herald, March 7. 2008, Eight dead as gunman infiltrates school (Accessed 24 April 2008)

Sydney Morning Herald, March 8. 2008, Gunman was Arab working at the school (Accessed 24 April 2008)

Sydney Morning Herald, March 3. 2008, Israel hits back, threatens more (Accessed 24 April 2008)

Thussu, Daya Kishan, 2006, Televising the “War on Terrorism”: The Myths of Morality, In book Media, Terrorism and Theory, a reader, Edited by Kavoori, Anandam and Fraley, Todd

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