Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

Turkey and Israel: Reciprocal and Mutual Imagery in the Media, 1994-1999

Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

Turkey and Israel: Reciprocal and Mutual Imagery in the Media, 1994-1999

Article excerpt

"Situated at the crossroad between East and West, Turkey and Israel think of themselves as possessing a partially European identity in the `rough neighborhood' of the Middle East. Geographic proximity and historical interactions with Europe shaped Turkey's European identify, while Israel's European identity stems from a shared demographic composition due to the influx of European immigrants."

In the Middle East, as in other regions of the world, the media is an important mechanism for understanding public perceptions. Whether transmitted by government-controlled, self-censored or independent media sources, imagery used to portray a "self" and an "other" as being distinct, in opposition or in cooperation, reflects, reinforces and changes opinions about neighboring countries.

This paper conducts a study of Turkish media coverage of Israel and of Israeli media coverage of Turkey. Since 1993, Turkey and Israel have embarked on a path of advancing and deepening their relations. The attentive media coverage of these developments reflects the multitude of interests, fears and biases communicated by journalists on behalf of their audiences. The articles used for this study were collected from the World News Connection, more commonly known by its pre-1994 name, Foreign Broadcast Information Service. This CIA-sponsored news service monitors and translates media articles and television and radio broadcasts across the globe. Over 500 newspaper articles and news transcripts published between 1994 and 1999 by primary news providers in Ankara, Istanbul, Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv were considered for this survey.

The coverage is analyzed in several ways. The first section provides preliminary observations and contextual analysis about the media coverage from 1994 to 1999. Its chief conclusion is that Turkish coverage was primarily concerned with the depth and scope of relations with Israel, while Israeli coverage conducted a cost-benefit analysis of the relationship. The second section analyzes the imagery used by Turkey and Israel to portray one another. It discusses the two states' common identities and mutual interests as they are emphasized in the media. Elements, such as combating terrorism, alliances with the West, the separation of religion and state and living as non-Arab entities in the Middle East, are at the core of Turkey's and Israel's commonality. This section also discusses Israel's image of Turkey and Turkey's image of Israel and identifies the media's attempts to positively portray the other state to their respective publics. The last section examines the limits of the Turkish-Israeli relationship. These differences are revealed as one side repudiates an important identity held by the other. For example, Israel has exhibited skepticism about the nature of Turkey's democracy. The strains in the Turkish-Israeli relationship is also visible when one side fails to act in accordance with common interests.

The study concludes that the media's portrayal of Turkish-Israeli relations reveals that the two countries are operating in separate and seemingly isolated environments. The issues and themes evoked by Turkish reporters are often substantially different from those addressed by their Israeli counterparts. Rarely is there insight into the context within which the other country is operating. Where similar images of the two countries exist--such as the familiar notion that Turkey and Israel are the only two democracies in the Middle East--the countries' definition and understanding of that image is not necessarily the same. Thus, Turkish-Israeli cooperation does not rely on genuine understanding of the other side's frame of reference, but on a mutually beneficial relationship derived from a number of self-interests. These interests are military-, security- or power-driven, and are the forces that sustains amicable Turkish-Israeli relations.

PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS

In both countries, the coverage focuses on the development of the Turkish-Israeli relationship. …

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