March 20, 2006: NGO UPDATE: I'LAM MEDIA CENTER FOR ARAB PALESTINIANS IN ISRAEL
Summary: Since NGO Monitor's first report on I'lam in 2004, the NGO has continued to carry out programs to develop Arab media in Israel, and bring Arab affairs to greater public attention. However it has also persisted in disseminating politically motivated material that makes unsubstantiated claims, consistent with the Durban strategy, and frequently fails to provide sources and evidence for its assertions.
On 15 June, 2004 NGO Monitor published a report on I'lam, a media-monitoring group based in Israel, which also claims to promote Arab media, democracy and empowerment in Israel and human rights by drawing "attention to the adversities that afflict the Arab minority in Israel." The report highlighted the anti-Israel political agenda reflected in I'lam's activities, and in its response, I'lam rejected the findings, and called NGO Monitor "blatantly racist." Since then, I'lam has continued to conduct some programs in line with its stated goals, while also promoting allegations of media bias as part of its political agenda.
Funding for I'lam's projects comes partly from the European Union through the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), and from the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. However, no definitive list of donors is made available on I'lam's website.
The partisan political dimension of I'lam's activities is illustrated in a number of cases. For example, on 5 August, 2005, I'lam published a six page report on the Israeli television coverage of the murder of four Arab citizens by an Israeli soldier (who was absent without leave) in (Shfaram) Shafa'amr. The report alleges that the State of Israel was responsible for the attack, claiming that the four victims "paid with their lives for 'the political culture' that the official policies of Israel have nurtured for over 50 years." I'lam also charges the Israeli media with complicity in the killing of the victims, claiming that "the media contributed to preparing the groundwork for the terrorist attack in Shafar'amr" because, according to I'lam's perception, the Israeli media ignores racist commentary or incidents against Arabs. No systematic or comparative analyses were presented to support this claim.
In 2005, I'lam released regular foreign media communiqués in order to "keep members of the foreign press up-to-date on important issues facing Arab-Palestinian society in Israel." In contrast to I'lam's claims to promote democracy and human rights, such communiqués are often used as a means of advancing its contentious political agenda. For example, the communiqué of August 3, entitled "Breaking the Ceasefire - Context, Balance & Casualty Counts," accuses the IDF of being responsible for the violence from January to July 2005, based on the claim that "the ratio of Palestinian to Israeli deaths in the period covered stands at 6:1" This press release also compares Israeli and Palestinian death tolls, ignoring the fact that the Israelis died as a result of terrorism, while many Palestinians fatalities were terrorists themselves.
Additionally, the March 2005 communiqué condemned the renewal of Israel's Citizenship Law which restricts the automatic granting of Israeli citizenship to Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza who marry Israelis. Repeating rhetoric used in earlier NGO campaigns on this issue, I'lam described the law as "blatantly discriminatory" and as a form of "collective punishment", and again ignored the context of ongoing conflict and terror.
I'lam also implicitly accused the State of Israel of restricting the right to freedom of religion when Sheikh Abd Al-Rahman Bakirat was indicted on charges of committing "incitement to violence or terror". The police investigation found that Bakirit's column included "praise, sympathy and encouragement for an act of violence or terror" and that there was "a tangible possibility that it would lead to [such] an act." The I'lam news release of May 3, 2005 omitted this information and called on the international community and media to show solidarity for "the right of individuals, and journalists, to freedom of expression, and freedom of worship."
Thus, although I'lam does carry out programs to develop Arab media in Israel, and bring Arab affairs to greater public attention, these are only part of its activities. The organization also disseminates politically motivated material that makes unsubstantiated claims, consistent with the Durban strategy, and frequently fails to provide sources and evidence for its assertions.
1. I'lam - Media Center for Arab Palestinians in Israel - "About" section. The format of I'lam's website means it is impossible to provide direct links to their web-pages. Instead, the relevant section of the website will be quoted for reference. In addition, reports, Foreign Media Communiqués and other output are only provided as downloadable documents on the I'lam website. As such, the date and title of relevant articles are footnoted here for reference purposes.