Founded in 2000 and based in Haifa, I'lam describes itself as "the only not-for-profit Palestinian Media Center in Israel.” The organization's mission is "to develop and empower the Arab media and to give voice to Palestinian issues"; to contribute "to the development of a plural and unbiased media landscape"; and "to serve primarily the Palestinian citizens in Israel through the improvement of their mass media system with training, documentation, advocacy, cooperation, and outreach." In I'lam's estimation, the Israeli media "is to a large extent controlled by the national government, which uses it to ... manipulate public knowledge and opinion." Consequently, says I'lam, "the media in Israel fails to satisfy [its] fundamental responsibility ... to disseminate balanced and accurate information and to promote democratic values, civil society, and pluralism."
I'lam views Israel as a nation whose government abuses and oppresses its Palestinian citizens and neighbors. The organization's December 2000 report, titled "The Israeli Media and the Intifada," stated: "The [Arab-Israeli] war is taking place on the territories of the party [the Palestinians] who is completely under siege and possesses mere rocks and rifles, whereas, the other party [Israel] possesses the largest military arsenal in the Middle East." This document traced the roots of the latest Intifada (which had erupted three months earlier) exclusively to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount, and criticized the Israeli media for taking what I'lam deemed a one-sided approach to its reporting on the violence.
In April 2002 the I'lam website directed readers to an article from the daily publication Al-Itihad, entitled "Report from Jenin Refugee Camp: Even Flies Reveal What the Israeli Army Wants to Hide." Claiming that the Israeli Defense Forces had massacred Palestinian civilians in Jenin earlier that month, the author wrote: "I imagine the picture: The soldiers are the grandchildren of the Nazis' victims, the Nazis' survivors. They have come here to consume food quickly and consume life quickly. This is the true image of Israel. The real Israel is not in the clean, lofty suburbs of Northern Tel-Aviv ... It is not in the literary cafes and journalists' clubs ... It is not its High Court. I saw the real Israel, its ugliness in the Jenin Refugee Camp on Monday, April 15, 2002. The rest remains decor for murder."
On August 5, 2005, I'lam published a six-page report on Israel's television coverage of the murder of four Arab citizens by an Israeli soldier (who was absent without leave) in Shafa'amr. The report alleged that the four victims had "paid with their lives for 'the political culture' that the official policies of Israel have nurtured for over 50 years." I'lam also charged that the Israeli media had "contributed to preparing the groundwork for the terrorist attack in Shafar'amr" by allegedly ignoring, on a consistent basis, racist commentary and racially motivated attacks aimed against Arabs. No specific facts or statistics were presented to support this claim.
In a March 2005 communiqué, I'lam 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. I'lam described the law as a "blatantly discriminatory" form of "collective punishment."
In a May 2005 news release, I'lam implicitly accused the State of Israel of restricting Muslims' right to freedom of religion when Sheikh Abd Al-Rahman Bakirat was indicted on charges of committing "incitement to violence or terror." Calling on the international community and media to show solidarity for "the right of individuals ... to freedom of expression and freedom of worship," I'lam declined to mention that a police investigation found that a column recently penned by Bakirat had 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."
In 2002, I'lam's major projects included the production and dissemination of video documentaries, the facilitation of awareness-raising sessions aimed at high-school students, and the convening of public policy roundtable discussions with members of the local media community. The following year was a period of transition for I'lam, during which the organization reworked its infrastructure, made personnel changes, and acquired additional financial resources. In May 2004 I'lam launched its “Responsible and Professional Media” project, seeking "to develop respect for press freedom and responsibility, media professionalism and ethics, and media rights for Arabs inside Israel." Throughout 2004 and the first half of 2005, I'lam focused its resources on "improving the coverage of Arab citizens of Israel in the Hebrew media, and at democratizing media laws and regulations in Israel." During the second half of 2005 and 2006, the organization's focus was on "developing and consolidating [its] work with the community and the local Arabic media."
I'lam receives financial backing from the British Council (Israel), the European Union (through the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights), the Heinrich Boell Foundation, the New Israel Fund, the Open Society Institute Development Foundation, and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.
Portions of this profile are adapted, with permission, from NGO Monitor.
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