Jewish and Arab Femicide in Israeli Hebrew Newspapers

By: Ina Filkobski  

This paper explores how newspapers cover the murder of women by family members and intimate partners. We compared the coverage of Jewish and Arab victims and culprits in three major Israeli newspapers, examining media’s contribution to the construction of symbolic boundaries between minority and dominant social groups. We conducted a systematic qualitative content analysis, examining a sample of 459 articles published between 2013 and 2015. We found that the murder of Jews by family members or intimate partners was framed as a shocking and unusual event, a result of the individual personality or pathology of the culprit. Conversely, when Arabs killed family members, coverage focused on the culture of the ethnic group, described as traditional, violent, and patriarchal. A systematic comparison we conducted showing the varying degree of detail, empathy, and contextualization in the description of culprits, depending on their ethno-national identities. Articles on Jewish culprits included much more detail and depth. In these cases, every aspect of the perpetrator’s personal history was commonly examined, as newspapers cited psychiatry experts, family members, childhood friends, employers, and neighbors. Such treatment was mostly absent in the case of Arab culprits. Our findings also show that towns, villages, and neighborhoods characterized predominantly by an Arab population are constructed as dangerous and violent sites while predominantly Jewish locales remain merely places where violence took place. This tendency to associate the entire locale with violence was evident in generalizing headlines and emphasis on previous crimes that occurred in the locale. In articles on murders by Arabs, neighbors and community leaders felt the need to forcefully condemn the violence and highlight the otherwise peaceful nature of their village or town. Such renunciations often carried an apologetic tone, suggesting that the community needs to repeatedly refute the idea that it supports violence. Conversely, in cases of Jewish murders, the majority of community reactions are simply an attempt to deal with a tragedy We propose that the treatment of femicide by the newspapers contributes to the notion that Arab and Muslim cultures, religions, and nationalities are essentially misogynistic and adhere to norms of honor and shame that are radically different from those of modern societies, such as the Jewish-Israeli one. We suggest that the differential media and public treatment of femicide serves as one of the primary sites where the Jewish community draws and asserts the boundaries between “(Jewish) Israeli society” and its “others.” The portrayal of femecide can be seen as a site through which the assumed “hierarchy of moral worth” (Lamont and Molnár 2002:168) of Jewish-Israeli and Arab cultures is being reaffirmed, allowing Jews in Israel to claim superiority in other fields of life. While our analysis focuses on Israel, studies on the United States, Canada, and various European countries with ethnically and racially heterogeneous populations, make it clear that the stigmatisation and exclusion of visible, religious, and language minorities are not unique to the Israeli case (Bail 2008; Korteweg and Yurdakul 2010; Shier and Shor 2016; Wimmer 2013).

Femicide Media Israel
Media Cultures
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Ina Filkobski

-, -, McGill University, Canada