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Images of History in Israel Television News The Territorial Dimensions of Collective Memories, 1987-1990 Netta Ha-Ilan Television news tells the story ofthe key events ofthe last hours. Behind this apparently simple definition there are a number oftheoretical questions dealing with the modes through which television news imposes some order upon the chaotic nature of the "real" and grants meaning to current events. In this process, television news selects, categorizes, combines, and narrates by means of sights and sounds. It attempts to represent the real world using culturally understandable signs and symbols. It is argued here that the latter are often linked to definitions ofa collective past and the demarcation of social boundaries . Thus, television news often deals with the issue of collective identity by using historical narrative. News has been described as discourse. It includes codes, styles, and conventions , together with professional practices and textual devices. As discourse , "news strives to control and limit the meaning ofthe events it conveys."1 This essay stresses the importance of historical narrative in television news discourse and its definition of collective identity. The collective past is used to define a common history and shared destiny. Eric Hobsbawm's remark about historical writing is fully applicable to the news discourse. It creates, dismantles, and restructures the images of the past.2 The latter belongs not only to world of specialist investigation, but to people as political beings. Historical narrative in television news appears either in common or ceremonial modes. The former applies when the past is enlisted to interpret an event that is not directly linked to the issue of social boundaries. It has no special form or pattern. Television news places certain events in historical 208 | NettaHa-Ilan perspective by using descriptions such as "the worst weather in fifty years," "the largest fall in share prices since 1983," or "old-timers in the House cannot recall such a stormy debate." The ceremonial mode appears to commemorate social cohesiveness. The argument here is that ceremonial historical narratives act as an affirmation of collective boundaries through well-defined patterns of newsreel items. Focusing on the case study of the Israel Television news, the paper describes the characteristics of the ceremonial mode and explains when it is used. The example of the IsraelTelevision news clarifies the circumstances under which collective memories are enlisted to grant meaning to current events. For Israel Television news, these attempts are made under conditions of acute internal divisions over the very definitions of national identity. Clearly, the dispute is bound to have a marked impact on social discourse. Thus, the changes over time in the presentation of social boundaries in television news reflect the reconstitution of collective identity. Television news is an arena in which the struggle over meanings and signification takes place. This essay is based on news items broadcast by Israel Television, a public broadcasting service, between December 1987 and January 1990. Broadcasting by Israel Television started in May 1968, less than a year after the occupation ofthe West Bank and Gaza began.Therefore, the challenge posed by the occupation to Israeli society and politics was already present. During the following years, the news staff was forced to respond to the development of the issue as it grew from something relatively nonproblematic (in the early seventies) to an issue with the status of a central problem (during the eighties ). At the end of the period examined here, a new era was ushered in due to the transformation effected by the Gulf crisis and the nascent peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.3 The Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) is based on the BBC model. Since 1965, the IBA has operated as a statutory authority governed by a board appointed by political parties according to their relative parliamentary strength. Until 1993, the IBA had a monopoly on broadcasting television news in Israel. During this period, television news was the most popular program in the state. At the peak of its popularity, 70 percent of Israelis watched the nine o'clock evening news. Television news was the most prestigious , and almost the only, original domestic program. The Political Context The State of Israel was formed in 1948. In 1967, Israeli troops captured the Images of History in Israel Television News | 209 Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank of the Jordan River, and the Golan Heights. As a result of the occupation there has been a lack of congruity between territorial and social boundaries—Israel rules territories, but...


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