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Impact

The question of impact was on the minds of the villager activists, as they attested, yet the actual impact of their contemporary media usage is questionable. Indeed, many Web pages from Israel and many more from other countries—including sites of activists worldwide who have embraced the cause but probably never set foot in the village—mention Al-‘Arakeeb. However, it is questionable whether the villagers’ efforts were indeed the impetus for this attention. While the number of videos on YouTube is endless, the most viewed, nearly 25,000 times five years after the demolition, was a CNN report that was uploaded and is maintained on the channel of an American activist who titled it “Israel leaves 200 children in the desert with No food No water and No shelter.”5 Stories about Al-‘Arakeeb appeared in other leading news outlets worldwide besides CNN, among them the BBC,6 the Los Angeles Times9 the New York Times,8 and multiple times in the Guardian.9

Any direct impact on social discourse in Israel is also questionable. In general, few stories about life in the unrecognized Bedouin villages have appeared in the Israeli press. Al-‘Arakeeb is no different. While all local reporters were notified in advance of the looming demolition and many were present on 27 July 2010, in the village, only two major newspapers carried stories describing the event. Haaretz, Israel’s only Hebrew- language broadsheet, reported it on page 6, while Maariv, the smallest of the three tabloids by circulation, carried a photo with a one-paragraph caption on the bottom of page 24. Additionally, the ongoing struggle of the villagers has gained very little traction in print media, even though it had more presence in online media. All the Bedouin journalists who were interviewed claimed to have been present in all two dozen demolitions that took place in the first year following the razing of the village. None of the reporters reporting for the Hebrew-language papers interviewed attended more than two or three of them. An Arab Israeli activist involved in promoting the Al-‘Arakeeb cause said he has found the Al-‘Arakeeb’s story to be more prominent in the Arabic press than in the Hebrew press. “I bet you there is not one Arab in Israel that doesn’t know where Al-‘Arakeeb is,” he said. He also noted that while it is virtually impossible to get the mainstream Hebrew media to publish opinion pieces about Al-‘Arakeeb by activists, it is no problem to get them published in any of the Arabic online and print outlets.

How effective therefore was the contemporary media usage of the locals? All the reporters said they were well aware of the text messages sent by villagers and activists. They acknowledged receiving text messages from the villagers and from many different activist organizations. None of the journalists, neither Bedouin nor Jewish, however, were aware of or have actively sought out any information from Al-‘Arakeeb online. One said he does not look at all for information online. “Facebook gives me a rash,” he added, stating that “I am exploding from e-mails...I don’t need this. I have my tools.” An online Hebrew-language journalist said she approached the activists and requested that they provide her with materials she could post on her online national news site. “The materials they brought me weren’t great, but there was one video I got from them that I did use. You see in it.the police, trampling over an aging activist.” A third Hebrew-language journalist recalled the video “where someone is being trampled” as well. His local video news program uses these materials, but they edit them in their own reporting. Indeed, four years after the demolition, the most popular of the videos on the villagers’ YouTube gathered no more than 150 views. The youngster that tried to launch the LiveStream channel did not expect his channel to draw many viewers because Internet connection speeds are not high among his target audience. The journalists were not even aware that an attempt to launch such a channel had been made. Attempts to locate his channel since he was seen streaming on it during a demolition in March 2011 were unsuccessful.

 
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