Questions about self-organisation: Electronic Intifada
> What are the aims of the project you are involved in?
The Electronic Intifada (EI) is a not-for-profit, independent online publication committed to comprehensive public education on the question of Palestine, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the economic, political, legal, and human dimensions of Israel’s 38-year occupation of Palestinian territories. EI is not alternative media; rather, EI is supplementary media. While “alternative news” websites have become increasingly popular since the mid-1990s, the fact is that to be true alternative media, one’s content by definition needs to make other media redundant. Clearly, organisations such as EI, with limited resources and a small, primarily volunteer team of writers and researchers, are not in the position to replace or act as substitutes for large media organisations such as the BBC or the New York Times. We are, however, in a position to supplement existing media by offering differing analyses and by highlighting key sources of information from on the ground that do not usually get full reprints in the commercial media. The time and resources we do have are not therefore best employed in reporting on events that are already widely covered in the commercial media.
Launched on 23 February 2001 at electronicIntifada.net as a pioneering online resource for media analysis, criticism, and activism, EI has progressively expanded its scope into new arenas: reference materials, live reporting, editorials, arts coverage, and satire, with the aim of presenting an accessible, credible, and responsible Palestinian narrative of developments on the ground to the American public and international community.
Although EI addresses the prevailing pro-Israeli slant in US media coverage by offering information from a Palestinian perspective, our views on the conflict are based firmly on universal principles of international law and human rights conventions, and our reporting is built on a solid foundation of documented evidence and careful fact-checking.
> How is the project organised?
Four activists, Scotsman Nigel Parry, Diaspora Palestinians Ali Abunimah and Arjan El Fassed and American Laurie King collaborated over the Internet on the Electronic Intifada’s development for five months before introducing the site.
On any day, most of the editing, illustrating, publishing, and promotional burden is carried by 2–3 people on a largely voluntary basis. EI undertakes research, and compiles and publishes reference material, commentary and analysis, personal journals from the frontlines of the conflict, media news and analysis. EI aims aspects of its information service at journalists and editors, activists – occasionally encouraging letters of concern – at students of the media, and researchers looking for reference material, and offers automatically updating streaming content via our “wire service for websites”, EI Wire.
The Electronic Intifada also welcomes unsolicited text and visual contributions from writers, photographers, multimedia content creators, and filmmakers to any of its content feeds. EI puts a high priority on well-written original analysis and reportage, contributions from people on the ground in Palestine.
> How do you support the work financially and what impact does this have
> on your project?
EI is powered primarily by voluntary work from its four founders and a loose network of correspondents, technical people, and photographers around the world, including in Palestine, the US, Canada, and Europe. In addition, EI is funded by individual donors, mostly in the United States, 50% of whom are giving small amounts of $25-$100 to keep our project going, with a small scattering of occasional larger donors. Our annual budget in 2002 was just US $39,000. In both 2003 and 2004, we spent $50,000.
While our needs continue to grow, our entire budget could not pay the salary of a single foreign correspondent from a major news organisation! We are able to function on such a small budget because so much of the labour that goes in to EI is donated. We’ve made do at different times with the resources we have, beginning from a balance of zero in February 2001. Since then we’ve expanded as voluntary help and resources have allowed, but in truth, we could obviously be doing much more, with a higher quality, more consistently, if we had access to greater resources, which has periodically become frustrating. None of EI’s founders or writers is able to work full time on EI as they have other jobs, and as the project has grown, there is an increased workload.
> What do you feel you have achieved, and what are the problems you face?
EI is recognised as a major web resource on Palestine, and has been able to make some contribution to the debate. We recognise the growing power of a global democratic society of informed, concerned, and activist individuals and groups. As the New York Times noted in a 16 February 2003 editorial the day after the largest global anti-war demonstrations in human history: “There are two superpowers in the world again: the US and global public opinion.”
It is EI's aim – and duty – to be part of this emerging democratic superpower by disseminating information blocked or ignored by the mainstream media, by analysing dimensions and corners of policy that mainstream media are hesitant to touch. EI will continue to inform people about the situation on the ground so that they have access to understanding the actual cost of the conflict for normal people, and have the tools to get past the demonisation that forms much of the media’s Palestinian repertoire.
We have to make it a mainstream concern and the only way we can do that is by effectively communicating the realities at ground zero for Joe and Jane Palestinian to the American public. Nobody would sign off on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if they knew what happened at ground zero, nobody. Only the most ardent and entrenched supporters of Israel.
If we could take people through the Star Trek transporter to Rafah during “Operation Rainbow” and give them five minutes to experience what that was like they would not sign on to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
So everything is a challenge of finding new ways to explore that. Many of the projects that EI wants to work on – we just can’t do it. We’re juggling too many plates at the moment and the only way we will ever break through that barrier is with more money. That’s what it boils down to.
> What are your hopes for the future?
In relation to the site, EI would like to expand the scope of our coverage of on-the-ground events to a far greater degree, developing deeper links with organisations and skilled individuals on the ground. We would also like to offer wider coverage of the Palestinian community outside the country and our relationship with related organisations, as well as increasing the profile of the project. Our hope is that future funders and contributors will enable us to meet these goals. Specific goals include an increase of photographic, video and other multimedia on the site, and more regular and in-depth additions to all of the content sections on our site.
In the wider sense, there are things that are band-aids that cover the bleeding but what we also really need to do is stop the conflict so there is no bleeding, and the way to do that is we need to inform people what is happening. Total Information Awareness is something that EI – Electronic Intifada and its newer sister site Electronic Iraq – is very in favour of.
More information: electronicintifada.net