Cleavages and Links: Mapping Linking Patterns between Israeli Political Websites

Cleavages and Links: Mapping Linking Patterns between Israeli Political Websites

Keren Sereno (Independent Researcher, Israel) and Azi Lev-On (Ariel University, Israel)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6066-3.ch005

Abstract

In the past decade, the Internet has extensively penetrated the political landscape in Israel. A variety of actors, including parties, Knesset members, NGOs, and more, have realized the significance of using the Internet to promote their goals and have established an online presence via a variety of platforms. Consequently, the Internet is becoming a fertile ground to study Israeli society with its multiple cleavages. This chapter analyses how the ideological cleavage in the Israeli society is manifest online, through the linking patterns between political Websites. Link analysis is used to study political visibility and centrality online, to map the channels of information flow between the various political actors, and to identify recognition and discourse networks between the various political actors. From the link analysis of the sites of some 200 political parties, MPs, and NGOs, we found no links between right-wing and left-wing political sites; each side in the political spectrum conducts a different linking strategy. Most of the sites of political parties and MPs received no in-bound links from the other political sites. On the other hand, NGOs have a central role in the online political networks in Israel and maintain a relatively dense linking network.
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Introduction

In the past decade, the Internet has extensively penetrated the Israeli political landscape. A variety of political actors, including parties, Knesset (parliament) members, NGOs, social activists and others have realized the significance of using the Internet to promote their causes and established an online presence via a variety of platforms. Hence, the Internet is becoming a fertile ground for the study of Israeli politics and society, with their multiple cleavages.

This article analyses how the ideological cleavage in Israeli politics between right and left is manifest online, through studying the linking patterns between political websites. The disputes between political right and left in Israel regarding peace negotiations, security, and the possibility and character of a future accord with the Palestinians, all stand continuously at the height of the political, public and media agenda in Israel. Therefore, we chose to focus on these cleavages in examining patterns of connectivity between Israeli political players.

Any decision that is made online concerning what to read, whom to respond to and how, whom to link to and how, happens at the micro level of the individual user. However, the accumulation of decisions made by many individuals produces interesting conclusions at the macro level. In particular, studying the online linking behaviors of the various political actors enables us to better understand if and how the online arena reflects existing social cleavages, and whether links assist in bridging these cleavages, or rather further exacerbate them.

Link analysis enables examination of online political centrality and visibility, mapping channels of information flow between actors, and identification and mapping of patterns of recognition and discourse between various political actors. Studying links allows to better understand if the Internet exposes users to opposing views and stimulates interactions between ideological rivals, or rather the very opposite – if it encourages users to become more entrenched in their prior opinions and get exposed only to like-minded perspectives.

The percentage of broadband Internet connectivity in Israel is significant. In the beginning of 2012, 70.4% of Israeli citizens in Israel were online (more than 5.2 million people), including more than 3.3 million Israelis with a Facebook account.1 Among the Jewish population, more than 80% of households were connected to the Internet. The average number of online hours is more than 3 per day, while the most common uses include information search, email, file downloads and social applications, ranging from community sites through social networks such as Facebook and YouTube.2

Alongside this high percentage of internet connectivity in Israel, earlier studies of the online presence of Members of Knesset (MKs) and political parties suggest that they do not continuously maintain their online representation. Rather, they divert significant budgets and attention to their online platforms mainly before general elections or party primaries (Haleva-Amir, 2011; Lev-On, 2011).

The extensive penetration and multiplicity of uses of the Internet enables a new angle of analysis of the social cleavages within Israel. The present study examines the links between the websites of various political players, MKs, parties, and social organizations, in order to analyze if and how the ideological divide between the Israeli right and the left is reflected online.

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