top of page
Search

Israel-Palestine: The Dangers of Language

Following the Hamas militant attacks on Israel– resulting in approximately 1400 deaths and 240 kidnappings–Israel declared war on Palestine on October 7, 2023 (3). Since then, as of November 15th, 2023, over 11,000 Palestinians have died, of which over 4,500 are children due to the relentless bombing by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) (8). This, however, is not the first time Israel and Palestine have clashed; this has been an ongoing conflict since 1948 where many lives have been lost (3). In this age of media coverage, it is easy to lose sight of the holistic facts, which puts people in danger due to incorrect interpretation of the issue. 

In this brief article, I hope to explain how the framing of language surrounding this conflict can hurt involved parties by touching on the commonly used religious/antisemitic and Islamophobic lenses that further exacerbate this public health crisis. Violence is often difficult to perceive when it happens far from home, but I will reference stories that took place in the United States to hopefully show how interconnected global events are for every individual. The spread of misinformation is something everyone can help prevent by reading carefully and thoroughly researching dubious statements. 

The common rhetoric is that the war is between Muslims (in reference to Palestinians) and Jews (in reference to Israelis), framing the conflict in terms of religious disagreements rather than occupation, nationalism, and indigeneity (5 - a good article to read to delve deeper into this misconception). Those on the side of the Israeli government in this conflict do not necessarily identify as Jewish, they align with Zionism. The Zionist movement began in 1897 by Theodor Herzl who promoted the need for a Jewish nation (11). Approximately 20 years later, the British allowed the first settlements in then British-occupied Palestine, beginning the slow progression into the nation of Israel and the reduction of Palestine into territories (11). Not all Jewish individuals are Zionists, nor are all Zionists Jewish. As for Muslims, not all Palestinians are Muslims. Although they are the majority, there are many Palestinian Christians who are not mentioned as often, which excludes an entire subgroup of people (10). The religious frame homogenizes and omits people, taking attention away from those in Israel and Palestine as well as hyperfocusing on subgroups in each population.    

This rhetoric promotes antisemitic and Islamophobic thinking and activity. Antisemitism can be defined as “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a racial or religious group” (4). Islamophobia can be defined as the “fear, hatred, and discrimination against practitioners of Islam or the Islamic religion as a whole” (7). Since October 7th, over 1,200 Islamophobic/anti-Arab related hate crimes and over 300 antisemitic hate crimes were reported. These cases were strongly connected to the Israel-Palestine War (2)(1).

In a New York Times article (remember to remain critical of every article you come across and take note of nuance) released in early November, the authors document the experiences of students across different colleges across the United States and their positions of Pro-Israel and Pro-Palestine, and particularly the experiences of Jewish students and their identities during this time. One person stated they saw writing near a Jewish fraternity at the University of Pennsylvania saying, “ The Jews R Nazis”, a statement lacking knowledge and provoking past traumatic events to target Jewish people (6).

Pro-Palestine students have also been experiencing threats, harmful speech, and even violence. An Arab Muslim student at Stanford University was victim to a hit-and-run by a man who was also yelling “obscenities” at the student as he left (9). This student was treated for non-life-threatening injuries, however, there have been many more terrifying crimes against Arab, Muslim, and Jewish individuals. 

In a time when humanity should come together, people have been pushed apart by their preconceived biases. I hope I have been able to show the importance of speaking after carefully researching and understanding the power that language choice has in influencing public opinion. This is not limited to this war, but every current event we see on the news. I also hope I have shown that defining the Israel-Palestine war as a religious conflict is incorrect and misconstrues the intentions of both sides, a topic of value for individual research. 


References

  1. ADL Records Dramatic Increase in U.S. Antisemitic Incidents Following Oct. 7 Hamas Massacre. (2023, October 24). Anti-Defamation League. https://www.adl.org/resources/press-release/adl-records-dramatic-increase-us-antisemitic-incidents-following-oct-7

  2. Allison. (2023, November 9). CAIR Received 1,283 Complaints Over Past Month, an ‘Unprecedented’ Increase in Complaints of Islamophobia, Anti-Arab Bias. Council on American-Islamic Relations. https://www.cair.com/press_releases/cair-received-1283-complaints-over-past-month-an-unprecedented-increase-in-complaints-of-islamophobia-anti-arab-bias/

  3. Beaucamp, Z. (2023, November 9). What are Israel and Palestine? Why are they fighting? - Vox. Vox. https://www.vox.com/2018/11/20/18080002/israel-palestine-conflict-history-overview-map

  4. Berenbaum, M. (2023, November 18). Anti-Semitism | History, Meaning, Facts, & Examples | Britannica. Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/anti-Semitism

  5. Fayyad, A. (2018, May 23). The Palestinian Struggle Transcends Religion. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/membership/archive/2018/05/the-palestinian-struggle-transcends-religion/561044/

  6. Hartocollis, A., & Saul, S. (2023, November 9). After Antisemitic Attacks, Colleges Debate What Kind of Speech Is Out of Bounds. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/09/us/antisemitic-speech-palestine-israel-protests.html

  7. Kulik, R. (2023, November 17). Islamophobia | Meaning & Portrayal of Muslims | Britannica. Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Islamophobia

  8. Mackenzie, J., Sawafta, A., & Heinrich, M. (2023, November 15). Palestinian officials say harder to update Gaza casualty toll as health system buckles | Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/palestinian-officials-say-harder-update-gaza-casualty-toll-health-system-buckles-2023-11-15/

  9. Nurse, K., Cuevas, E., & Arredondo, V. (2023, November 4). Anti-Jewish, -Muslim attacks are rising across the U.S., colleges say. USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2023/11/04/anti-jewish-muslim-attacks-rising-across-the-u-s-colleges/71457844007/

  10. The West Bank and Gaza: A Population Profile. (2002, April 20). Population Reference Bureau. https://www.prb.org/resources/the-west-bank-and-gaza-a-population-profile/

  11. Zionism. (2017, July 13). HISTORY. https://www.history.com/topics/middle-east/zionism

101 views1 comment

Comentarios


Miembro desconocido
19 ene

Hello! I wrote this article, I just wanted to add that I wrote this about 2 months ago, so the mentioned statistics used in this article have since changed as the war is still unfortunately ongoing (ex: Palestinian mortality statistics have at least doubled).

Me gusta
bottom of page