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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

2004 Column on anti-Arab bias

War of words, Arlington Heights Daily Herald
Posted on: 06/12/2004 5:25:44 PM
Ray Hanania
Daily Herald

War of words is often a battle for public opinion
Posted Monday, March 01, 2004

Nowhere do words mean more than in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Is it a "wall" or is it a "fence"? In some cases, it doesn't matter but the antagonists get caught up in that end result argument rather than addressing the causes.

The real issue is the purpose of this "immoral barrier." Is it intended to steal land or prevent violence?

Here's a list of war words compiled by Palestine Media Watch, one of the most respected media monitoring groups:

"Collective punishment measures" vs. "security measures;"
"deliberate expansion" vs. "natural growth."
"Ehud Barak's ungenerous ultimatum" vs. "Ehud Barak's generous offers."
"Extra-judicial murder" vs. "targeted killing."
"Invasion" vs. "incursion."
"Israeli colonizers" vs. "Israeli settlers."
"Israeli occupation forces" vs. "Israeli defense forces."
"The Israeli occupation of Palestine" vs. "the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."
"Israel's apartheid wall" vs. "security barrier," "fence," etc.
"Jewish-only colonies" vs. "settlements."
"Jewish-only roads" vs. "bypass roads."
"Jewish supremacy agenda" vs. "demographic concerns."
"Israeli assault against Palestinian civilians" vs. "military operation."
"Military checkpoints" vs. "checkpoints."
"Military town siege" vs. "curfew."
"Occupied Jerusalem" vs. just "Jerusalem."

Also, include "occupied Jerusalem" when talking about the OTs (we often say just West Bank and Gaza when referring to the OTs).
"Palestinian political prisoners" vs. "Palestinian prisoners."
"Palestinian armed resistance" vs. "Palestinian violence."
"Palestinian resistance fighters" vs. "Palestinian militants."
"Palestinian struggle for freedom" vs. "Intifada" or "uprising."
"Political assassinations" vs. "crackdown on militants."
"President Arafat" vs. "Arafat."
"Pro-occupation supporters" vs. "pro-Israel" or "pro-Israeli."
"Random mass detention" vs. "security sweep."
"Torture" vs. "physical pressure."
"U.S.-financed Israeli military" vs. "Israeli military."

Obviously, Palestine Media Watch makes a good point. The word "settlement" doesn't accurately express the real issue, for example. Settlements are Jewish only. You don't hear about Israel building settlements in the West Bank or Gaza Strip for Christians or Muslims.

These settlements are a forgotten cause of the conflict.

Extremist supporters of Israel call anyone using the term "Jewish" in any context, "anti-Semitic." It's an effective weapon when you don't want to deal with the truth.

There is no equivalent term to describe Israeli or Jewish hatred of Christian or Muslim Palestinians that is as powerful. Call someone anti-Semitic and they can lose their jobs, be ostracized or be targeted for "legitimate" retribution. Call someone "anti-Arab" and no one cares.

The media are the primary battlefield for this war of words, of course. If you are pro-Israeli and anti-Arab, you use the term "homicide bomber" instead of "suicide bomber." The idea is to turn the phrase into a bludgeon in a political war that fuels the hate that keeps the conflict going.

There are some things that are bigger than the battle of words, though. For example, the media often downplay Israeli terrorism as defensive acts.

In other words, when Israel murders a person accused (not convicted or charged) of terrorism, it's portrayed as "justified retaliation," even though the Israelis often end up killing scores of innocent civilians in the strikes.

Seeing past this battle of words won't end the conflict. But it can help you identify the bias in journalists and columnists who claim to be objective in their news reports.

Ray Hanania is a Palestinian-American author.
Reach him by e-mail at

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