FRAMING ISRAEL NEWS HAS MOVED
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FRAMING ISRAEL NEWS HAS MOVED
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It is not on maps. It is not in ancient or modern history. Nor is it usually found even in mainstream news. And yet, “Israel-Palestine” connected by either a hyphen or a slash is widely referenced in academic writing. There, this invented name facilitates some of the most egregious misinformation leveled against Israel.
The academic language of “Israel-Palestine” names an imaginary place: not Israel or Gaza or the Palestinian Authority but a blurring of all three. The blurring is strategic. It makes speaking of Israel as simply one of the 191 sovereign nations of the world difficult if not impossible. At the same time Gaza, which is 100% Palestinian and run by Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority, which controls the towns in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) where 98% of Palestinians live, are hyphenated with the State of Israel.
Of course, I’m not referring to the adjective “Israeli-Palestinian” that often appears before “conflict” and less often before “cooperation”! In contrast, “Israel-Palestine” is a noun and names a place that does not exist. It’s a neologism, a made-up word, in this case designed to create and promote a negative view of Israel.
There are a number of such new words in current academic vocabulary including “pink-washing,” invented to describe Israel’s progressive LGBT policies as if they are a nefarious public relations ploy, and “intersectionality,” which assigns all individuals to victim or oppressor groups. These terms, along with others whose meaning has been distorted for the purpose of maligning Israel, are critically examined and contested by accomplished scholars in a valuable, special issue of Israel Studies published last year. The issue is entitled Word Crimes.
When Indian Prime Minister Indra Modi chose to visit Israel without also visiting the Palestinian Authority, he was said to be enacting a new policy of dehyphenization. This was undertaken to emphasize India’s strong connections to Israel but also left room for good ties with the PA.
Indeed, the recent Abraham Accords also demonstrated a dehyphenization. These peace and normalization agreements were made directly between Israel and UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco with the powerful backing of the United States but without depending on the involvement of Palestinian leadership.
The neologism “Israel-Palestine” does not allow for such breakthroughs, or, at the very least, suggests they are impossible unless the Palestinian Authority or Hamas approves.
However, the term “Israel-Palestine” does help to slander Israel as an “apartheid” state. Pretending, for example, that the dictatorship of Gaza is not under the full control of Hamas but rather is part of “Israel-Palestine” allows for labeling Israel as at fault for the vast differences between the freedoms enjoyed by all Israeli citizens as opposed to the restrictions Hamas imposes on Gazans. Of course, nothing could be farther from reality. Israel is a fully democratic, multi-cultural, highly diverse country. Using the term “Israel-Palestine” and confusing what areas are being discussed, academics label Israel as entirely at fault for problems experienced by Palestinians and even accuse a free country of being an example of “apartheid.”
What looks like simply a short-cut way of talking about Israel and the Palestinian areas is actually a rhetorical strategy called poisoning the well. Through the use of this fallacy, a bias is already established before any conversation begins. “Israel-Palestine” as a place name sets up a negative view of Israel from the start. If you want to engage in conversation or to respond to something you have seen written about “Israel-Palestine,” you have to first overcome this biased hurdle.
That it is a widespread academic term is easy to see with a quick search on Google Scholar which is designed to filter out non-academic references. The most recent search I did turned up over 48,700 references to “Israel-Palestine” in books and articles across a wide range of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences including criminal justice, sociology, queer studies, women’s studies, political theory, postcolonial studies, anthropology, literary theory, and many others.
The more a term or idea dominates in the scholarship of any field, the more it will form a basis for what is taught in college courses. The imaginary place called “Israel-Palestine” in academic texts can make it seem reasonable to boycott Israel or to demand all the real places “from the river to the sea.” And it also lets us know what Zionist students and faculty are up against.
Focus on conflict so dominates reporting about Israel that although Emiratis and Israelis are celebrating, and now Serbia and Kosovo have signed a “landmark agreement,” many US and UK journalists seem indifferent, even resistant, to the sea change of normalization that is taking place.
“I literally cannot find a single US news outlet that has reported on the content of the historic Serbia-Kosovo deal,” writes US Envoy for Serbia and Kosovo Richard Grenell, taking to Twitter to vent his frustration.
Grenell, who served for 10 years in the State Department and was US Ambassador to Germany, directs readers to his own article published under “Opinion” in The Hill. There he outlines some of the steps made by Kosovo and Serbia “toward economic normalization and an eventual, peaceful coexistence…Perhaps most importantly of all, Serbia has pledged to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, while Kosovo has agreed to mutual recognition with Israel.”
Likewise, the monumental breakthrough that is the UAE-Israel peace and normalization agreement has received strangely muted and conflict-centered coverage.
BBC seems to emphasize what has not happened, that the Abraham Accord does not involve the Palestinian Authority. Rather than hearing about Israel’s first peace and normalization agreement in 26 years with an Arab country, “BBC audiences repeatedly heard that the Palestinians had been ‘stabbed in the back’, ‘betrayed’ and ‘sidelined’ by an agreement portrayed as ‘treason.’”
In CNN’s analysis it is “…a poor man’s facsimile for the, as yet, unachieved grand bargain between Israelis and Palestinians to quell their decades of conflict.”
The Guardian makes explicit its view of the Accord in their “Observer Opinion” criticizing “the deal” as something that will come to be seen as “a historic mistake.” There is no discussion of peace or normalization between Israel and UAE. Instead, the Guardian writers focus on their dislike of the world leaders involved. With a peace agreement to report on, the Guardian addresses conflict.
On the night of the peace deal, the US news shows, except for FOX, pretty much avoided what should have been breaking news.
In “A Great Step Forward, and Who Seems Determined to Ignore It,” Colonel Richard Kemp notes that the Accord–which he considers Nobel Prize worthy–“received a cool reception in much of the US and international media.” Describing the Accord’s significance, Kemp writes:
“This week, we witnessed a symbol of perhaps the greatest step forward in world peace for decades. The first-ever direct passenger flight from Israel to the United Arab Emirates flew down the length of Saudi Arabia’s airspace. After Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994, the UAE has become the third Arab state to normalise relations with the State of Israel under the new Abraham Accord.”
Yet, the LA Times headlines their story about that first EL AL flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi: “Despite pressure from Trump, Arab nations resist normalizing ties with Israel.”
It’s hard to fathom this headline for an article ostensibly about the “normalizing ties with Israel” that are actually happening. Certainly, the LA Times knows that other countries including Bahrain, Oman, and Morocco have already expressed interest in following UAE’s lead.
The LA Times leaves out the reality that, for the first time, Israelis have been allowed to land in the UAE and that, for the first time, Saudi Arabia opened its airspace to Israel. The Times calls it, simply, “a flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi,” as if this flight route was routine.
The article asserts that “no other Arab nation has said it is willing to take the long-shunned leap to accept and recognize Israel as a legitimate Mideast neighbor, at least not until Israel resolves its conflict with the Palestinians.”
But clearly this is not the case. The Saudis historic step did take place. And the UAE seems to be leading the way for other countries that are now engaged in discussion about establishing normalization with Israel.
Neither the UAE-Israel agreement nor the decisions of Kosovo and Serbia had to do with “conflict with the Palestinians.”
This is a story of peace, not conflict.
A screenshot from a cartoon published on the Facebook page of the Fatah movement
Associated Press wire service doesn’t discuss the frequency of these attacks on Israelis or the praise and rewards Palestinian leadership gives to attackers. Instead, reports describe Israeli border guards shooting a young man, who his relatives say, was just driving to a wedding.
For some reason, the stories also include mention of ongoing discussion about “annexing” Israeli towns in the West Bank.
So far, only the Israeli and Jewish press has reported that there is a relevant video made prior to the incident by Ahmed Erekat in which he describes “shame” at being accused of collaborating with Israel and bringing “dishonor” to his family.
News stories don’t mention that about a month ago there was a car ramming at this same spot. After the crash the perpetrator jumped out of his car and stabbed a soldier.
CNN headlines their story: “Video Shows Palestinian Man Shot at Israeli Checkpoint.” Yet you can see in the video that there is a line of cars at a standstill when Erekat carefully pulls out far to the left side of the road and then turns the car sharply to the right speeding directly into a guard, sending her flying through the air. It sure looks like a deliberate car ramming.
Erekat was running toward the guards when he was shot. Though medical help arrived within minutes, he didn’t survive. The border guard, Shani Or Hama Kodesh was injured and taken to the hospital and is recovering. She said Erekat looked her in the eye and aimed for her, a detail that can be found in the Times of Israel and other Israeli news sites. But not, for instance, at Sky News that labels the event “Israeli Guard Kills Relative of Top PLO Negotiator Saeb Erakat.”
Rutgers University professor Noura Erakat has been posting on Twitter that her “young cousin” is a victim of “dehumanization.” She is a well-known anti-Israel speaker who advocates for the end of the Jewish state. Her posts are praised and supported by Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.
I call it the Frame of the Neighborhood Bully. Regardless of current actions or recorded history, the bully is always in the wrong, as Bob Dylan described in his song about Israel in 1983. If there is any conflict, the stronger party, even though vastly outnumbered is always at fault no matter the circumstances.
In more academic terminology, Israel is considered the oppressor in every situation. The rhetoric of victim and oppressor gets in the way of even attempting to see events here clearly.
Of course this does not mean that Israel is always right, either. Rather, it means there is little room for reasoned discussion of what happens in Israel.
The journalists I’ve quoted may or may not be promoting their own views of Israel. But they are presenting the news in a predictable format, one in which getting at all the facts is subordinate to following an expected storyline.
published atTimes of Israel
Published in Times of Israel