Israel’s war of words

Abdel-Alim Mohamed , Tuesday 12 Mar 2024

Abdel-Alim Mohamed discusses Israel’s war to dehumanise Palestinians

Israel s war of words
Israel s war of words


Colonialism has always employed words and concepts alongside weapons and money to subjugate people. The White Man’s Burden of spreading civilisation among the brutes is a case in point. With the rise of the Zionist project at the height of this colonial era in the late 19th century, its pioneers borrowed colonial terminology.

Most institutions first established by the Zionist project were explicitly colonial. They had names like the Jewish Colonial Association, the Colonial Society of Israel, the Jewish Colonial Association in Palestine, and the Jewish Colonial Fund. But Zionism excelled at disinformation from the start. Max Nordau, often regarded as the second most important figure in the Zionist project after Herzl, invented the concept of the national homeland, which later became part of the Balfour Declaration.

The use of force — genocide, and the killing of women, children, and the elderly — was not enough from the Zionist perspective. Justifying these operations and gaining the approval of global public opinion required propaganda, and so the Nakba of 1948 and the ethnic cleansing practised of Palestinians, some 750,000 of whom were expelled from their homes, became merely battles for independence and liberation.

And so, while the post-1967, complete occupation of historic Palestine continues, resistance is labelled terrorism, extending not only to military or armed resistance but almost all forms of Palestinian resistance, including civilian confrontations with the Israeli army and calls for the economic and academic boycott of Israel. Since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, the use of the term terrorism has worsened, with waves of settlement expansion. After 9/11, Israel managed to frame its war against the Palestinian people as part of the global counterterrorism struggle. This alignment between the Israeli and American agendas continues to this today.

The propaganda regards resistance and antisemitism as two sides of the same coin, meaning that whoever opposes Zionism must be an antisemite. Zionist organisations in many countries have intensified efforts to pass legislation reinforcing this confusion. Since the beginning of the barbaric aggression on Gaza following the Al-Aqsa Flood, the Israeli political and security establishment has waged this verbal and psychological war against the Palestinian people, but Defence Minister Galant calling them animals is consistent with his predecessors’ views.

Manachem Begin described Palestinians in 1982 as “creatures walking on two legs”, and former Israeli Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan likened Palestinians to drugged cockroaches in a jar. Former Israeli president Moshe Katsav described Palestinians as “people who do not belong to our world but belong to a different galaxy.”

Israeli propaganda has relied on obscuring the overall context in which events occur. Palestinian resistance, regardless of the faction in question, is labelled “IS” and accused of premodern abominations. After the November ceasefire and the release of some prisoners held by Hamas, this propaganda was exposed by those released. The Israeli authorities even blocked their testimonies about Palestinian resistance. This is undoubtedly an attempt to elicit a reaction from the international community to Palestinian resistance similar to the reaction to IS’s atrocities.

But the blatant fallacy is that the Palestinian resistance, since long before 7 October, is politically and legally legitimate under the Geneva Convention and its protocols. For the first time in the history of liberation movements, we see demands on an occupied people to secure the occupying force and preserve its security. However, no matter how much Israeli propaganda tries to obscure the truth, Palestinians — and, increasingly, the world at large — know and defend it.


The writer is an Arab affairs expert at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.


* A version of this article appears in print in the 14 March, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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