Palestinian-Israeli Conflict Language Analysis

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October 2005

Coming to Terms. A conflict analysis of the usage, in official and unofficial sources, of ‘security fence,’ ‘apartheid wall,’ and other terms for the structure between Israel and the Palestinian Territories.



Richard Rogers and Anat Ben-David

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The official terms are ‘security fence’ on the Israeli side, and ‘apartheid wall’ on the Palestinian. Both terms fuse two contextually charged notions to describe the construction project. Beyond the two official terms, the structure has been given other names within the region and beyond. The study describes the connotations and implications of approximately ten terms used for the structure, including the names given by diplomatic and NGO sources appearing in the media space (e.g., the International Court of Justice’s ‘West Bank wall’) and by news organizations covering the issue (e.g., ‘barrier wall’).

Using data from Google News, which includes official and unofficial sources, the study, more specifically, offers a media monitoring method, sensitive to the complications of relying on Web-based news aggregators. Significantly, the study seeks to create conflict indicators from the shifting language employed for the structure by Palestinian and Israeli officials. The analysis seeks to learn whether and when Israelis and Palestinians 'come to terms.' Which particular constellation of Palestinian, Israeli and other actors share language? What are the implications of that shared language for a peace arrangement?

The study also provides analysis of the contribution of news coverage to the conflict, concentrating on how Israeli and Palestinian official language changes when international news leaves the scene, and when officials themselves change scenes, e.g., speaking at the podium in the Rose Garden at the U.S. White House.

The Palestinians and Israelis choose their words differently, it was found. The Israeli government is relatively consistent (yet alone) in their term usage; the Palestinian officials adopt their terminology according to the setting, using different terms for the structure in diplomatic and international court settings than ‘at home.’ Having identified ‘setting’ as an important variable in the study of language use as conflict indicator, the study also provides an analysis of diplomatic language in key debates on the obstacle at the U.N. Security Council, providing a kind of world map (or graph) of the conflict. Finally, comparing the diplomatic to other settings, we ask, which setting is hosting shared language, if any? At the U.N., we found 'language blocs.' Where could shared language otherwise be hosted?

In sum it was found that, at particular moments in time, Israeli and Palestinian actors ‘come to terms’ most significantly around ‘separation wall,’ coupling the Israeli left-of-center adjective and the Palestinian noun, implying a peace-related arrangement distinctive from either side’s official position (as well as the current official and 'people-to-people' peace plans), and ultimately undesirable to those who use and share the term.

Download the study

Richard Rogers and Anat Ben-David, "Coming to Terms: A conflict analysis of the usage, in official and unofficial sources, of ‘security fence,’ ‘apartheid wall,’ and other terms for the structure between Israel and the Palestinian Territories," 2005.

http://www.govcom.org/publications/full_list/ben-david_rogers_coming_to_terms_2oct.pdf

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to acknowledge the support of the Advanced Network Research Group, Cambridge Security Programme, University of Cambridge, U.K. Appreciation is extended to Andrei Mogoutov (Aguidel.com) and Zachary O’Connor Devereaux (Ryerson / York Universities) for analytical and graphical support, and to Marieke van Dijk and Auke Touwslager (Anderemedia.nl) for designing the figures.

About the authors

Dr. Richard Rogers is Director of the Govcom.org Foundation, Amsterdam, and University Lecturer in Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam. He is author of Information Politics on the Web (MIT Press, 2004). http://home.medewerker.uva.nl/r.a.rogers/

Anat Ben-David holds an M.A. in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

Workshop locations

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WHAT:
  • The News about Networks 2:
  • Making Issues into Rights?
WHEN:
  • June 21-24, 2004
WHERE:
  • Amsterdam, the Netherlands

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WHAT:
  • The News about Networks
WHEN:
  • November 10-14, 2003
WHERE:
  • Amsterdam, the Netherlands

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WHAT:
  • Issue Network Interventions:
  • The Problem of Information Formats
WHEN:
  • October 28-31, 2003
WHERE:
  • Cartagena, Colombia

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