Language in the War on Gaza – Dubravka Žarkov 4/5/24


Israel’s political and military leaders have produced so many outright lies regarding Gaza and Hamas that it might seem there is no point in wasting one’s breath on them. Consider the following statements and the contrary evidence for those not yet convinced:

  • The IDF does not deliberately target civilians, journalists, medical facilities and staff, or restricts aid. In fact, the IDF has deliberately targeted civilians (as widely reported), journalists (as Human Rights Watch has detailed), and medical personnel (according to Amnesty International). It has also put various restrictions on aid.
  • The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is harboring among its employees Hamas militants who took part in the October 7 massacres. Yet, Israel has not shared any information or evidence to back up its assertions while UNRWA has screened its 13,000 staff in Gaza on a biannual basis.
  • Israel’s declared war on Gaza and the ongoing, undeclared war against Palestinians in the West Bank are “against Hamas” and “terrorists.” In fact, multiple Israeli governments, including the current one, have committed to appropriating all Palestinian territory and committing genocide against the Palestinians currently living there.
  • Iran is the main financier and supporter of Hamas. In fact, other entities like Qatar have been the main supporters of Hamas, and Israel too was instrumental in creating Hamas to divide Palestinian sympathies.

Other statements, however, made by Israeli and other world leaders, that may appear to be true, and that continue to be taken at face value, are in reality dangerously deceptive. Their aim is to justify Israeli politics regarding violence towards Palestinians, actions in support of the current war, or inaction in stopping it. Careful examination of a few of these will expose the ways in which such statements operate.

Dictionary of Deception

Probably the most repeated statement proffered by Israeli politicians and their supporters is that Hamas and Palestinians in general deny the Israeli state’s “right to exist.” This statement entirely ignores – and diverts attention away from – the unquestionable reality that Israel has existed as a state since 1948 and continues to exist, whether or not Hamas or anyone else objects to it.

At the same time, the Israeli complaint occludes the reality that it is Palestine whose right to exist as a state has long been denied. Although the majority of world governments have recognized Palestinian statehood, the State of Palestine has only an observer status in the UN. This is so because Israel and the United States, Canada, Australia, and an absolute majority of  European states have refused to recognize Palestinian statehood (though this might change in future). Israel’s current government has explicitly and loudly proclaimed that it has no plan to recognize a Palestinian state. It is, thus, Israel that denies any Palestinian state’s right to exist.

Instead, Israel is expanding the occupation of Palestinian territory, and when faced with resistance, it asserts its own “right to self-defense.” However, in 1983, the UN General Assembly explicitly affirmed Palestinians’ right to self-defense “by all available means, including armed struggle,” a right they share with all nations under “colonial domination, apartheid and foreign occupation,” as asserted in the Geneva Conventions. This right does not include violence against Israeli civilians, which Hamas militants have perpetrated. Such violence may qualify as war crimes. Nevertheless, the Geneva Conventions make clear that the “right to self-defense” belongs to the occupied, not the occupier. Any military or police action taken by an occupier against the occupied – even when the occupied uses violence against occupation – is violence, not self-defense….

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