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Israel/Palestine Lexicon For Mainstream Media

By Justin Podur

28 July, 2014

If you are writing for mainstream media, you need to learn special uses of words and phrases that are specific to Israel/Palestine. If you use common usage, you will run into confusions, paradoxes, and hostile responses from pro-Israel people. Please follow these guidelines and you will have no problems with editors, politicians, or organized pro-Israel groups. For each phrase, this guide will present first (a) the common usage, and then (b) the specific Israel/Palestine usage that you must use in order to write for major US (and UK and Canadian of course) media (NYT, Toronto Star, BBC, CBC, etc.)


a. Traditional usage: prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.

b. Israel/Palestine usage: If you are a politician or journalist, being insufficiently pro-Israel means you are biased. In order to avoid accusations of bias, writers can use the 'both sides' phrase, and compare irrelevant metrics, like, say, the number of Palestinian children killed to the number of rockets launched from Gaza. The use of the word 'nuance', especially when confronted with stark data about hunger, deprivation, or deaths of Palestinians, will also help with accusations of bias.


a. Traditional usage: An area where civilians live. As opposed to, say, an empty, open field, or a military base.

By this definition, since the Palestinians have no state and no army, and therefore have no military bases, and since Gaza is a densely populated urban area full of refugee camps, fenced in on all sides, with its coastal area patrolled by the Israeli navy, all of Gaza would be considered a civilian area. The TUNNELS, by contrast, might not be considered civilian areas, if HAMAS is using them militarily.

b. Israel/Palestine usage: A tiny part of Gaza where HAMAS hides. Bombing this part of Gaza is completely legitimate, because it is necessary to kill HAMAS and to kill its HUMAN SHIELDS.


a. Wikipedia: Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni Islamic organization, with an associated military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, in the Palestinian territories and elsewhere in the Middle East including Qatar.

b. Israel/Palestine usage: The presence of Hamas is sufficient justification for any crime, which is not a crime if Hamas was present. If a Hamas member is at home with his family, that home and the surrounding area is no longer to be considered a CIVILIAN AREA. Instead, the people killed in the process of bombing him would be considered HUMAN SHIELDS. In previous decades, this slot was used by other Palestinian or Lebanese groups such as Hezbollah, Fatah, PLO, etc.


a. Wikipedia: Hatred (or hate) is a deep and emotional extreme dislike. It can be directed against individuals, entities, objects, or ideas. Hatred is often associated with feelings of anger and a disposition towards hostility.

By this definition, the following actions could be considered hate:

i. Watching bombings at a picnic
ii. Chanting “Death to the Arabs”
iii. Praising/advocating the deaths of children
iv. Advocating rape as a policy

b. Israel Palestine usage: Any Palestinian resistance or utterance constitutes hate. Like the intent to TARGET CIVILIANS, Israeli officials are the authority on what the deep motivations of Palestinians and people who oppose Israeli attacks on them. Presenting photos, numbers, or videos that show what Israel is doing is hateful.


a. Wikipedia: a military and political term describing the deliberate placement of non-combatants in or around combat targets to deter the enemy from attacking these targets. It may also refer to the use of persons to literally shield combatants during attacks, by forcing them to march in front of the soldiers.

b. Israel/Palestine usage: People that are killed by Israel in CIVILIAN AREAS are automatically defined as human shields.


a. Wikipedia: In criminal law, kidnapping is the taking away or transportation of a person against that person's will, usually to hold the person in false imprisonment, a confinement without legal authority.

By this definition, the 215 Palestinian minors (33 of whom were under 16 years old) who are in Israeli detention could be considered to have been kidnapped. Or the hundreds of adult administrative detainees, given the flimsy legal pretexts for holding them, could be considered kidnapped. By contrast, soldiers of an occupying army, ie., Israel, who are captured in military operations would be considered prisoners of war, which according to Wikipedia, is “A prisoner of war (POW, PoW, PW, P/W, WP, PsW, enemy prisoner of war (EPW) or "missing-captured"[1]) is a person, whether combatant or non-combatant, who is held in custody by a belligerent power during or immediately after an armed conflict.”

b. Israel/Palestine usage: Israel does not kidnap anyone. If anyone is in Israeli jails, child or adult, charged or not, they must have done something. Also, any Israeli who is captured, including soldiers conducting operations in Palestinian territory, must be written up as kidnapped. Please ensure you humanize them as much as you dehumanize the Palestinians.


There is actually no common usage of this phrase, it is exclusive to Israel/Palestine. It means: whatever Israel and the US are currently doing, including bombing, besieging, or blocking peace proposals at the United Nations. When writing about it, care should be taken to phrase whatever Israel is proposing as extreme generousness. Whether Israel or the Palestinians walk away, care must be taken to present the Palestinians as having rejected a generous offer.


a. From Wikipedia: A siege occurs when an attacker encounters a city or fortress that cannot be easily taken by a coup de main and refuses to surrender... Failing a military outcome, sieges can often be decided by starvation, thirst or disease, which can afflict either the attacker or defender.

By this definition, because its borders are all sealed off and walled and controlled by Israel and Egypt, neither of whom allow people or goods to enter or exit, Gaza would be considered to be under siege.

b. Israel/Palestine usage: Even though Israelis can travel wherever they wish and the borders (to date undefined) of Israel are under Israeli control, even though Israel is a prosperous country with an economy fully integrated with that of the West, Israel must be considered to be under siege by Palestinians. When writing about Israel/Palestine, siege should be understood as a metaphor. Actual, physical siege, of the Palestinians, must of course be ignored.


a. Compound word. Wikipedia combines i. Targeting (warfare), to select objects or installations to be attacked, taken, or destroyed. ii. A civilian under the laws of war (also known as international humanitarian law) is a person who is not a member of his or her country's armed forces or militias. Civilians are distinct from combatants. They are considered non-combatants and are afforded a degree of legal protection from the effects of war and military occupation.

Under this definition, because Israel has the ability and the high-tech weaponry to do targeting, and because 80% of the 700+ people who have been killed by Israel are civilians, that Israel is targeting civilians. On the other hand, Hamas's militias have killed 90% uniformed Israeli military.

b. Israel/Palestine usage: The statistics are irrelevant, the death counts are irrelevant, only what matters is intent, and intent is defined by Israeli officials, who say that Hamas targets civilians while Israel does not. Therefore, when Israel uses precision munitions to kill hundreds of children, and 80% of its victims are civilians, this does not mean that Israel targets civilians, which is a HATEFUL thing to do. Israeli officials say that Hamas targets civilians, which means that they do, which means that they are morally inferior to Israel.


a. Looks good on television.

b. Israel/Palestine usage: dead babies .


a. From Wikipedia: War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political communities, and therefore is defined as a form of political violence or intervention.

The word war usually implies some sort of reciprocity between the two warring parties. By this standard definition, attacks on civilians, for example by Israel against the Palestinians in Gaza, in which 80% of the casualties are civilians and hundreds of them are children, could not really be considered a war.

b. Israel/Palestine usage: A delicate balance must be struck here. On the one hand, the impression must be given that Israel is a perfectly normal place, safe for people like Bloomberg to fly to. On the other hand, the impression must also be given that Israel is at war, and therefore all of its operations can be justified as difficult, wartime decisions.

* * *

With these guidelines, you should be able to stay out of trouble with pro-Israel advocacy organizations, your editors, and politicians. Your job will be safer and you will be able to write about Israel/Palestine in a way that helps your career. Follow them carefully. Avoid any media that don't follow these guidelines – they are to be considered BIASED.

* * *

Justin Podur spends time reading the media.


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