The Language Used about Palestinians is Putting Their Lives at Risk

Palestinians in Gaza Take part in the Great March of Return. (Photo: Abdallah Aljamal, PC)

By Donna Miles-Mojab

The language used by most mainstream media to report and analyze the events in Gaza is not just shameful, it risks Palestinian lives.

It appears the media’s collective mind has been so saturated by Israeli propaganda that they are prepared to go as far as defying what they can see and hear with their own eyes and ears.

This is how BBC ended up describing the massacre we have witnessed in Gaza as “clashes”, even though clearly one side is doing all the killing, and the other side all the dying.

This misapplication of language is not merely irksome, it is downright dangerous, because the language used in the media feeds into, and strengthens, the narrative that allows Israel to commit crimes against Palestinians with impunity.

Our brains are being trained to ignore the application of what is sane, reasonable and moral to Palestinians, and to assume that Palestinians are born inherently violent and are used to a way of life that makes getting shot an ordinary experience for them.

No human being will ever choose to get shot. But if, and only if, we choose to ignore that Palestinians are just like us, just as human, just as capable of feeling fear and suffering, just as capable of feeling joy and hope, then – and only then – can we possibly believe that they would willingly make a choice to get shot.

Encouraging this warped way of thinking is called dehumanization of the Palestinians. Look for this type of dehumanization in most reports you read about Palestinians and you will find it is there – sometimes explicitly and sometimes in the most subtle way.

Let’s get the language right: Palestinians are being massacred by one of the most powerful armies in the world, which does not want to give them any option other than living in captivity, with daily humiliation.

The only choice the Palestinians have made for themselves is not to tolerate their oppression, not to be stripped of their dignity, and not to live in captivity.

Israeli sniper attacks have, so far, shot dead close to 100 Palestinian protesters and wounded thousands, during a peaceful protest march recorded and reported by the world media.

In these reports, we can see with our own eyes and ears that the civilians, including women and children, are unarmed – and there are no threats to Israeli lives or any risk of a “mass border breach”. Yet our media is happy to allow the peaceful march of the oppressed people of Gaza to be labelled as “terrorist attacks”.

This is truly outrageous. Where are the Palestinian voices?

The media is not interested in the Palestinian voices and their stories, and so it reinforces a narrative that we have heard repeated time and time again by the Zionist propaganda machine aimed at dehumanization of Palestinians – namely that the Palestinians hate Israel more than they love their own children, or that they want the destruction of Israel more than they want peace.

This dehumanization project is central to the Zionist agenda, because without it, there could be no justification for Israel’s inhumane treatment of Palestinians.

We need to see and hear more from Palestinians. We need to hear narratives that are not framed entirely around the security concerns of Israel, or are not based on the depiction of Palestinians as terrorists bent on annihilation of Israel.

We need to hear about the aspirations and hopes of Palestinians and about their suffering and resilience.

It really is time for the media to make more room for Palestinians to tell their stories of displacement, humanity and resilience, and stop perpetuating a narrative that allows us to forget they are humans and not targets for Israeli sniper attacks.

– Donna Miles-Mojab is a Scottish-born Iranian New Zealander. This article has first appeared on and the Palestine Chronicle is re-publishing it with a permission from the author.

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