Words matter

Communication is never easy, but some topics (religion and politics rise to the top) can be downright dangerous. In recent years, we’ve seen social media abused, misused and weaponized for nefarious purposes. QANON , President Trump, and Israel’s hasbara come to mind.

A particularly sensitive landscape on which to tread lightly in my experience is the topic of Israel and Palestine. Words matter. Are we talking about “Israel proper” or “1948 Palestine” or “the Zionist entity” when we discuss the State of Israel?

Labels carry emotional weight for both the speaker and the listener, as one person noted when he mentioned that he prefers to use “the Zionist entity” to “annoy the professional class”.

I recently caught a discussion on Facebook about these labels, which generated a lively response from mostly an appreciative group of friends. With some interest, I observed the banter anonymously (as Facebook allows) until someone mentioned that he doesn’t recognize the existence of the State of Israel, regardless of what it might be called. I know some other Palestinians and pro-Palestine activists that share this viewpoint, to wit, the State of Israel is illegitimate, and the labels we use must not add any legitimacy to it.

When the Facebook thread turned to the issue of recognizing Israel’s legitimacy, I came out of the shadows and commented that the State of Israel is recognized under international law. . . . Regardless of what labels anyone wants to use for whatever purpose, denying Israel’s legitimacy as a State was denying international law. . . . And then the Facebook thread took off in an energetic discourse about the merits of international law.

(A side caveat: I didn’t know any of the participants — lawyers? Palestinians? activists? And they didn’t know me. Knowing your audience is probably a good lesson to remember on social media.)

When the exchange became personal and emotional, I tried to extricate myself. “Good night” “Good night”. The energy (hostility?) in the thread had grown mob-like and I didn’t think it was productive.

The following missive kicked me in the shins on the way out the door. I didn’t respond because I wasn’t sure it was referring to me. The poster surreptitiously mentions “the particular individual” and “entity” and “individual Zionist entities”. But later I confirmed it with another observer — I am the “entity” mentioned below.

Without further explanation, I’ve copied and pasted the missive.

Dear Palestinian Friends, 
I’ve been reading this thread, and am disgusted to find a particular individual has demonstrated that they are only here to disrupt and exact violence upon the Palestinian community on this post.  It’s frankly disgusting, and this person is defending Zi*nists because they have kinship with THEM… Not our Palestinian sisters and brothers. Sickening behavior.
As a Black woman, these particular positional tactics the entity is employing here are VERY familiar to me.  I’ve dealt with racists my entire life, and this form of so-called ‘engagement’ is violent and purposeful.
In addition to being mean spirited toward Palestinians (who they erroneously claim are ’emotional’), this entity is only validating the voices of (what appears to be) NON PALESTINIANS, again, as a purposeful tactic.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen such hateful actions deployed in this manner, but, unfortunately, I am devoid of ‘surprise.’ 
Alarmingly, it has come to my attention that this entity ACTUALLY ROUTINELY ATTENDS PALESTINIAN EVENTS where they reside!  How DISTURBING!!  This is a betrayal and an affront, and I’m hoping that this particular thread and the behavior exhibited here will be shared with the Palestinians this entity has ‘communed’ with so that they may protect themselves. 
Let this thread be a cautionary reminder of the lengths individual Zi*nist entities will do to to gaslight, justify, and excuse the immoral erasure of the Palestinian people, similar to how Anti-Blackness is wielded and justified worldwide.  Just look at the way this entity has insulted Brother Salaita on HIS OWN THREAD, as a Palestinian (as well as other Palestinians here).  It’s vile.
Please be vigilant, and most importantly, PRESERVE YOUR PEACE.  This entity is NOT here to provide support or solidarity, and only to aggravate.  Repulsive.
Disengage.”

Thoughts and suggestions welcome. If you’re interested in reading the entire thread that preceded this missive, please let me know. I think I saved it.

11 Comments

Filed under communication, Uncategorized

11 responses to “Words matter

  1. lgmoscarella

    Words like weapons of war should be proportional. The reply you illicited was way beyond proportional. In deciding to discuss sensitive topics it’s a good idea to have ground rules.

  2. Wow, your reply is giving off very angry vibes, how are you feeling today?

  3. Wesley Sandel

    Define legitimate – Israel has been in violation of the UN charter it signed in 1948 since it executed its first ethnic cleansing campaign in 1948 and then assassinated the UN envoy sent to negotiate the refugees right to return to their homes and communities. I would argue that that fact makes Israel illegitimate. The Zionists use international law to try to claim legitimacy while simultaneously claiming that international law doesn’t apply to Israel.

    .

  4. Thank you for clarifying for me!

  5. Hi Lora,
    I have taken to calling it either the Zionist State of Israel or the Apartheid State of Israel, lately I may use the non-democratic State of Israel, am having trouble just using the “State of Israel.” I haven’t considered that under International law it is called the State of Israel. Under International Law what is Palestine called? I don’t think your comment about it being called the “State of Israel” under International Law deserved the vitriol expressed in the missive above. I like it that you know International Law!

    • Thank you. My comments in the thread were actually not focused on the term or phrase people want to call it. I was focused on the act of recognizing the existence of the State of Israel. International Law says that Israel exists regardless of what anyone wants to call it.

    • And the occupied West Bank and Gaza are recognized under international law — regardless of what label they are given — and the settlements that Israel builds in the West Bank are considered illegal.

    • Wesley Sandel

      How about racist Jewish shithole.

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