Opinion //

Murdered, not killed: #FreePalestine

Discussing the rhetoric surrounding Palestine.

Image credit: iLawyer

“We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”Nelson Mandela 

The Palestinian people have been subjected to the Nakba for the past 73 years. Nakba is an Arabic term meaning ‘the catastrophe’ and marks 15 May, 1948 as the beginning of  Palestinian oppression via ethnic cleansing, dispossession of land and living in constant fear for the lives of their families at the hands of the Israeli government. It also marks the  beginning of the world’s passive response to the violation of Palestinian human rights. 

This passive response to the Palestinian crisis is evident in the careful rhetoric utilised to describe the events that are occurring. One of the most insidious examples of subconscious priming used by governments and media outlets is the language of ‘killed’ vs ‘murdered’. A linguist needn’t tell you how the words evoke two different sets of emotive responses. Palestinians are “killed”, while Hamas/Palestine “murders” Israeli citizens. Palestinian fatalities are followed by vague descriptors and justifications; Israeli deaths are followed by particulars of gender, age, and perhaps even a name and occuptation. The dichotomy leads to a subtle, yet very clear, distinction between the ‘bad guys’ and the ‘good guys’. 

One side is dehumanised and converted into statistics; the other is conceptualised as individuals with identities. With the use of the word ‘killed’, the media and politicians implore us to be objective in receiving this information. ‘Killed’ does not imply malicious intent — it simply conveys a controlled performative action that is unfortunate, yet justified. This strips away the ongoing violence and human right violations that contextualise the death of Palestinian victims at the hands of the Israeli government. On the other hand, using the word ‘murdered’ to describe the fate of Israeli citizens asserts the existence of inexcusable, malicious Palestinian intent. ‘Murder’ is not objective — it alludes to the necessity of premeditation prior to committing the act. It is a word that conjures imagery of senseless acts of violence.

Furthermore, the rhetoric used by politicians and media plays into the narrative that the Palestinian humanitarian crisis is a ‘religious conflict’. Palestinians are not a homogenous religious group of people. Contrary to media reports and images, not all Palestinians are Muslims. By constructing the Palestinian crisis as a religious conflict between Muslims and Jews, the identities and struggles of Palestinian Christians and Jews are ignored. The heterogenity of Palestinians disproves the assertion that there is something inherently ‘religious’ about the Palestinian resistance. Palestinians are fighting for basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to democratically elect their own government (and have it recognised and respected), the freedom to physically move within the land of Palestine and the freedom to trade with other nations. The universal human need for dignity and respect, which is denied to Palestinians, is the driving force behind their resistance, not some ‘terrorist Islam’.

Moreover, the use of the word ‘conflict’ implies that both groups of people involved are on an even playing field. There is no equal power between Palestine and Israel — Israel has an army, nuclear weapons and billions of American dollars in funding that go toward expanding Israeli defense infrastructure. Palestinians have no army, no navy and no nuclear weapons — they resist Israeli occupation of their land by firing rockets at a nuclear superpower. To place equal blame on both parties is absurd when the nation of Palestine is being oppressed and subject to apartheid laws which Israel enforces to favour its own citizens.  

Such criticism is often construed as being anti-semitic and encouraging bigotry. Yet the critiquing of Israel’s zionist movement and its policies, which actively restrict the movement and freedoms of Palestinian people, is not anti-semitic. I do not associate Israel’s war crimes with the entire Jewish community because I recognise that the beliefs, practices and experiences of the Jewish community are being grossly misconstrued to justify the continued perpetration of human right violations in Palestine. Living in a secular society, I had hoped that by now, people would be able to separate politics and religion — the politics of a government is not a reflection of any religion with which it may choose to affiliate itself. By extension, criticism of a government’s policies and actions is not an attack on the religion with which it claims to be affiliated. 

I implore you to support and fight for the basic human dignity and respect to which the Palestinian people have a right. A free Palestine must be the end goal.

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