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An examination of War Discourse in the context of the Israel-Gaza conflict in December/January 2008/9.

An examination of War Discourse in the context of the Israel-Gaza conflict in December/January 2008/9.

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Lawrence Hamill. Originally submitted for BA Hons. Major Politics Minor English at Queen University Belfast, with lecturer Dr Andrea Mayr in the category of English Language and Literature
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Lawrence Hamill. Originally submitted for BA Hons. Major Politics Minor English at Queen University Belfast, with lecturer Dr Andrea Mayr in the category of English Language and Literature

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
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I am going to examine War Discourse in the context of the Israel-Gaza conflict inDecember/January 2008/9 which provides numerous examples of linguistic use to look at interms of social discourse analysis.In December 2008, in response to rocket attacks on Israeli territory the Israel Defence Force(IDF) launched an air strike on the Gaza Strip, which led to a ground invasion on January 3
rd
,2009. This event was unique in that there was major media interest in the context of anongoing con
flict, and the fact that it met so many of Galtung and Ruge‟s „News Values‟
makes it highly significant to analyse in terms of language use and critical discourse analysis.The Israel-Gaza offensive managed to satisfy both the unexpectedness and continuity newsvalues; in that the initial air strikes were unexpected and the intensity shocking- making forgood headlines. At the same time, the war in terms of continuity of the overallIsrael/Palestinian conflict made it just as newsworthy and satisfied the relevance news value;
„…an event may happen in a culturally distant place but still be loaded with meaning in termsof what it may imply for the reader or listener.‟ (Galtung and Ruge: 54)
The high profilemedia response to the conflict was something which t
he Israeli‟s have recognised and the
swift response of the IDF in reacting to this is interesting to look at. The Israel-Gaza conflictwas not only going to be fought out on the ground in Gaza, but across TV, newspapers and
importantly, online. The first „mediatised‟ war was Vietnam in the 1960s
-70s and ever sincearmies and defence departments have been aware of the importance of engaging the media in
an „information war‟ which
leads to public perceptions that can ultimately influence theoutcome of entire wars. In this respect, I will be integrating online resources into my essay-importantly the official IDF blog which was used to communicate press releases and publicinformation from the Israeli viewpoint during the conflict. Western newspaper coveragediffered widely based on the political standpoint of the publication so for the purposes of myessay I am going to use
The Times
which offered an informative daily reporting from theircorrespondent in Jerusalem and the Israeli border with Gaza. Importantly, they relied onsources inside Gaza as opposed to having a correspondent inside the Strip. I am also going touse some extracts from the right wing
 Jerusalem Post 
newspaper as some articles areavailable from Lexis Nexis database. Interesting about this conflict was the Internet basedresponse of the Israeli army who launched an online blog, YouTube channel and Twitter feedto outline information which was instantly relayed to media outlets all over the world. Thelinguistic function of a 140 ch
aracter Twitter post describing “At least 7 mortar shells fired @
 
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Israel” (IDF Twitter 7/1/10) seems inappropriate when posted in such casual fashion andwith scant detail. This type of technology can provide a prime example of Richardson‟stheory of „textual meaning... through relations presence and absence.‟ (Richardson 58) Space
constraints can negate the inclusion of conflicting or potentially compromising detail. The
„techno
-
savvy‟ use of online resources by the Israeli‟s to connect with the public a
nd themedia proves extremely successful (the YouTube channel has 2.4 million views) andcorrelates directly to the increase in people who go online to view news from a range of different sources. Linguistically we are seeing a careful selection and overall reduction of words and sentences so that people are given sound bites which reflect overarchingideologies.A lot of the visual and linguistic representations of the conflict centred on the positioning of Israel as the dominant military force in the region; and this was expressed in many sections of the media that Israel was the aggressor- or the disproportionate actor in the conflict. Theheadline of 
The Times
on the 5
th
 
January was „Israel‟s Rain of Fire on Gaza‟ which was
accompanied by a salient image of white phosphorus streaking across the sky. The reference
to „Rain of Fire‟
used in this headline reinforces the hellish imagery portrayed through thepictures of the conflict and is immediately ideologically revealing. The use of whitephosphorus as a smokescreen was an issue which was picked up by Western media outlets
and used against the Israeli‟s.
A major component of 
The Times
coverage of the conflict wasbased around the reaction to the use of this weapon and it is indicative of the power of themedia focus on this that it was eventually withdrawn from use. An Israeli Army Chief of Staff said "Since this was a big buzz in the media, we issued an order 7 Jan '09 to stop usingwhite phosphorus
shells,..” (
The Times
23/4/09) Continuing media focus on the victims of this phosphorus shelling was apparent in the photographing of burns victims in hospital.Concentration on injured and maimed children is an emotive tool and displays theoverarching ideologies at work in
The Times
. After the conflict, the human rightsorganisation Human Rights Watch published a highly critical report
called „Rain of Fire‟
which documents the use of white phosphorus munitions in Gaza. Within the body copy of 
The Times
5
th
January report, the army is r
eported to have „...stormed to the edges of GazaCity.‟ The use of noun „stormed‟ emphasises the ferocity of the military attack as well as
being interlinked with the diction of the weather in the overall article. An emotive response isprovoked with the description of victims of the attack- personalisation of victims makes theaudience more receptive to the ideology that lies behind the report-
„Among those killed were
 
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five members of a family who died when an Israeli tank shell hit their car and a paramedic
who died when a tank blasted his ambulance‟ The perceived
illegitimacy of the targetsexemplify the negative coverage that the Israelis received in the majority of the British press.
 
This is maintained throughout the by-line from the 5
th
January
Times
-
„All munitions used arelawful, say army.‟
- this sets the tone for the article implying that there is something unlawfuloccurring in Gaza. Introducing legal terminology in the article-
„The Geneva Treaty of 1980,‟„international law,‟ „…someone would end up in the Hague‟ brings in the prospect of 
criminalisation of those involved. These referential strategies used at the time served a
 political as well as ideological purpose that questioned the legality of what the Israeli‟s were
doing. This can be seen as a precursor for subsequent events as international arrest warrantswere issued for the then Foreign Minister. The issuing of an arrest warrant more than a year
after the event corresponds with Jerry Palmer‟s notions of consequence
-
„…the way in which
news
attention can focus upon the unravelling of these consequences…‟ (Palmer: 380)
The Gaza conflict is unique in that it was not subject to traditional modes of news productionand this is most apparent in the television news media. The conflict was the main story onnumerous news networks and appeared consistently on 24 hour news channels. Al Jazeera, anArabic news channel based in Qatar provided extensive coverage of events as they happenedin Gaza. It was one of the only international news outlets to have a correspondent and
television crew in the Gaza strip as it was subject to bombardment from the Israeli‟s. Most
other news outlets had to base their correspondents on the Israeli side of the border and reliedon sources inside for their information. The ideological position of Al Jazeera is interesting asit is primarily funded by the Qatari government- an all male elite, dynastic and unelectedEmirate.
I have examined an article from the very comprehensive „War on Gaza‟ section of 
the Al Jazeera website
and studied an article titled „Displaced and desperate in Gaza.‟ The
alliterative effect of the headline draws the reader in and the use of a transitive verb
„displaced‟ begins a human interest story; the negativity of which appeals to people‟s sense of 
curiosity. The accompanying image of an elderly man at a school desk is a display of the
„...corruption of normality caused by the enemy,...‟
(Machin 130) where social and culturalnorms have been displaced and preclude a sense of indignity that pervades the article. Theimage has connotations that those most vulnerable in society- in this case the elderly andinfirm are being treated callously and without dignity by an outside force. The ideological
stance is clear from descriptions of the Israeli „random bombardment‟
and moves to target
„residential buildings and homes, civilian cars...and schools...‟ There is also evidence in the

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