UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Language and violence: Unpacking last week’s defense of genocide

An op-ed written by Jonathan Frankel published in The Mass Media last week, “In response to the anti-Zionist stance,” uses Zionist rhetoric to deny the existence of an apartheid and of a genocide, while simultaneously manufacturing consent for one.

Frankel opens by briefly acknowledging tragedy in Gaza before quickly shifting toward an insistence on historical context—or rather, a bizarrely selective representation of it. As students, we applaud the sentiment of upholding academic and journalistic integrity in our university’s newspaper, but his op-ed is simply lacking in what it demands of anti-Zionists.

From the op-ed’s beginning, the distortion of reality classic to Zionist messaging is on display: While enumerating 1,200 Israelis killed, the at least 34,596 Palestinians killed by the IOF are described simply as “thousands.” Israelis are “slaughtered” by Hamas, Palestinians are simply dead.

The dehumanization of Palestinians is central to the defense of the state of Israel, going back to the Nakba of 1948, and is perpetuated further by rhetoric that insists on taking not just Palestinian lives, but also their deaths. How many people died? How did they die? Who killed them?

Stripping people of their story, their dignity and their humanity, even in death, is horrific, but unfortunately unsurprising when done in defense of a country whose leaders have consistently engaged in violent language, including repeatedly comparing Palestinians to “beasts” and animals.

Frankel asserts that the “claims that Israel is committing genocide of Palestinians are lies. Since Oct. 7, Hamas has intentionally put Palestinian civilians’ lives at risk by using hospitals and schools as rocket launching and command sites.”

Many have defended Israeli attacks on areas with civilians with the charge of human shields, despite instances like Israel’s defense of its assault on al-Shifa Hospital coming under scrutiny for lack of evidence, and despite blatant attacks on civilians like the Flour Massacre on Feb. 29. Israel, like any nation, has a duty to protect innocent civilians.

As Israel continues to assault the right to life for two million Palestinians, Frankel posits it is “the only country in the world whose right to exist is under constant assault”—and we suggest it stop acting as if it is incapable of being held to the same international law as other countries. Rather than attempt to address the dozens of war crimes committed by Israel in the past over 200 days alone, he has altogether ignored the details of atrocities against Palestinians and failed to acknowledge that this approach is an extension of their ruthless, long-standing military tactics.

More outlandish is the historical narrative posited by Frankel that “Israel has tried to make peace with Palestinians numerous times…” and that “…Palestinian leadership has rejected paths to co-existence with Israel,” which oversimplifies, misleads and places undue culpability for peacemaking on the Palestinians. Frankel’s op-ed overlooks that even the very beginnings of Israel’s statehood were marked with the forced expulsion of over a million Palestinians, and that the Israeli government’s actions continue to prioritize self-preservation at the expense of their neighbors’ suppression.

Every school has room to improve, but last week’s op-ed was not a failure of our English department, nor would it, in our opinion, be passable work here. Frankel utilizes flagrant propaganda tactics, ranging from one-sided representations and whataboutism to blatant lies and dehumanization.

This narrative is not unique to his article, and may not necessarily be consciously or intentionally produced. It echoes the same propaganda used by Israeli leadership and allies—a symptom of the distorted narrative necessary to manufacture consent for an apartheid and now genocide, and serves as a dangerous tool to further perpetuate injustices.