In the Name of God

January 16, 2008 § Leave a comment

There are several terms used in Arabic-language media that, for some reason or another, generate controversy in the West. The most noted of these terms is probably “martyr,” but there are many other words as well. Arabic media is not homogeneous in their use of these terms — every newspaper, satellite channel, or news site has their own particular style to which they adhere. I’ll go over some of the terms and examine the context in which they are used.


In most Arabic news sources, the state of Israel is referred to as Israel when used in a political context. For example, if the prime minister of Israel meets with another dignitary, then the article will present Israel as a nation in the political sense of the word. This is true for most newspapers and al-Jazeera. Al-Manar, the Hezbullah television station broadcast from Beirut, almost always refers to Israel as the “Enemy Entity” (al-kiyan al-‘adoo) or the Zionist Entity (al-kiyan al-sahyoni) or simply, the enemy, (al-‘adoo).

In a military context, if a source uses the word “Israel” then it will be accompanied by a descriptive term. Al-Jazeera refers to the Israeli Army as the “Israeli Occupation Army” (jaysh al-ihtilal al-israili). Al-Hayat uses the term Israeli Occupation Forces (quwat al-ihtilal).


In a general sense, most Arabic newspapers and media outlets use the term “martyr” (shaheed) to describe Palestinians who have been killed by the IOF. The accompanying verb istishaad will also be used. The term applies to both civilians and fighters. In Iraq coverage, shaheed will not be used. Those killed by US forces or a car bomb are simply dead (maqtul or qutila). The same goes for al-Qaeda fighters. No Arabic newspaper would dare call a dead al-Qaeda fighter a shaheed. In the 2006 July War in Lebanon, Hezbullah fighters who were killed would most likely be referred to as martyrs.

Al-Nahar is an exception and does not use the term martyr or the verb martyr to refer to Palestinians killed by Israelis. Instead, they use “killed.”


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