Ilan Manor

The Israeli Language Laundry

It is my belief that the British author George Orwell would have made a prime candidate for Aliyah.  For one thing, Orwell was a member of the Scallywags, a secret section of the British Home Guard which was to launch a guerrilla war against the Germans should the Nazis invade Great Brittan. This would enable the author to take part in the various ceremonies at Yad Vashem which commemorate those who died in resistance to the Nazis. Secondly, Orwell has forever influenced Israeli popular culture as he is the architect of Channel 2’s ratings bonanza Big Brother. Lastly, in the past few months several members of the Knesset have proposed laws which resemble those that exist in Orwell’s fictitious totalitarian state, Oceania.

Of course one has to bear in mind that Orwell was not Jewish and would therefore have to convert to Judaism. Yet it is fair to assume that the Eton graduate would have been able to master the principals of kosher cooking.

Another manner in which Orwell has influenced Israel is in the media’s adoption of the principles of Newspeak, or Language Laundry, which are described in the masterpiece 1984. This is the process in which news reports, that are supposedly objective, are comprised of a set of words which promote a certain ideology or political stand. Israel’s Language Laundry is best exemplified by the use of the word “report” whenever relaying information which originates from the IDF, while at the same time using the word “claim” whenever relaying information which originates from Palestinian sources.  Within the word “claim” lies the supposition that the Palestinians are not a credible source of information and have a tendency towards exaggerations or lies. Thus, Israelis need to be alarmed when the Palestinians “claim” to have civilian casualties following IDF “surgical” strikes.

“Right wing activists” is another Newspeak term most commonly used when referring to the hawkish violent fringes of the Israeli political right wing. Other words also fit the bill, words such as fanatics or thugs. Yet the term “activists” evokes images of idealistic youngsters trying to better the society they live in. The crimes perpetrated by these so called activists have also been thrown into the laundry machine and are labeled as “price tag” operations. Not acts of vandalism or violence but rather actions that sound as if they had taken place within an elegant branch of the Swedish, neutral, H&M clothing store.

In the past week, one additional phrase has been added to Israel’s Newspeak- anarchists.  The “flytilla” of activists which was to protest the Israeli occupation was branded as an armada of anti- Semitic anarchists threatening to bring the Jewish homeland to its knees.

Oy Vey!

This is an especially interesting turn of events as spring has arrived in Israel and with it a sense of renewed spirits amongst those who protested last year against social injustice. These urban warriors took to the streets in demand of a more just society, a re-distribution of wealth and a shift in national priorities. Don’t they fit the definition of anarchists much better than a bunch of would be Danish models?

Time and again, the Israeli laundromat has proven itself to be an effective tool for shaping the discourse within Israeli society. Just last week, many Israelis tried to justify the actions of Lt.-Col Shalom Eisner by stating that the man on the other end of his rifle was one of several anarchists who were protesting at the scene.  Apparently, this group of anarchists was armed with the most dangerous weapon of all- bicycles. Luckily, Israel has the strongest army in the Middle East and was able to repel the attack of the bicycle riding “ride-tilla”.

Most Israelis believe that their media suffers from a leftist liberal bias. However, one can argue that the opposite is true. That even in 2012, most Israeli media outlets are still enlisted and serve as a tool for propaganda and, as Orwell predicted, thought control.

As a country, Israel finds itself at a cross roads with regard to its future and that of the Peace Process. Two roads diverge ahead of us. In order to choose the right path, and never look back, Israelis should demand that there be a more firm separation of state and media and a renewed commitment to the guiding principals of journalism.

About the Author
Dr. Ilan Manor (PhD Oxford University) is a diplomacy scholar at Tel Aviv University. Manor's recent book, The Digitalization of Diplomacy, explores how digital technologies have reshaped diplomatic practices. Manor has contributed to several publications including The Times of Israel, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz and the Jewish Daily Forward. According to his Twitter bio, Manor is the inventor of the ashtray. He blogs at