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Words as weapons: How the Israel-Hamas war also turned language into a battleground

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The definition of word presented in a Dictionary.

Since the Oct. 7 surprise attack on Israel, the Associated Press and most American news organizations have defined Hamas as a “militant group.” But not all news organizations. More than 60 dailies owned by Alden Global Capital ran an editorial urging the news media to describe Hamas a “terrorist organization.” 

Who’s right? It depends who you ask, says Jonathan Kaufman, director of Northeastern’s School of Journalism.  “One of the complicating issues here is that everyone has a point,” Kaufman says. 

As the Israel-Hamas war rages, another contest is playing out as the world watches, digests and discusses the fighting in real time — the war of words.  From debates about whether to describe Hamas as a “militant” or “terrorist” group to the meaning of phrases such as “from the river and to the sea,” the public discourse about the Israel-Hamas war presents a linguistic minefield riddled with terms, slogans and international legalese that makes discussing the conflict incredibly nuanced.

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