Socio-Political Identity Display in the Palestinian Israeli Conflict: Arafat’s Siege Speech

Asma Ben Abdallah


International law is frequently used to propose solutions for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, although enforcement mechanisms are weak. The result was a break-up of the peace process and a violent spiral of escalation. The impossibility to reach a compromise and the failure of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations in 2000-2001 played a central role in feeding the simultaneous outbreak of the Palestinian-Israeli war. This paper builds on the work of Ben Abdallah (2005) that investigated both quantitatively and qualitatively the pronominal choices of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in their speeches in the year 2001 to gain insights into self- and other presentation, ideological thinking towards ‘terrorism’, and their socio-political affiliations. In this paper, I turn my attention toward two strands of my dissertation research, which delve into the use of the discourse-pragmatic construct of ‘socio-political identity display’ (SPID) along with Goffman’s (Goffman, 1959, 1974, 1981) concepts of ‘social acting’, and ‘impression management’ by applying them to a political speech Arafat delivered in 2001 while under siege.  

This venue of analysis showed that through the strategic recurrent use of the first person singular and plural pronouns, Arafat is ‘stage-managing’ (Goffman, 1959, 1974, 1981) his audience and disclosing his micro-affiliations as a Palestinian, a leader, a legend but more importantly a political actor. This supports the claim that pronouns do not just do referring work but can also do identity work (Malone 1997; Ben Abdallah, 2005).



pronouns, Social Acting, Impression Management, Social Identity Theory, Socio-Political Identity Display (SPID).

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