Words Matter


The way we use words—the tone, the context (in-person or on social media, in a small-group discussion, or large-scale lecture), and the timing—impacts the way they are received and perceived.

The Israel-Hamas war is being accompanied by a barrage of news reports, social media posts, and peer comments that can be triggering, upsetting, challenging, or confusing. This is, in part, because of the way certain words and phrases are misused and even weaponized. “Genocide,” “ceasefire,” and “disproportionate response,” among other words and phrases, have taken on political connotations that distort their original meaning or the situations they are used to describe. 

The iCenter has compiled a collection of articles and resources that delve into the legal and historical meaning, as well as the meaning implied by political and common usage, of terms we’ve been hearing frequently in the context of the current Israel-Hamas war.

This collection supports educators: 

1) in the timeless goal of engaging with learners about the importance of how words are used; 

2) in the timely need to help learners process and dissect difficult, triggering, and confusing ways language is being used to characterize the Israel-Hamas war.

Important: Our goal is to help learners understand the meaning and connotations of words and phrases—not to tell people what to think or how to think. We hope these resources will help educators challenge and support learners to think critically, including when they wish to criticize, rather than leaning on widely—and often inaccurately—used terms.


These discussion questions—along with your own—can help spark conversations with learners as they explore specific words and phrases that may be weaponized or used inappropriately.

1. What does the word or phrase mean to you? How do you “hear” the word or phrase?

2. What other meanings or connotations might the word or phrase have? How and/or why is the speaker/writer using the word or phrase?

3. What about the way the word is used (tone, context, timing, etc.) is upsetting or uncomfortable?

4. How might you restate an argument that you believe misuses a word or phrase?


In addition to the FAQs and other materials created by The iCenter, we are curating resources and articles that can help educators understand the use and misuse of some of the words being used in the context of the war. Watch for links in the pages linked below. 

What do people mean when they use the term “ceasefire”? What do they mean when they use it in reference to the Israel-Hamas war? 

View the Words Matter: “Ceasefire” Resource

Explore legal and popular definitions of the term “proportionate response” and consider what people might understand when they hear it used in reference to the Israel-Hamas war—or any other situation. 

View the Words Matter: “Proportionate Response” Resource

תחנות יסוד קשורות בתחום החינוך לישראל

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