Cohen, Shuki J. “Breakable and Unbreakable Silences: Implicit Dehumanization and Anti-Arab Prejudice in Israeli Soldiers’ Narratives Concerning Palestinian Women.” International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies 12.3 (2015): 245-77.
This paper illustrates an empirical paradigm for a minimally-biased characterization of the internal representations of female enemy members by male soldiers in the context of a military occupation. Using a combination of psycholinguistic and psychoanalytic tools, the study examined the associative structure of the language that was used by Israeli ex-soldiers in a large corpus of verbatim testimonies detailing their service in the Palestinian occupied territories. Since explicit dehumanization is rare in Israeli official discourse and in media- and political correctness-savvy occupying forces worldwide, this study examined implicit dehumanization through the non-conscious use of spontaneous linguistic choices. Using both computerized and quantitative linguistic analyses, this study tracked a particular pattern or word choice, presumed to capture implicit dehumanization based on a trans-disciplinary definition of the construct. Furthermore, to mitigate the potential confound between fear of the enemy and its dehumanization, this study focused on anecdotes concerning Palestinian women, as they pose less realistic threat to Israeli soldiers. Consistent with this study’s formulation of implicit dehumanization, Israeli soldiers tended to describe Palestinian women’s mental state in situational and behavioral terms (e.g. scream, make a mess, piss her pants, had a heart attack, etc.). In contrast, empathic inference – whereby the narrator extends their emotional understanding of themselves and other humans to the person whose emotional state they attempt to describe or understand – was often reserved in the testimonials only to the narrator and his fellow comrades. This evidence for implicit dehumanization is then discussed as a borderline-level defense mechanism within the larger context of both individual- and national-level anti-Arab prejudice in Israel.