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The Politics of Arabic in Israel

A Sociolinguistic Analysis

Camelia Suleiman

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Explores the contradictory position of Arabic being both the official language and marginalized in Israel

Arabic became a minority language overnight in Israel in 1948, as a result of the Palestinian exodus from their land that year. Although it remains an official language, along with Hebrew, Israel has made continued attempts to marginalize Arabic on the one hand and securitize it on the other. Camelia Suleiman delves into these tensions and contradictions, exploring how language policy and language choice both reflect and challenge political identities of Arabs and Israelis. She explores the historic context of Arabic in Israel, the attempts at minoritising, Orientalising and securitising the language, the Linguistic Landscape (LL) of Arabic in Israel, the effect of globalization, modernization and citizenship status on the status of Arabic, Hebrew as a language choice of (semi) autobiographic production of three Israeli authors who are native speakers of Arabic, and lastly, a comparison with the status of Arabic in both Jordan and Palestine (West Bank and Gaza Strip) where Arabic is the official language.

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List of Figures
1. Historic Background
2. Orientalisation, Securitisation and Minoritisation of Arabic
3. The (in)Visibility of Arabic: The Linguistic Landscape
4. Modernisation, Globalisation and Citizenship
5. Autobiography and Language Choice
6. Arabic in Jordan and Palestine

About the Author

Camelia Suleiman is Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics and Languages at Michigan State University. She is author of Language and Identity in the Israel-Palestine Conflict: The Politics of Self-Perception in the Middle East (2011).


Away from simplistic binaries and shallow dichotomies, this book provides an authentic view on a forgotten group, the Palestinians in Israel, that cannot be found elsewhere. By analyzing the Arabic spoken by the Palestinians in Israel, Professor Camelia Suleiman succeeded in providing us a rare glimpse into the existential world of a community that navigates between Israeli settler colonialism, Palestinian nationalism and the human desire for normality and life. A must read for anyone interested in the question of Israel/Palestine as well language and identity.

- Professor Ilan Pappé, University of Exeter

'Goes beyond a detailed analysis of the language issues, and provides a sensitive portrayal of a significant region of the Middle East, making clear the difficult and dangerous struggle between Israelis and Palestinians that underlies the language developments.'

- Bernard Spolsky, Professor Emeritus, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

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