'Hamas Practises its Right to Resist the Occupation': Negotiating Culpability for the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict

Chris McVittie, Andrew McKinlay, Rahul Sambaraju, Karen Goodall, C. Uytman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Objectives: Previous discursive social psychological research conducted in the political context of the Palestinian / Israeli conflict has studied how speakers construct and argue for their preferred versions of identities, actions and outcomes to the conflict. Little research, however, has examined how particular
categorizations of self and others are used to account for potentially culpable actions and to blame others for the ongoing conflict. The aim of this paper is to explore how leaders of Hamas, a major party to the conflict often neglected by researchers, use membership categorizations to justify Hamas ‘actions, and to
resist and to attribute blame in this context. Design: The data were drawn from a series of journalistic interviews that were conducted with three senior figures from the Palestinian Hamas political movement in the months leading up to the invasion of Gaza by Israel in December 2007. Method: We used membership categorization analysis to examine the membership categories and category-bound attributes that news interviewers used in questions to Hamas leaders about responsibility for potentially culpable actions, and how the interviewees take up, challenge, or rework these categorizations in presenting their
own versions of groups, actions and events. Findings: The news interviewers deploy categories that are bound up with terrorism while the interviewees develop alternative categorizations of resistance. Interviewers construct Palestinians as victims of Hamas’ actions while interviewees construct them as
victims of Israeli aggression and international indifference. In warranting their alternative versions, the interviewees align current Palestinian actions with those previously taken by Western nations in resisting illegitimate occupations and contrast current behaviors of the international community with those of the
past. Conclusions: The membership categorizations and category-bound attributes found here allow the interviewees to justify their actions and to hold Israel as morally culpable for past and ongoing events in the conflict. At the same time, they function to attribute to the wider international community
responsibility for addressing the events of the ongoing conflict. Moreover, by drawing upon shared historical understandings, the speakers produce categorizations that are designed to resonate with the political concerns of an international audience.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationImpact 2013 International Psychological Applications Conference and Trends
Subtitle of host publicationBook of Proceedings
EditorsClara Pracana, Liliana Silva
PublisherWorld Institute for Advanced Research and Science (WIARS)
ISBN (Print)978-989-97866-0-8
Publication statusPublished - 2013
EventInPACT 2013 International Psychological Applications Conference and Trends - Madrid, Spain
Duration: 26 Apr 201328 Apr 2013


ConferenceInPACT 2013 International Psychological Applications Conference and Trends


  • discourse
  • membership categorization analysis
  • culpability
  • Palestinian/Israeli conflict
  • news interviews

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