Middle East Studies

Excellence in Scholarship and Learning


Arabic between State and Nation

Israel, the Levant and Diaspora

Muhammad Suwaed is a senior lecturer in the Department of Political Sciences and Middle Eastern Studies at the Western Galilee College, Acre, Israel. Dr. Suwaed, a scholar studying Middle Eastern Society, Culture and Politics, has published many studies in his field of expertise, including: The Bedouins in Israel and in the Middle East, Political Parties in the Middle East, the Status of Women in the Middle East.

In order to better understand the political conditions of the Arabic language in Israel, a comparison with the political conditions of Arabic in the Levant as well as the Diaspora is necessary. Comparison consists of macro factors, such as nation-state building, and at the micro level, the daily public usage of Arabic. While the relationship between language and nationhood is well documented, study of the unique socio-political situation of the use of Arabic in the Jewish state, and in particular language usage in East Jerusalem, has hitherto not been addressed. The removal of Arabic as an official language in Israel in 2018 has major implications for Israeli–Palestinian accommodation. 

Research for the book relied on ethnographic fieldwork as well as sociolinguistic literature. Investigation is wide-ranging: distinguishing the different public presences of language; the state of literacy (publishing, education); and (formal and informal) interviews with students, teachers and journalists. Linguists often consider the Levant to belong to one dialect group but post-1918 people in the Levant have had to deal with separate political realities, and language differences reflect their unique political and social circumstances. The history of European colonialism is but one influencing factor. Diaspora comparison engages with the US city of Dearborn, Michigan, home to the largest Arab American community in one locality. How does this community find meaning in both being American and a threat to national security? This dilemma is mirrored in the life of Palestinians in Israel. Security and securitisation are relational concepts (Rampton and Charalambous 2019), and language plays a large part in personal sense of belonging. Analytical tools such as the concept of seamline (Eyal 2006), and indexicality (Silverstein 1979), assist in coming to terms with the metapragmatic meanings of language. This important book reaches far beyond linguistic difference; it goes to the heart of political, social and economic despair faced by multiple communities.

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-78976-169-6
Paperback Price: £60 / $65
Release Date: November 2022
Page Extent / Format: 240 pp. 234 x 156 mm
Illustrated: Maps, tables & circa 90 colour photographs





List of Figures, Maps and Tables



On Language, Identity and Conflict: Some Basic Concepts

A Word on Bilingualism, Code-switching and Language Loss


1. Can We Still Speak of a Levantine Arabic?

What is a Levantine Identity?

Dialect Boundaries and National Identity

The Linguistic Landscape


2. What is Happening to Arabic in Israel?

The Status of Arabic Post- 2018 Basic Nationality Law

The Linguistic Landscape

Arabic and Hebrew in Advertisements

Arabic Use in Social Media


3. Jerusalem, Al-Quds: Overview


Discriminatory Laws that Make Life Hard for Arab Jerusalemites


Arab Schools in Jerusalem

The ‘Tawjihi-Bagrut’ Controversy

Street Naming and the Linguistic Landscape

Let’s Start with the Name of the City

Interview with Yitshak Reiter (19 November 2019) on Street Naming in East Jerusalem, and Commentary

Neoliberalism Arrives in Jerusalem


4. Arabic in Jerusalem, Institutionally Speaking

Schools in East Jerusalem

Language Exchange

Jews Learning Arabic

Arab Women Learning Hebrew

Are We Witnessing a Social Movement?

The Hebrew University Opens its Gates to Arab Jerusalem

Arab Student Experience

Faculty Experience

‘Fear of Small Numbers’?


5. The (Il)Legitimacy of Arabic in Michigan: An American Linguistic Landscape

Demographic and Historic Background

Research on Arab Americans

Review Quotes to Follow

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