Making analogy work in the public arena

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This paper discusses the Israeli newspaper coverage of a single event of considerable public significance in the Israeli-Palestinian context. A dominant analogy in the coverage that played various argumentative roles and its responses are analyzed. When trying to answer the question of how to respond to an analogy put forward by a participant in a communication, various methods available to the interlocutor are mentioned, two of which are shown to be rhetorically effective in this case: (1) acceptance of the analogy enables the interlocutor to expand and enrich it into new argumentative directions; (2) a mere rejection of an analogy, without explicitly pointing to specific deficiencies in it or offering an alternative analogy, is shown to be potentially effective when its power stems from the use of irony: Ironic utterances allow for the explicit mention of the analogy, while at the same time holding it up to ridicule, thereby causing the rival's arguments to be indirectly rejected. This method of rejection is not discussed in the literature on analogy. The analysis demonstrates the ways in which a figurative analogy might be effective although there is no difficulty to attack and refute it. In a complex context such as the political arena, the pragmatic effectiveness may be more relevant than incoherence, thus an analogy is not necessarily judged according to normative criteria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-247
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Language and Politics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2011


  • Analogy
  • Argumentation
  • Irony
  • Israeli-Palestinian conflict
  • Political discourse
  • Rhetoric


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