Words are used to explain reality but they can also be used to shape reality, to create it. Sometimes exchanging a single word for another can change the picture entirely.
Personally I don’t believe there is any neutrality on the issue of Israel. There are people who are uninvolved and not particularly aware of the facts (in addition to those involved despite having no knowledge of the facts). The point is, there are facts – historical, cultural and religious, well documented facts. These can be disputed (and they often are) but not in arguments based on actual facts.
The people who wish to destroy Israel are hyper-aware of the power words have in creating reality and are consciously using well-chosen terminology to delegitimize Israel. Words are carefully chosen and used over and over as a mantra, a marketing slogan, until the general public begins to accept the words as accurate labels with historical, factual value.
Americans my age were told over and over: “Milk. It does a body good.” We heard it so many times, most people believe that milk is healthy, never considering that this message, designed by people wanting to sell milk, may not actually be true.
The words chosen in regard to Israel are specifically intended to disconnect Jews from our homeland, to diminish our history to the point where it can be completely disregarded.
And it is working.
Worse than that – people who love and support Israel are taking part in this, reinforcing and legitimizing it by participating in the narrative of the enemy.
Let’s be very clear:
When you use the terminology of the enemy you empowering the enemy.
If you are using these terms you are strengthening and providing justification to those that hate Israel. You, who love Israel, agree with their concepts, accept their terminology and by extension, are helping to create a reality where their terms must be accepted.
1. West Bank
West Bank seems like an innocuous term however it is its seeming innocence that makes it so deadly. “West Bank” is a term that takes the Jordan River as a reference point i.e. the west bank of the Jordan River.
The territory that is subtly being appropriated is Judea and Samaria, the heartland of Israel. This is the territory in which most of the bible took place. Shilo, the first capital of Israel is in the center of this territory. The Tabernacle was in Shilo for 369 years, before it was brought to Jerusalem.
Shilo can be found easily by following the directions contained in the Book of Judges (21:19). North of Bet El, east of the road heading from Bet El to Shechem (which the Arabs call Nablus), and south of Levona. The connection between this land and the Nation of Israel is very well documented.
The territory became disputed when it was conquered and occupied by the invading Jordanian army in 1948. When Israel was attacked in the 1967 Six Day War and had the temerity to actually win, regaining her ancient heartland and freeing Jerusalem it became popular to attempt to delegitimize this through terminology.
In reality calling Judea and Samaria the West Bank, as if this land is part of Jordan, is no better than saying “the occupied territories.” Can one really “occupy” their own home?
The war that the Arabs lost with soldiers and tanks is now being fought with words.
2. Wailing Wall
This commonly used, highly offensive term is an ancient form of delegitimizing Jewish history by diminishing Jewish anguish at the loss of the ancient Jewish Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.
This is the term of non-Jews who occupied Israel, ridiculing the pain of the Jews who stood weeping at the Kotel, the Western Wall, which is the only wall left standing of the ancient Temple in the heart of Jerusalem. (It’s not even a wall of the Temple structure itself, it is a retaining wall of the compound).
During the period of Christian Roman rule over Jerusalem (ca. 324–638), Jews were completely barred from Jerusalem except to attend Tisha be-Av, the day of national mourning for the first and second Temples, and on this day the Jews would weep at the holy site. The term “Wailing Wall” was thus almost exclusively used by Christians, and was revived in the period of non-Jewish control between the establishment of British Rule in 1920 and the Six-Day War in 1967.
This derogatory term mocks the pain of the Jewish people, as in “there go those Jews, weeping again.”
Damn straight. We have much to mourn and weeping is a reasonable reaction to deep, painful loss. Would you mock a child whose mother was murdered in front of him? Would you ridicule the child who always remembered and mourned the loss of his mother? The Temple was the heart of the Nation of Israel, the center of the Jewish religion and culture. The Jewish people have not forgotten this and standing next to the Kotel, the Western Wall of the Temple that once stood on the Temple Mount in the heart of Jerusalem is a poor substitute for what is supposed to be there, for what was once there.
Kotel is the word used in Hebrew which simply means “Wall”. The choice of this term is indicative of the importance of the structure in the Jewish mind – this one remaining wall is so significant that it is not necessary to detail which wall is being mentioned, it is THE Wall. It is not the Wall itself that is holy, it was the Temple and what stood at its center that was holy. 2000 years, exile and many terrible experiences along the way, have not been enough to make the Jewish people forget the importance of the Temple. The Wall has grown in significance because it is all that remains of the Temple, because of that it is precious.
“Western Wall” is a factual description of the Wall. The Kotel is the western retaining wall of the Temple and it is perfectly reasonable to describe it as such. The “Wailing Wall” is an offensive term, used to belittle and diminish the Jewish people and our connection to Israel and Jerusalem. If that is not your goal, don’t use that term.
Palestine is a name given to the Land of Israel for the sole purpose of disconnecting the Jewish people from Judea, from Israel, from Zion. This was done in the 2nd century CE, when the Romans crushed the revolt of Shimon Bar Kokhba (132 CE), and gained control of Jerusalem and Judea which was renamed Palaestina in an attempt to minimize Jewish identification with the land of Israel. After World War I, the name “Palestine” was applied to the territory that was placed under British Mandate; this area included not only present-day Israel but also present-day Jordan. Leading up to Israel’s independence in 1948, it was common for the international press to label Jews, not Arabs, living in the mandate as Palestinians.
Words give meaning and form to reality, thus names are of vast importance. It is obvious that Jews belong in Judea, but who belongs in Palestine?
Palestine is and always was, a politically motivated name. It is a name that is meant to denigrate and destroy the Jewish connection to her homeland. Arab “Palestinians” are a nationality invented to facilitate and justify cleansing Jews from Israel.
If you will – calling Israel, “Palestine” is the original hate speech.
Before the Final Solution was formulated, Hitler wanted to send the Jews “home to Palestine.” At the time there was no question regarding where the Jews belong. Now Jews in Israel are being told to “go home” to Europe. We are being told that we are occupiers of a land called Palestine, that we have usurped a people called the Palestinians.
This insidious lie has taken root within the world culture to the point where many nations around the world have recognized the existence of a Palestinian people and even declared there to be a country called Palestine. The fact that this is a modern day invention meant to REPLACE Israel is completely ignored.
The historical facts are indisputable. There have been Arabs in the region for centuries. There are Israeli Arabs, Jordanian Arabs, Syrian, Lebanese and Egyptian Arabs. There are Arabs in Gaza and Arabs in Judea and Samaria. There are Muslim Arabs and Christian Arabs.
(There used to be Jews in all the same areas, before it became necessary for Jews to flee Arab ruled lands.)
There never was a Palestinian people. This modern day invention based on the geographical territory Palaestina was created for the sole purpose of undermining Israel.
And it is working.
The Palestinian myth has taken root in the political arena, leading many to assume that with the right leadership, a country called Palestine can live peacefully next to Israel. The Two State Solution places Palestine instead of Judea and Samaria, the heartland of Israel, the territory that is or historical and religious connection to this land. The assumption that this is a reasonable or even feasible solution ignores the Arabs in Jaffa, Akko and Haifa that consider themselves “Palestinians.” It is Arabs throughout Israel who are dreaming of a new land instead of Israel.
When a place called Palestine replaces Judea, it will be possible for “Palestinians” to replace the Jews.
The Arabs that never accepted the existence of the Jewish State, who lost all the wars they waged against Israel and the Jewish people are winning the war of ideas. They are winning because people like you and me are adopting their terminology and accepting the concepts and reality being constructed by those words.
Words matter. Choose yours wisely.