WHILE YOU STAND ON ONE LEG: An Israel-coverage “media watch’s” apparent goal is to get the western media to portray Israel more fairly. Alevai, but why? Not to improve western journalism as an end in itself, but to get through to western publics a more positive view of Jewish homeland equity than that to which they are relentlessly exposed through the loaded lexicon of poisoned pejoratives that laces Arab-Israeli conflict reporting. Ordinary Jews can have a role in this through word choices we ourselves make, and through influencing the word choices of Jewish journalists, politicians and pundits. Come see.
Just-Plain-Jews and Making the Jewish Homeland Case to the land of Israel
Lately, a number of groups and people, including me, have been making the case that an Israel comprised of the land of Israel, Palestine west of the Jordan, and Jordan, 78% of the original Palestine Mandate, are the two states of a real “two-state solution.” Apart from the real historical Jewish homeland and international treaty bases of that position, it seems unthinkable to us that secure borders for Israel could exist along the old, perilous 1949 ceasefire lines, even “adjusted.”
The main problem confronting advocates of this position is that nobody – not even most Jews – frames the Arab-Israeli conflict in such terms. The poisoned pejoratives in that conflict’s loaded lexicon fall into two groups – those denigrating the legitimacy of Israeli presence beyond the 1949 ceasefire lines, and those denigrating the legitimacy of Israel, period. One potentially meaningful thing that we Just-Plain-Jews can do is to stop gratuitously using these terms ourselves and lean on all Jewish homeland advocates to stop using them. Let’s take a look.
Terms Denigrating “Greater Israel”
“Greater Israel”: Characterizing the advocates of Israel sticking a toe over the old 1949 ceasefire lines as advocating a “Greater Israel” mocks the legitimacy of such presence. The reverse is what’s actually true. Given the Jewish people’s three-millennia homeland presence; Israel being the land of Israel’s next native state after Roman-destroyed Jewish Judaea; the biblical names Judea and Samaria remaining in use through the mid-twentieth century (including by the U.N. in 1947), etc., it’s those who advocate the further truncating of the Jewish National Home from the original Palestine Mandate to just Palestine west of the Jordan, to now just Palestine west of the 1949 ceasefire lines who are championing “Lesser Israel.”
“Israel’s 1967 Borders”: The very document that drew the “green line” between warring Israeli and Jordanian forces in 1949 expressly defined that line as a military ceasefire line only without prejudice to claims of political borders. As such, that line is no holier, indeed, having been obliterated and superseded by renewed 1967 fighting between the same sides, is less holy than the post-1967 war ceasefire lines. Retroactively imbuing those old, 9-miles-wide-in-the-lowland-middle 1949 ceasefire lines with the sanctity of international borders delegitimizes Israeli presence beyond them.
“East” Jerusalem: In somewhat cynical retrospect, I think Hamas may have done Israel a favor in staging its 50-plus-killed charging of the Israel-Gaza border on the day in May that the U.S. moved its Israel Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. There was no way the western media would have portrayed this untarnished. The media’s widespread pairing of photos of the embassy ceremony with that of Gaza “victims of non-proportional IDF response” distracted the media from pairing the former with one challenging the Jewish claim to even “West” Jerusalem.
“West Bank”: Memo to the Jewish journalists, politicians and pundits who gratuitously call Judea and Samaria “the West Bank”: “West Bank” is not a synonym for those millennia-used Hebrew-origin names of the land of Israel’s heartland hill country. It’s an antonym.
“Captured by Israel in 1967”: This is an intentional suppression of Jewish homeland connection to Judea, Samaria and historic Jerusalem before their 1967 liberation from the 1948 invader Transjordan. Jerusalem had been the capital of Judah and Judaea, and Palestinian Arabs had never ruled any part of it ever, and foreign Arabs for only part of the time between 638 and 1099, and Jerusalem has had a renewed Jewish majority since 1800’s Turkish empire rule.
“Occupied Territories,” “Settlers and Settlements”: CNN’s Christiane Amanpour may have been right when she chided Israeli cabinet minister Bennett that “occupation” is an internationally used term, but Bennett was right in responding “but I still object to it,” that you can’t be an “occupier” in your own home. But even we join in calling Jews in Judea-Samaria and even parts of Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, “settlers” and their residences there “settlements.”
Terms Denigrating the Jewish Homeland of Israel
“The Zionist Entity”: There’s a grain of truth to the old pre-state quip that “Zionism is a first Jew giving money to a second Jew to send a third Jew to Palestine.” Zionism did not seek to create a Jewish homeland in an alien place with no Jewish connection. Proof resides in the Sixth Zionist Congress in 1903. When “Uganda” was proposed as a temporary shelter especially for the then terribly pogrom-persecuted Russian Jews, the delegates who walked out, decrying “Zionism without Zion,” were the Russian Jews’ delegates (Dubnow, History of the Jews in Russia and Poland, pp. 84-85). “Modern Zionism did indeed start the count of the waves of immigration after 1882, but only the frame and the capacity for organization were new. The living movement to the land had never ceased” (Katz, Battleground, p. 97). We do ourselves a disservice in joining in calling Israel “the Zionist entity.” We’re selling out the post-biblical continuous Jewish presence from Hadrian to Herzl that [per Parkes, Whose Land, p. 266] wrote the Zionist’s “real title deeds.”
“Israel’s 1948 Creation and Founding”: The media loves to call Israel “created” and “founded” in 1948, as though artificially and out-of-the-blue, suppressing even the Zionist movement. Israelis rightly call the 1948 war, won by a homeland army of homeland Jews, their “War of Independence,” not of “Creation & Founding.” Make the case that the continuous Jewish homeland connection to the land of Israel has existed for three thousand years, not from the state of Israel’s “creation and founding in 1948.”
Palestinian Arabs as “The Palestinians”: My recollection is that the ZOA’s Mort Klein was the longest and last Jewish leader to plead with our people not to join in calling the Arabs of Palestine “The Palestinians.” The AP acknowledges that during the Mandate the Muslims, Christians and Jews of Palestine [not a dirty word, the Romans invented it not to honor Arafat’s ancestors but to disassociate Judaea from Jews] were all called “Palestinians,” and indeed the term was more used by the Jews of themselves, e.g., Palestine Post, than by Arabs. In 1948, Palestine’s entire population was less than two million, a good third of it Jews. As for there not having been more Jews, you can thank the British, the Germans, the Turks, the Mamluks, the Mongols, the Crusaders, the Fatimids and Abbasids, the Byzantines and Romans, the Seleucid heirs of Alexander the Great, the Babylonians and Assyrians, and before them the Pharoah Who Knew Not Joseph.
So stop using these Jewish homeland delegitimizing terms, and start badgering those on our side who do use them to cease. If we do this broadly and long enough, we may make a dent in western public perception of respective Jewish and Arab Palestine equities. A fanciful dream? Perhaps, but “If you will it, it is no dream.”