“Occupied” Territories? Anti-Israel Media Bias Starts With Language

Israel’s supporters concerned about anti-Israel media bias need to understand why decades of “letters to the editor” protesting inaccuracies in particular news articles have not made a dent.

Anti-Israel media bias is not a succession of random misstatements. It resides in the very language: the consistently imbalanced terminology in which Arab-Israeli conflict news stories are told.

Unfortunately, we Israel supporters ourselves acquiesce, by using and accepting these terms unchallenged.

Those terms for the land’s peoples, places, and historical and current events poison public perceptions of Jewish and Palestinian-Arab equities, and must be countered if we have any fair chance to stand up for our rights.

Top 10 terms which mislead the public about Israel, and what the media fails to report, follow the jump.

Lee Bender :: “Occupied” Territories? Anti-Israel Media Bias Starts With Language
Here are ten frequently used but highly misleading terms. All of them are individually inaccurate, and in combination paint a grossly prejudicial and unfair portrait of Israel.

  1. “West Bank”

“Judea and Samaria” is not “the biblical name of the West Bank.” When the United Nations drafted its Palestine partition resolution in 1947, it did not use the term “West Bank.” It called it “the hill country of Samaria and Judea.”

As the former Israeli ambassador to the U.N., Yoram Ettinger, wrote:

In April 1950, the Jordanian occupation renamed Judea/Samaria as “the West Bank” to assert Jordanian rule and to expunge Jewish connection to the cradle of Jewish history. Until 1950, all official Ottoman, British and prior records referred to “Judea and Samaria” and not to the “West Bank.”

They did it for the same reason that in 135 C.E. the conquering Romans renamed Jerusalem “Aelia Capitolina” and Judæa “Palestina.”

Judæa’s Jews (who, by the way, were not “exiled” by Rome) refused to use the conqueror’s names for the land and its places. And, especially given that the Jordanian conquest lasted 19 years, not 1,900, we should not either.

2. “Jewish and Palestinian States”

The U.N. did not seek to partition Palestine into “Palestinian and Jewish states,” as the Western media has put it. The U.N. used “the Arab State” and “the Jewish State” terms over and over again. Nor did the U.N. call Palestine’s Arabs “the Palestinians,” but referred to Palestine’s Jews and Arabs as “the two Palestinian peoples.”

The under-populated Palestine of 1948 had a population of perhaps a little more than a million Arabs, and well more than a half-million Jews. To speak of partitioning a place between a people bearing the name of that place and anyone else portrays one side as natives and the other as outsiders.

3. “The Palestinians”

In renaming Judæa as “Palestine” in 135 C.E., the Romans were not referencing Yasser Arafat’s ancestors (Editor’s note: Unless the rumors about his Jewish ancestry are true.), but the by-then long-gone Aegean “Sea People” Philistines, who in Israelite times had invaded the eastern Mediterranean coast from the west, fought with the Israelites of Saul and David, and had been ultimately destroyed by the same Babylonians who had ended the kingdom of Judæa.

Jews were the original “Palestinians”; today’s “Palestinians” should more accurately be referred to as “Palestinian Arabs.”

4. Israel‘s “1967 Borders”

Formally recognized international borders have the permanence and gravitas that military ceasefire lines do not.

The 1949 Israel-Jordan armistice agreement expressly delineated its “green line” as “dictated exclusively by military considerations” without prejudice to either side’s political claims.

The media habitually calls it “the 1967 line,” and even “Israel’s 1967 border,” to discredit any Israeli claims beyond what Abba Eban called the “Auschwitz lines,” that are 9-miles-wide at critical points.

The historically correct term remains “the 1949 ceasefire line.” Even as such, it lost such significance when fighting resumed between Jordan and Israel in 1967.

Israel captured (not “seized,” as the Western media often puts it) all of Palestine west of the Jordan River in 1967, and the post-war U.N.S.C. resolution #242 intentionally did not call for full Israeli return to the 1949 lines.

5. Israel‘s “Creation” and “Founding”

Israel was not “created” or “founded” in 1948, artificially and out of the blue. It was in fact re-established.

The Jewish homeland is the one with the deepest of roots in the Milled East. The Jewish connection to the land of Israel, including continuous physical presence, remained unbroken from Rome’s destruction of Jewish Judæa in 135 through Jewish Israel’s independence in 1948, as the land’s next native state.

Every rulers in between: Romans-Byzantines, Persians, Muslim dynasties, Christian Crusaders, non-Arab Mamluks and finally non-Arab Turks, had been foreign invaders.

British historian James Parkes rightly wrote (Whose land? p. 266) that “those who had maintained a Jewish presence in The Land all through the centuries” wrote the Zionists’ “real title deeds.”

6. “East Jerusalem, Traditionally Arab East Jerusalem”

Over the course of the past 3,000 years, the city of Jerusalem has been the capital of three native states — Judah, Judæa and Israel — all Jewish. A majority of Jerusalem’s residents have again been Jewish since the pre-Zionist 19th century Ottoman-rule times.

Palestinian Arabs have not ruled Jerusalem for one day in history. Foreign Arab dynasties ruled it, much of the time under the thumb of the Turks, between 638 and 1099, and invading Trans-Jordan ruled part of the city between 1948 and 1967.

The media and much of the world seeks to restore and perpetuate that fleeting 19-year illegal Jordanian seizure, which ended almost half a century ago, as a separate “East Jerusalem,” as though it existed today.

The term “East Jerusalem” disregards over 3000 years of Jewish history and the unbroken Jewish connections to all of Jerusalem, especially where the Western Wall and Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest sites reside, along with the historic Jewish, Christian and Armenian, as well as Muslim, Quarters.

7. “Jewish Settlements” versus “Palestinian Villages”

The Western media misleadingly contrasts “Jewish settlements” in the “Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank” with nearby Palestinian “neighborhoods,” “villages,” and “towns.”

As documented in the recent Levy Commission report, Jewish communities beyond the 1949 ceasefire line are not “occupation” or “illegal.” Jews and Arabs have contesting claims to Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. Moreover, Jordan has since renounced any claim to the “West Bank.”

The media actually says that the Arab presence in those areas is more valid than the Jewish one, despite that under international law, the Jewish claim is stronger.

8. “The Palestinian Refugee Issue”

The media’s “Palestinian refugee issue” is a one-sided statement of a two-sided issue.

In 1948 and years that followed, more indigenous Middle Eastern Jews were expelled from vast Muslim lands, where they had lived for thousands of years, and were forced to abandon their homes and businesses — mostly to Israel — than Arabs fled tiny Israel.

Israel absorbed the bulk of these Jews, while to this day “host” Arab countries, and the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in Palestine itself, isolate Arab refugees’ descendants in “refugee camps.” (This is what “apartheid” really is.)

And these Jews do more than that.  Together with the land of Israel’s ever-present homeland Jewish Yishuv, these Middle Eastern Jews, with roots going back to pre-Islamic biblical times, establish the bona fides of Israel as an indigenous Middle Eastern state, not the “European colonial Zionist entity” that Arabs and the “Islamic Middle East,” referencing Western media, would have Westerners believe.

That does not remove these Israel-absorbed Middle Eastern Jews from the Arab-Israeli conflict’s refugee issue.

9. “Millions of Palestinian Refugees and Their Descendants” from “The War that Followed Israel’s Creation”

A few years ago, the Western media repeatedly told the Western public about “millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants” from “the war that followed Israel’s creation,” or simply from “Israel’s creation.” This “millions” misstatement has resurfaced again this year.

Given that:

  • Palestine’s entire partition-time population was well less than two million;
  • a good third of it were Jews;
  • not all of Palestine’s Arabs lived in the part that became Israel; and
  • not all of them left,

this is a monstrously inaccurate claim mathematically.

Those who did leave, exceeded in number by the Jews who left Arab lands, did so not in the context of Israel’s “creation” and “founding,” but of a partition-rejecting multi-nation Arab invasion for Israel’s destruction.

10. Recognition of Jewish State as a “New Stumbling Block”

The media has characterized Israel’s insistence on being recognized as the Jewish state as a newly imposed peace process stumbling block, to divert attention from its building of “settlements.”

Demand for recognition of Israel as the Jewish homeland is not a new Jewish position: The U.S., as well as Israel, defines “the two state solution” as “two states for two peoples,” including a Jewish state. In 1947, British Foreign Secretary Bevin told the British parliament that for the Jews, “the essential point principle” was the establishment of a sovereign Jewish state.

The land of Israel as the Jewish homeland has been at the core of the Jewish people’s aspirations and Judaism, going back to Moses’ time.

What the Media Fails To Report

Unfortunately, the distorted media coverage is not confined to ignoring and mischaracterizing these historical facts.

The media consistently fails to report, and deliberately suppresses, Israel’s many positive traits: things it has been doing for decades to help, assist and contribute to the betterment of the entire world (tikkun olam, “repairing the world,” including engaging in tzedakah, charity) with its high technological skills, agricultural knowledge, and humanitarianism.

Under this envy of Israel’s success and miraculous survival in a sea of hostile Arab anti-democratic states, there is a deeper psychosis:

For now to expiate their guilt for the treatment and murder of one-third of world Jewry during the Holocaust, Israel can be viewed as the vicious ethnic-cleansing Nazis while the poor, “innocent” Palestinian Arabs, are the new Jews, who must be saved and defended.

The besieged tiny Israel is a cultural oasis in its region: An open democracy that respects human rights, minority rights, women rights, gay rights, freedom of religion, press, education, and opportunity.

Ignored by the media is its contrast to the culture of hatred and incitement inculcated by Palestinian-Arab society and officialdom, in children’s textbooks, schools, mosques and media, including “Temple denial” and denigration of the historic Jewish connection to Israel.

The very charters of Palestinian Arabs’ structural institutions — the PLO and Hamas — are laced with Jewish homeland denial and bloody calls for Israel’s destruction.

The Palestinian Arabs have always been “rejectionists”: They could have been given their own state, side-by-side next to Israel, in 1937, between 1948-1967, in 2000 or in 2008. Instead, they kept pursuing their real goal: Israel’s extermination.

The real debate about the Middle East is between anyone who recognizes that Jews have a right to a state, and those who wish to see this state destroyed. For 20 years, since the Oslo Accords, Israel has been trying to trade land for peace, only to have each offer of statehood for the Palestinian Arabs spurned.

The Palestinian-Arab culture of hatred for Israel and the Jews has made it impossible for even their most “moderate” leaders to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders might be drawn.

The onus for true peace should be on the Palestinian Arabs.

Lee S. Bender and Jerome R. Verlin are the authors of Pressing Israel: Media Bias Exposed From A To Z