by Jon Marks/ Jewish Exponent Staff
June 14, 2016
The right words drive Lee Bender, Jerome Verlin and Steve Crane.
They want the rest of the world — and the media in particular — to understand that the language and terminology used in talking about Israel and the continuing conflict in the Middle East matters.
Four years ago, Bender and Verlin wrote a book called Pressing Israel: Media Bias Exposed from A-Z, in which they literally went through the alphabet showing what they consider inaccuracies in the language and distortion of the facts. Crane published it.
Now, they’ve launched a website.
Factsonisrael.com is aimed not only at explaining their position and detailing what they perceive as mistakes in the so-called mainstream media — publications like The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Philadelphia Inquirer and outlets such as Associated Press, CNN, Fox News and others — but at providing a history lesson one click at a time.
The hope is that if enough people read it and see the misconceptions and misrepresentations they may be able to apply enough public pressure to change the narrative.
That’s the hope. They know reality may be a different story.
“The terminology used in reporting about Israel and general discussions about Israel is loaded with pejoratives that are imbalanced and delegitimizing to the Jewish homeland,” said Verlin, an Elkins Park native, who previously wrote Israel 3000 Years in 2005, detailing the Jewish presence in what was then Palestine. “Israel was founded in 1948. The 1967 borders came about because of the [Six-Day] war.
“What we’re concerned about is that the words we ourselves use are unthinkingly often counterproductive words. Jews talk about West Bank settlements and 1967 borders. They’re talking about the capture of land as if the connection to Jews in Jerusalem began in 1967. They don’t realize Jews have been there since the 19th century. History books don’t really show that.
“It’s important, because you’ll never hear Arabs referring to the 1949 cease-fire lines. You’ll never heard them say Judea or Samaria instead of the West Bank. Yet we use the terms they use. We don’t use terms that are historically valid. What we’re trying to do in our own camp is get people who are pro-Israel and want to advance the case of the Jewish people’s homeland to use terminology that’s historically accurate and not poisoned against us.”
That’s one aspect of it, which might be salvageable. The other part is more insidious. Much of the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic language is sheer jealousy, Bender said.
“A lot of people don’t look beyond the headlines,” said Bender, a Lower Merion native who serves as co-president of Philadelphia’s division of the Zionist Organization of American (ZOA) — which is not involved in the venture. “There’s a narrative of envy and jealousy now.
“We have grown and used our brain power. Since ’67, Israel’s become a dominant army — one of the high-tech wonders in the world. It gets all this money from the United States. … The poor Palestinians are now considered to be the victims.
“It’s the David vs. Goliath mentality. Israel’s become the huge Goliath. Before 1967, Israel was David.”
The slingshot the Palestinians and other anti-Israel factions are flinging is trying to turn public perception against Goliath, ignoring that Israel is surrounded by 22 hostile Arab states with differing degrees of animosity. They’re gaining traction with movements like boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), an attempt to alienate Israel and portray it as an apartheid state.
If that doesn’t work, there are always terrorist groups like Hamas — which runs Gaza and has it in its charter to not only destroy Israel but to kill Jews — and Iranian-controlled Hezbollah.
That’s not really news, of course. What would be news is the idea that reputable news organizations have an agenda to encourage such actions or criticize Israel’s right to defend itself.
That’s what Bender and Verlin insinuate, which one outlet flatly denies.
“In covering Israel and Palestine, we strive to be accurate, thorough and fair on issues that are of the great importance to our readers and supporters of the two sides, and I believe we have an excellent record of doing so,” Inquirer editor Bill Marimow said in a statement. “Equally important, Trudy Rubin, our columnist on world affairs, has a distinguished record of covering the conflict with balance and precision.”
The Washington Post declined to comment, and attempts to reach The New York Times were unsuccessful.
“Our motto is, ‘If you forfeit the language, you forfeit the heritage and our history,’” said Bender, who noted that they’ve made about 75 presentations to local synagogues and churches since the book came out. “Give up the term ‘West Bank,’ which is shorthand for Judea and Samaria.
“You’re delegitimizing Israel’s rights, which were conferred through the Bible and then conferred by the League of Nations. The 1920 San Remo conference confirmed the  Balfour Declaration that Palestine be created as the national homeland of the Jewish people. We’re also saying Israel wants peace, but it has to protect its rights and security first.”
Once you know the history, then decide, the site founders said.
“You’re entitled to your opinion, but not your facts,” said Crane. “We wanted a centerpiece of facts. Howe long have the Jews been there? What is the difference between the West Bank and Samaria and Judea? What is the difference between rights of other religious entities in Israel vs. Jews and Christians anywhere else? What is the history of the conflict? Where is there democracy and where not?
“But this is not solely a Jewish concern. Jesus did not walk in the West Bank. He walked in Judea, Samaria and Galilee. Plenty of sites tell you how to be a tourist or how to read the Talmud.
“We want to make it relevant to the dispute.”
The dispute will wage on regardless of if you call it the West Bank or Samaria. Whether you refer to East Jerusalem—which has never existed—or not. Whether you believe Israel has turned into a modern-day Goliath or is still David.
But perhaps one day if the right words are spoken and the rhetoric finally dies down peace might not be another 3000 years away.
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