Thursday, January 2, 2014

Language and Lenses: "West Bank" versus "Judea and Samaria"

Michael L.

{Cross-posted at Jews Down Under.}

The language that we use to discuss a conflict in some measure predetermines how we will view that conflict because it represents the lens.  This is obvious.  Thus it is equally obvious that when discussing the Arab-Israel conflict whether one uses the term "West Bank" or the terms "Judea" and "Samaria" to refer to that region makes all the difference.

In a scathing review of Danny Danon's polemic, Israel: The Will to Prevail, Publishers Weekly claims that "Danon refuses to use the terms 'West Bank' or 'settlement,' preferring instead the ideologically loaded 'Judea and Samaria'..."

One must wonder how it is that the ancient and common terms for that part of the world are somehow "ideologically loaded" while the formulation "West Bank," which was only invented within living memory by the Jordanians for the strict political purpose of erasing Jewish history on Jewish land, is not?   Judea has been Judea for at least 3,500 years.  Samaria has been Samaria for at least 3,500 years.  The "West Bank" came into usage about a quarter past last Tuesday and did so for the sole purpose of wiping out Jewish claims to the historical homeland of the Jewish people.

It is, of course, not the least bit surprising that the Arab world would adopt usage that serves their political purposes viz-a-viz the Arab-Israel conflict.  Nor is it surprising that their western allies, such as those on the progressive-left throughout Europe, the United States, and Australia, would adopt usage that is detrimental to the well-being of the Jewish state and, thus, the Jewish people.

What is surprising, however, is the swiftness within which the Jewish Left also adopted that language.

Virtually no one on the western Jewish Left refers to Judea and Samaria as Judea and Samaria.  The term "West Bank" has become almost universal and, from what I can tell, it is almost only the Jewish Right that uses the proper and long-standing names of those regions.  Even the non-Jewish Right tends to use "West Bank" because that terminology has taken hold of the discourse throughout the world, more generally.

Nonetheless, I find it puzzling that pro-Israel / pro-Jewish left-wing Zionists would use terminology specifically designed to erase thousands of years of Jewish history from the region that Jews originally came from.  What accounts for this weak-kneed compliance to a Judeophobic discursive political imperative among so many Jews?  Why are we so quick, so eager, to adopt the politicized language of our enemies?

For 3,500 years our ancestors referred to Judea and Samaria as Judea and Samaria, with variants depending upon regional linguistic preferences.  If Jewish people care about the well-being and dignity of the Jews, more generally, and therefore of the Jewish state, would it not behoove them to use terminology that is at once more historically accurate and more in keeping with that well-being and dignity?

Even UN General Assembly Resolution 181, which acknowledged the Jewish state, uses the terms Judea and Samaria, not the "West Bank" in reference to those regions.

I understand, of course, that the ideological teams have long-since lined up and that the Jewish Left considers the "wrong" linguistic usage to indicate the kind of right-wing Zionism that they abhor and oppose even more than they abhor and oppose Hamas or Hezbollah.  What they need to understand, however, is that pissing away Jewish history in the international public arena is neither in the interest of the Jewish people, nor a necessary precondition for the possible creation of a Palestinian-Arab state on Jewish land.

And that really gets to the crux of the matter.  Judea and Samaria have been Jewish land for about as long as China has been Chinese land and far, far longer than France has been the land of the French.  Jewish people, therefore, should absolutely not be in the business of erasing Jewish history in order to give a discursive and propagandistic advantage to the enemies of the Jewish people and, yet, this is precisely what the Jewish Left does when it robs the Jewish people of the Jewish names for Jewish land.

This does not mean that the Palestinian-Arabs may not have a country on some portion of that land, however.

If the Palestinian-Arabs are interested in a state for themselves in peace next to Israel, then I have no problem whatsoever with a second Muslim state on the historical homeland of the Jewish people.  The only condition, of course, should be that the Palestinian-Arabs cease inciting generation upon generation of genocidal hatred toward Jews and stop carrying out that genocidal intention via violence toward their Jewish neighbors.

Until the Arab-Muslim world gives up its Koranically-based hatred and disdain for the Jewish people, it will be impossible to have any faith that a "Palestinian" state on historically Jewish land will be anything other than a terrorist state devoted to the annihilation of the Jewish state, if not the Jewish people.

Whatever the eventual outcome of this long-standing Arab-Muslim war against the Jews of the Middle East, it should be obvious to Jewish people that denying our own history in that region cannot be a benefit.

It is one thing to give away Jewish land, but it is another thing entirely to give away Jewish history.  The former, in my view, might be acceptable if the recipients were kindly disposed toward their Jewish neighbors in acceptance.

The latter is an abomination.


  1. My New Years resolution is to never use the term again! Great article!

    1. Thank you, dear lady or good sir.

      Peace to you, please.

  2. There are no settlements, there are no settlers. There are Jews in Israel. End of discussion. One can argue the merits how long Jews have to commute from their homes to their places of work and which roads they feel safe taking or which side of which street they find convenient to live on depending on which neighborhoods of Jerusalem they live in (because there's no such thing as east Jerusalem. It simply does not exist - like West Brooklyn) but there's no such thing as 'settlements'.

    according to this - there's been three (3) new 'settlements' since 1990. Three. Not three hundred or three thousand. Three.

    1. Indeed.

      This odious "settlement construction" that we constantly hear about is nothing more then Jewish people building homes and second bathrooms within existing Jewish towns and villages.

      And, yet, somehow we are supposed to believe that there is something immoral about this.

      Three things strike me, immediately.

      The first is how easy it is to demonize a word like "settlements" and then smack it on the forehead of others for political purposes.

      The second is how remarkably bigoted it is to deny the Jewish people the right to build on historically Jewish land.

      The third is the fact that much of the Jewish-Left promotes this hatred toward their fellow Jews beyond the Green Line.

      It is this last one that I find most abhorrent.

  3. You mean the constant, dire, breathless claims that Jews are building 47,000 'settlements' every few weeks, or whatever, are not actually true?

    Aw, shucks, I can't believe I fell for that! I was figuring we'd be out on Neptune already, and was considering a retirement villa in one of our 'settlements' there. Rain on my parade and shit, bah.

    1. I will never forget on Daily Kos when someone started whining about a fifty unit apartment building that was going up in some non-western-left-approved section of Jerusalem.

      I couldn't believe it!

      50 units?

      For, y'know, people to live in?

      And this was considered a problem.


  4. Thought I wrote a comment, but do not see it. That's a drag.

    It said, in essence, that these Jews that hate Zionism will not be convinced by any argument. They claim that Zionists put Israel above America while they put international utopia above America. They will not be spared when utopia arrives by those they enabled to power.

    In matters regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict, low information indifferents must be weaned from the influence of these people who speak to the issue in ways that hide ulterior motives and with an antisemitic effect.

    1. Huh.

      I just checked the spam folder and see nothing there. Normally when someone complains about a comment gone missing it is because, for some reason, the system put into the spam folder.

      In any case, "antisemitic effect."

      That's a good way of putting it because many of these people - including well-meaning Jewish Left Zionists - do not have negative ulterior motives. They honestly believe that the Jewish minority in the Middle East are the aggressors against a segment of the hostile majority population.

      They honestly believe that the real problem is a matter of Israeli policy rather than century upon century of unbridled Jew Hatred throughout the Arab-Muslim Middle East.

      Of course, pointing this out is sometimes dismissed as an Islamophobic way of saying "Islam Bad."

      Can you imagine if during WWII Jews were dismissively told that complaining about Nazi atrocities was nothing more than a racist way of saying "Germans Bad"?

      The pure stupidity of such a position boggles the mind.

    2. These "agnostics" are more prone to be influenced by those with whom they generally agree on other issues. A variant of the halo effect.

      It is not to show that Islam is bad as much as showing that those that say Israel bad, who dominate their circles, are giving them a slanted version and the deception is at their expense.

      With open eyes, they can decide for themselves if Islam bad, and the objective should be to open eyes, not convince Jews that won't be convinced because of their aspirations for the state of Utopia and precepts of social justice that will dominate humankind.