Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, but Words Cause Permanent Damage

Michael L.

{Cross-posted at Jews Down Under.}

Barry Shaw is a special consultant on delegitimization issues to the Strategic Dialogue center at Netanya Academic College. He is also the author of Israel Reclaiming the Narrative and a columnist for the Jerusalem Post.

In his most recent piece, entitled Original thinking: When Israel supporters use the language of delegitimization, we read:
We increasingly see well-intentioned, powerful and influential people, who have the close attention of the media, make misplaced statements that feed into the adoption of a viewpoint that Israel has no legitimate right to be where it is. The misuse of language and deed is an indicator not only of the general public’s views, it also displays how pro-Israel influential voices are chasing a narrative that is driven by the Palestinian side of the conflict.

One perfect example of terminology drift can be seen with the area once known as Judea and Samaria becoming “disputed territory,” then the “West Bank,” and now “illegally occupied Palestinian land.” Any staunch Israeli, or dispassionate neutral, would argue that it is neither illegal, nor occupied, and certainly not Palestinian land according to international law and binding resolutions going back as far as the League of Nations Mandate of 1922. All this has not stopped the flow of terminology becoming accepted language.
I have been making precisely this same argument for years, now.

The language that pro-Israel people often use to describe the aggression against us is the very language that our enemies use to delegitimize Israel for the purpose of its eventual dissolution.  When we erase 3,500 years of Jewish history through the casual usage of "West Bank" we are playing directly into the hands BDS and anti-Semitic anti-Zionism.

By normalizing usage such as "Occupation" - with the "Big O" to suggest that it is the Big Mama of All Other Occupations or the Uber-Occupation or the perfect Platonic Occupation - sends a signal to the world community that even most Jews consider a Jewish-Israeli presence on the historical heartland of the Jewish people to constitute theft.

We not only rob ourselves of our own history through veiling that history under a misnomer like "West Bank" but we essentially tell the rest of the world that historically Jewish land is not historically Jewish land and that, therefore, we are thieves.

We validate the so-called "Palestinian narrative" of pure victim-hood and then wonder why so many people despise the Jewish State and consider her supporters to be morally bankrupt.  Of course, many people consider Israel, and her supporters, to be morally bankrupt.  How could they think otherwise when even so many Jewish supporters of Israel speak about the conflict in terms specifically designed to suggest Jewish guilt and Palestinian-Arab innocence.

As I wrote in a piece back in March 2011 for Israel Thrives:
These things are important to keep in mind, because the language that we use often predetermines the conclusions that we draw. If, for example, we think of Israel as "an apartheid state" then it goes without saying that Israel is an institutionally racist country, much like the former apartheid South Africa, and it must therefore be eliminated as a Jewish state. The word "apartheid" predetermines the conclusion. 
What I recommend to all my fellow Jews, if I may be so bold, is to rid oneself of all elements of the Palestinian narrative. Just root it out entirely and examine the elements. Remember, those who project the Palestinian narrative do not have an interest in Jewish well-being and the narrative, itself, is largely an ideological construct, a fantasy. It certainly doesn't hold up to historical scrutiny, not unless you think that Jews fleeing the pogroms of late 19th century Russia came to Palestine as the vanguard of some expanding empire, which of course they did not.

This being the case, it is worthwhile to reexamine the language that we use in regards I-P and the assumptions that we may bring to the table. The question to ask when we examine that language and those assumptions is whether or not they form a part of the Palestinian narrative? If so, it should be held up to serious inquiry and deleted if found to be just more anti-Israel propaganda that has snuck into the minds of well-meaning liberal Jews.
I couldn't agree with myself more.

You'll notice, by the way, that in early 2011 I was still referring to the Arab-Israel conflict (or the Long Arab War Against the Jews of the Middle East) as the "Israel-Palestine" conflict.  I was wrong then because even as I wrote a piece concerning ridding ourselves of the faux "Palestinian narrative" I was using terminology derived from that narrative.  It is not an Israel / "Palestine" conflict because the aggressors against the Jews are not limited to the Palestinian-Arabs.  It is the Arab Middle East as a whole that is seeking to eliminate Jewish sovereignty and self-defense on Jewish land.

The odds are 60 or 70 to 1 against us, in terms of shear numbers.

Goliath was not a Jew, but a Philistine.

David was a Jew.


  1. As a simple but concerned Israeli citizen, very much aware of reality I have been contemplating that unbelievable laxity with which our successive "leaderships" accepted our enemy's slow, progressive replacement of narrative, political vocabulary etc. Virtually leading us by the nose. One of those gigantic foolish, careless errors has been the unchallenged switch from the original Arab-Israeli conflict into a Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This has change forever the whole perception and attitude of the world towards the conflict. All of a sudden it was not anymore a war between the vast, rich, territorial giant Arab world and the small Israel, but the strong Israel against defenseless, weak, dispossesssed poor "Palestinian people.

    1. Michael, thanks for stopping by IT.

      We have got to get pro-Israel people to understand that how we speak of the conflict is at least as important as what we have to say.

    2. Very salient point Micheal. And like every attack against Israel, politicians are too afraid to tell that truth lest they piss off the stupid "international community." Palestinians have just named a forest after a terrorist. The world yawns.