Tuesday, November 4, 2014


Michael L.

words1The terminology within which we describe politics usually pre-determines our political conclusions.

There is nothing the least bit controversial about this bland, but much under-appreciated, truth.

In fact, since 1973 the very heart of the Arab-Israel conflict has been discursive.  Once the Arab majority realized that they could not stomp out the Jewish remnant in the Middle East through violence they simply - with a little friendly guidance from the Soviet Union - turned increasingly to propaganda.

The '73 Yom Kippur War represents a turning point in how the Arab world approached the conflict.

Israel almost lost that war and Moshe Dayan feared the destruction of the "Third Temple."  The Jewish state may have kicked ass in 1967, but Jewish autonomy and self-defense almost died in the autumn of 1973.  It was none other than anti-Semitic United States president Richard Nixon who rode to the rescue with an emergency influx of military assistance, known as Operation Nickel Grass - for no good reason, whatsoever - which allowed Israeli tank battalions to surround the Egyptian Third Army and ultimately win that war.

Since Arab military violence consistently failed against Israel, after the Yom Kippur War the Arabs turned to propaganda means, via the United Nations and through diplomacy and university fundings, and so forth, to isolate the Jews of the Middle East and criminalize our presence on our own land.  The emphasis turned to the delegitimization of Israel through its defamation as a racist, colonial, imperialist, militarist, apartheid, racist state before the world community -  thus the infamous and overturned UN "Zionism is racism" resolution of 1975.

This tactic, as part of the larger strategy, to the extent that there is a strategy, is working brilliantly.  

Propaganda, quite obviously, functions through language and images.  The words that we use to describe a political situation make all the difference in the world.  Many people who care about politics are more than willing to distort the conversation for the purpose of advancing their political agenda.  

Those of us who write about politics of any sort are susceptible to this, including myself.

{Shocking, I know.}

But this gives us all the more reason to question the dominant language that we use to discuss the conflict.  This is why I challenge terms like "Occupation" particularly when it shows up with the Big O to suggest that it is the Big Daddy of all other occupations around the world.

Words like "settler" or "settlement" have taken on implications of illegitimacy because people like Barack Obama, not to mention Alan Dershowitz, have made it so.

And the word "Zionist"?  Fuggedaboutit.  In the ears of many, many well-meaning liberal-left white people it sounds like "the enemy of all that is good, decent, and true" because over the decades the hatred and contempt have done their work.

So, let us examine the word "Palestinian" for a moment.

It clearly refers to the ancient Philistines and the very word "Philistine" is derived from various words in various languages including the Hebrew, Plištim, which means "invader" in the English.

The Philistines, of course, were an Aegean sea-faring people who sought to establish a foothold in Israel, around Gaza, during the biblical period, long before the Arabs showed up and proved to be such a remarkable pain in the neck.

After Roman Emperor Hadrian put down the Jewish uprising under Bar Kochba he renamed the land of Judea "Syria-Palestina," in 132 CE, in order to erase thousands of years of Jewish history from Jewish land and rename that land after the decimated Aegean invaders as a kick in the head to the indigenous Jews.

"Palestine," in recent centuries, is thus the terminology that much of the west used as a reference for the region, when they did not call it the Holy Land.  But whether they called it Palestine or whether they called it the Holy Land it always referred to the historical homeland of the Jewish people, the People of the Book.

Through until 1948, when the Jewish State reclaimed the name Israel which refers both to the people and to the country, "Palestinian" almost always meant the Jews of the region.  "Palestinian" was never considered a distinct ethnicity, but simply the people of a region in the way that, say, the Amazon is a region in South America, but there is no separate and distinct "Amazonian" ethnicity in just the way that there is no such thing as a distinct "Californian" ethnicity.

No one who lives in California can preclude others who live in California from being considered Californians.  Jewish Californians and Rastafarian Californians and Episcopalian Californians and Rosicrucian Californians are all Californians whether other Californians like it or not.

In much the same way anyone who resides in what was once called the "Mandate of Palestine" is a "Palestinian" if we insist upon using outmoded expressions.  Thus there are Muslim-Palestinians and Arab-Palestinians and Jewish-Palestinians and White-Anglo-Christian-Palestinians and so on and so forth.

The so-called "Palestinians" only came into being as an allegedly distinct ethnicity as a hostile response - largely for religious reasons - to the rise of Jewish autonomy and self-defense after the Holocaust toward the middle-end of the twentieth century.  Prior to that time the majority of local Arabs considered themselves Muslims and Arabs and belonging to this or that tribe and family.

What they did not consider themselves was "Palestinian."  In fact, they often avoided that word with contempt because they associated it with the Jewish people.

If, however, the local Arabs are "Palestinian" so is everyone else who lives in the region.

Anything else is a bigoted or "racist" or exclusivist, and thus unjust and illiberal.

{Political Correctness, after all, can go two ways.}

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