has many laws governing our speech, because God wants us to recognize the
power of speech. Speech can be used as a tool for understanding, but it
also can be used as a dangerous weapon that can hurt more than sticks and
Today, Israel and Jews
face a war of words that can be damaging to us - physically and morally.
Suicide bombing; settlements; Palestinians; militants. These terms
represent a war of words that we may be losing. Years of listening to these
terms and using them ourselves have left us inured to their loaded meaning.
We need to take the offensive in rejecting these terms or we will lose the
war of words. Language is an important tool in stating our case and
influencing world opinion. The following examples illustrate how these
terms are used to create a skewed picture of Israel.
- the first image you get when you hear this term is that of “suicide” -
usually a suicide is someone who is desperate, lacks hope, and may be
mentally unstable due to stressful events in their life. So by using this
term, we are automatically making the bomber into a sympathetic figure who
deserves our pity and understanding.
Instead, we should be
referring to these people as homicide bombers or, better, genocide bombers.
These people are intent on murdering innocent Jews and their ultimate goal
is the destruction of the Jewish State and the genocide of the Jewish
- Rabbi Yisroel Mayer Kagan of Yeshiva Toras Chaim in Denver, speaking a few
years ago during a public prayer gathering in Denver for the victims of
terrorism in Israel, talked about “Palestine” as the term was used in Europe
up until the founding of the State of Israel. He said that when non-Jews
would taunt Jews, they would yell at them to go to Palestine. Up until the
latter part of the 20th century, Palestine was known and
understood to be the name for the Jewish homeland. The name Palestine
refers to a region of the eastern Mediterranean coast from the sea to the
Jordan valley and from the southern Negev desert to the Galilee lake region
in the north. The word itself derives from "Plesheth", a name that appears
frequently in the Bible and has come into English as "Philistine". Plesheth,
(root palash) was a general term meaning rolling or migratory. This referred
to the Philistine's invasion and conquest of the coast from the sea. The
Philistines were not Arabs nor even Semites, they were most closely related
to the Greeks originating from Asia Minor and Greek localities. They did not
speak Arabic. They had no connection, ethnic, linguistic or historical with
Arabia or Arabs.
The Philistines reached
the southern coast of Israel in several waves. One group arrived in the
pre-patriarchal period and settled south of Beersheba in Gerar where they
came into conflict with Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael. Another group, coming
from Crete after being repulsed from an attempted invasion of Egypt by
Rameses III in 1194 BCE, seized the southern coastal area, where they
founded five settlements (Gaza, Ascalon, Ashdod, Ekron and Gat). In the
Persian and Greek periods, foreign settlers - chiefly from the Mediterranean
islands - overran the Philistine districts.
From the fifth century
BC, following the historian Herodotus, Greeks called the eastern coast of
the Mediterranean "the Philistine Syria" using the Greek language form of
the name. In AD 135, after putting down the Bar Kochba revolt, the second
major Jewish revolt against Rome, the Emperor Hadrian wanted to blot out the
name of the Roman "Provincia Judaea" and so renamed it "Provincia Syria
Palaestina", the Latin version of the Greek name and the first use of the
name as an administrative unit. The name "Provincia Syria Palaestina" was
later shortened to Palaestina, from which the modern, anglicized "Palestine"
The name "Falastin" that
Arabs today use for "Palestine" is not an Arabic name. It is the Arab
pronunciation of the Roman "Palaestina". Quoting Golda Meir: “The
British chose to call the land they mandated
Palestine, and the Arabs picked it up as their nation's supposed ancient
name, though they couldn't even pronounce it correctly and turned it into
Falastin a fictional entity.” [In an article by Sarah Honig, Jerusalem
Post, November 25, 1995]
So, to be more accurate,
we should call these people “Philistines”, or even better, Arabs. And
remember, as propaganda, it sounds much better to speak of the liberation of
Palestine than the destruction of Israel.
- Why are Arab
population centers referred to as “villages” or “cities” and Jewish
population centers as “settlements”? A “village” has the connotation of
innocence, of people who have always lived there, or at least for a very
long time. A “settlement” conjures up visions of Wild West expansionism and
Indian massacres. Ma’aleh Adumim, with a population of 30,000, a 2-storey
mall, and a Glatt Kosher Burger King, is certainly no settlement. Let’s
refer to Israeli towns and cities as town and cities, or even villages.
- As Dore Gold has written: “Three clear purposes seem to be served by the
repeated references to "occupation" or "occupied Palestinian territories.
"First, Palestinian spokesmen hope to create a political context to explain
and even justify the Palestinians' adoption of violence and terrorism during
the current intifada. Second, the Palestinian demand of Israel to "end the
occupation" does not leave any room for territorial compromise in the West
Bank and Gaza Strip, as suggested by the original language of UN Security
Council Resolution 242 . Third, the use of "occupied Palestinian
territories" denies any Israeli claim to the land: had the more neutral
language of "disputed territories" been used, then the Palestinians and
Israel would be on an even playing field with equal rights. Additionally, by
presenting Israel as a "foreign occupier," advocates of the Palestinian
cause can delegitimize the Jewish historical attachment to Israel. This has
become a focal point of Palestinian diplomatic efforts since the failed 2000
Camp David Summit, but particularly since the UN Durban Conference in 2001.
Indeed, at Durban, the delegitimization campaign against Israel exploited
the language of "occupation" in order to invoke the memories of
Nazi-occupied Europe during the Second World War and link them to Israeli
practices in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
The term “Occupied
Territories” implies that Israel is occupying land belonging to someone
else. The territories are disputed territories and the final resolution of
their status must be settled through negotiation with the parties who had
previously engaged in war. Remember, Israel was forced into the 1967 Six
Day War by the aggressive actions of the surrounding Arab nations. The
lands that Israel captured were a direct result of that war, and Israel is
entitled to occupy them until a resolution to their status is negotiated.
No one refers to Lebanon as “Syrian-occupied”. Yet that is what Lebanon’s
fate has been for over a quarter century, since Syria occupied the sovereign
nation following the outbreak of civil war.
next time the media uses any of the above terms or 'demonstration' vs.
'riot' or 'attack'; 'stone throwing' vs. 'rock throwing'; 'freedom fighter'
or 'militant' or 'activist' vs. 'suspected terrorist' or 'terrorist'; don’t
just listen to or read the term passively. Fight back! The war of words
can be won.