Media’s Lexicon Poisons Public Perceptions of Israel
Vice President Biden voiced an under-appreciated truth this month in telling a Jewish group that the Jewish people face the most concentrated international effort he has seen in his 40 years of public life to delegitimize Israel.
The Western media participates in this delegitimization campaign by lacing its Israel reporting with loaded terms that slander and misrepresent the Jewish state. These terms are used so persistently that even Israel’s supporters habitually use them. The media repeatedly writes that “Jewish settlements” across Israel’s “1967 borders” in “the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem” impede “a two state solution” that would effectuate the UN’s 1947 attempt to partition Palestine “between Palestinians and Jews.”
Working backwards, partitioning Palestine between “Palestinians and Jews” is a misnomer. The UN in 1947 sought to do no such thing. Again and again, Resolution #181 referred to “the Jewish State” and “the Arab State,” and expressed hope for cooperation “between the two Palestinian peoples.”
Both the U.S. and Israel define the two-state solution as two states for two peoples, including Israel as a Jewish state and homeland. But Palestinian Authority President Abbas has just reiterated to Secretary of State Kerry the Palestinian Arabs’ long-standing position that recognizing Israel as a Jewish state is a “red line” they will not cross.
The Jewish connection with Jerusalem, including the media’s “East” Jerusalem, extends back to King David. Over the ensuing 3,000 years, the city has been the capital of three native states – Judah, Judaea, and Israel. The two Jewish temples successively stood as Jerusalem centerpieces for a millennium. Every Jerusalem ruler from the Romans who defeated Judaea through their Byzantine heirs, Muslim dynasties that began as Arab but fell increasingly under control of the Turks, Christian Crusaders, Kurdish Ayyubids, and Turk-Circassian Mamluks to Ottoman Turks, was a foreign, mostly non-Arab, invader. Throughout those two millennia of foreign rule, Jews relentlessly returned to Jerusalem whenever the invader exiled them, again becoming Jerusalem’s majority during 19th century Ottoman rule. Throughout those two foreign rule millennia, nobody called Jews in Jerusalem “settlers.”
“Judea and Samaria” are not the media’s “biblical names for the West Bank.” These Hebrew-origin names for the Jewish homeland’s hill-country heartland remained in use all through post-biblical times. In fact, the UN’s 1947 partition resolution referenced “the hill country of Samaria and Judea.” As Israeli diplomat Yoram Ettinger has pointed out, invading Jordan renamed Judea-Samaria as “the West Bank” in 1950 to expunge its connection with Jews. By that logic, Jordan is the “East Bank” of the Palestine Mandate, the land that was designated by international law as the Jewish Homeland. The territories are not “occupied” nor “stolen;” at best, they are “disputed” under law. Moreover, the Jews never left.
Israel’s “1967 borders” were not written in stone, or even in green. The 1949 Israel-Jordan Armistice Agreement stipulated that the ceasefire line that it drew was dictated exclusively by military considerations, explicitly without prejudice to either side’s territorial claims. Military ceasefire lines lack the gravitas accorded formal international borders, and Israel’s perilously narrow 1949 ceasefire lines were superseded by no-less-sacrosanct ceasefire lines at the end of renewed 1967 fighting between the same sides.
Last year’s Israeli Levy Commission report concluded, as had other experts before it, that classic laws of “occupation” do not apply to Judea and Samaria. Israel has strong historical and, under the 1922 San Remo Conference which enshrined the 1917 Balfour Declaration, compelling legal claims to this hill country heartland, which it captured in a defensive war in 1967 not from a nation with internationally recognized title, but from the 1948 invader Transjordan.
Given Israel’s undeniable historical and legal claims to Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem, it is offensive to state that Jews who live there are in “settlements,” while Arabs live in nearby “neighborhoods, towns, and villages.”
Israel was not “created and founded,” as though artificially and out-of-the-blue, in the 1948 period, while India, Pakistan, Syria, and Lebanon “won their independence” in that same period. The 1948 war was a partition-rejecting multi-nation Arab invasion for Israel’s destruction, not the media’s “war that followed Israel’s creation.” That war created a greater number of rarely media-mentioned Middle Eastern Jewish refugees who were forced from vast Muslim lands that they had lived in for centuries before Mohamed.
That Israel absorbed the bulk of these Jews, while the Arab refugees’ descendants are still isolated six decades later in “refugee camps,” did not create a one-sided “Palestinian refugee” issue, and certainly not one of “millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants,” which the media reported for years, and again occasionally in 2013. And every Jew old enough to remember the Arab threats, backed by actions, in the harrowing weeks of May 1967 knows that Israel did not aggressively “seize” lands from Arabs in June of that year. Terrorists who prey on Israeli civilians aren’t the media’s “militants,” and Netanyahu is not “hard-line” while Abbas is “moderate.” All this but scratches the surface of the Western media’s loaded lexicon of anti-Israel pejoratives, for “if you forfeit the language, you forfeit your heritage and history.”
Lee S. Bender and Jerome R. Verlin, are co-President and co-VP of the Zionist Organization of America-Greater Philadelphia District, and are the co-authors of Pressing Israel: Media Bias Exposed From A-To-Z, Pavilion Press, 2012.