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Language of Engagement

December 9, 2009 – 1:41 pm14 Comments

Source: http://neatorama.cachefly.net/

Source: http://neatorama.cachefly.net/

by Ittay Flescher

The Australian Jewish News recently published an opinion piece titled “Unsettled by the terminology” where the author contended that media outlets should stop using the word, ‘settlers’ to describe Israelis living in the West Bank.  He claimed that the usual association with the word, ‘settlers’ is to describe those who “invade and uproot, and hence deserve no human understanding.” His preference was to instead label these people as ‘human beings’. The article goes on to argue that people (sympathetic to that author’s position) must “reclaim the vocabulary.” With this in mind, I have compiled a list of vocabulary used to describe the Middle East conflict.

Names for the Conflict: Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Jewish-Arab conflict, war on terrorism, good vs evil, clash of civilizations, matzav (situation), intifada, jihad (as understood by most Muslims), jihad (as understood by most in the West), caliphate, crusade

Barrier: wall, fence, security fence, fence against terror, separation fence, anti-terrorist fence, apartheid wall, demographic wall, Israeli West Bank barrier

Israeli Administered Territories: West Bank, Judea and Samaria (Yesha), Gaza Strip, Gush Katif, Golan Heights, occupied territories, disputed territories, Arab territories, green line, June 1967 borders, 1949 armistice line

Places of residence in the Administered Territories: cities, settlements, villages, communities, outposts

People who live in the Administered Territories: settlers, residents, occupiers, hilltop youth, colonialists,
Jews / Israelis, Palestinians, Arabs (blue ID, orange ID), Jerusalem Arabs, Zionists, human beings

As an avid reader of multiple Israeli newspapers each day, it is interesting to note the different terminology each employs to describe the conflict. Left wing publications prefer to use the words, ‘Palestinian’, ‘West Bank’, ‘conflict’, ‘settler’ and ‘occupied territories’. Right wing publications prefer to use the words, ‘Arab’, ‘terrorist’, ‘Judea and Samaria’, ‘jihad’, ‘Jewish citizen’, and ‘Eretz Yisrael’.

For those who are interested in seriously engaging with Israel, a great place to start could be by making a more deliberate use of language to describe the conflict. For those who support a two-state solution, it may mean referring to the areas under Israeli occupation as Palestine. For those who support the status quo, it may mean referring to these same areas by only their hebrew names or biblical designations.

With the right use of words a wall can become a fence, an occupation can become the fulfilment of a biblical commandment and a settler becomes a human being. But only if you will it…

Ittay Flescher is a Jewish Educator in Melbourne. He also blogs for Makom.

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