Reclaim the language, reclaim the land

Map of Mandate era Palestine, showing Israeli sovereignty over the area that was never legally superseded

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has come up with a novel idea to solve the “land for peace” conundrum that has has been holding up any kind of peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. His theory – and this isn’t the first time he has proposed it – is not to move the people but to move the border.

Lieberman, who was speaking at an annual conference of Israeli ambassadors in Jerusalem, said he would support a peace deal with the Palestinians only if Israel exchanged the Israeli Arab towns in Wadi Ara (southeast of Haifa) and the area north east of Tel Aviv (known as the “Triangle”) for equivalent territory in Judea and Samaria.

“Israel’s [eastern] border would shift to Highway 6,” Lieberman said, referring to the major north-south artery that skirts the pre-1967 borders and lies west of the Israeli Arab towns he mentioned.

“Without land swaps, I would not favor any deal and I made that clear. We are not talking about the transfer of populations like in the Disengagement Plan, when people were thrown out of their homes in 21 communities [as part of the Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria]. No one is going to be expelled and no one will have their property seized; everyone will get to stay where they are. The only difference is that the border will have shifted.”

The Israeli Arabs, who would be affected by this proposed border move, know the nature of the Palestinian Authority very well, and much prefer living under Israeli rule, even if they constantly accuse Israel of “apartheid”, racism, and general discrimination. So it is no surprise that the proposal has been roundly rejected by the Israeli Arabs too: (h/t Israel Matzav):

MK Ahmed Tibi (Ra’am-Ta’al), who used to be an adviser to former PA Chairman Yasser Arafat and a resident of Tayibeh, told Maariv in response to the report, “This is a bizarre offer which treats Arab citizens as a chess piece that one can move around and change.”


MK Masud Ganaim (Ra’am-Ta’al) also attacked the proposal, telling Maariv, “This is a delusional proposal. This is the country and legitimate national home of Arabs and you cannot compare them to the settlers who are occupying the West Bank without legal or legitimate justification.”

Now that is a very funny thing for MK Ganaim to say. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m sure the Balfour Declaration called for a Jewish National Home in Palestine, and not an Arab national home – especially when taking into account that they already have 22 (or is it 23?) national homes around the world.

MK Ganaim’s deliberate lie represents a distortion of history and language that has become a highly insidious tool used by Palestinian propagandists to undermine Israeli and Jewish interests and connections to the Land of Israel.

In this connection several recent articles highlight the double standards regarding Israel’s borders and the use and abuse of language to distort both history and geography.

Raphael Ahren’s very important article “Why is this Occupation different from all other occupations?” challenges the EU over its double standards towards Israel’s possession of Judea and Samaria as opposed to the Moroccan occupation in Western Sahara:

Many Israelis have long felt that the European Union is biased against them. Two legal scholars – a former Israeli ambassador and an American Jewish international law professor — think they’ve found the perfect case to prove the claim: A new fishing deal, signed between the Europeans and Morocco, which applies beyond Morocco’s internationally recognized borders, taking in the territory of Western Sahara, even though Morocco invaded that area in 1975 and has occupied ever since.


The EU’s response, authored on Ashton’s behalf by the managing director of the union’s external action service’s Middle East and Southern Neighborhood department, Hugues Mingarelli, read: “With regards to the allegation of using double standards for Israel and Morocco, our analysis is that the two cases are different and cannot be compared.” No further explanation was given.

“Whatever they have identified in their ‘analysis,’ they’re obviously not very proud of it. Had it been substantial, they would have surely not hesitated to provide more detail,” Kontorovich told The Times of Israel this week.

Read the whole article to gain a fuller insight into the scholarly and legal implications of this double standard towards Israel.

An article by Michael Lumish from the “Jews Down Under” website talks about reclaiming the language for ourselves in Language and lenses: West Bank. vs. Judea & Samaria:

One must wonder how it is that the ancient and common terms for that part of the world are somehow “ideologically loaded” while the formulation “West Bank,” which was only invented within living memory by the Jordanians for the strict political purpose of erasing Jewish history on Jewish land, is not?   Judaea has been Judaea for at least 3,500 years.  Samaria has been Samaria for at least 3,500 years.  The “West Bank” came into usage about a quarter past last Tuesday and did so for the sole purpose of wiping out Jewish claims to the historical homeland of the Jewish people.


What is surprising, however, is the swiftness within which the Jewish Left also adopted that language.


Even UN General Assembly Resolution 181, which acknowledged the Jewish state, uses the terms Judaea and Samaria, not the “West Bank,” in reference to those regions.


Whatever the eventual outcome of this long-standing Arab-Muslim war against the Jews of the Middle East, it should be obvious to Jewish people that denying our own history in that region cannot be a benefit to our people.

It is one thing to give away Jewish land, but it is another thing entirely to give away Jewish history.  The former, in my view, might be acceptable if the recipients were kindly disposed toward their Jewish neighbors in acceptance.

The latter is an abomination.

Again, read the whole article. It is an excellent analysis of the distortion of a political process through language.

One last item: a fascinating article in the Jerusalem Post by Dan Illouz approached the problem from a different perspective. He praised Canadian PM Stephen Harper for his robust support for Israel despite any misgivings he may have about Judea and Samaria, and used this as a basis to explain that once Israel accepted the right of the Palestinians to a state, Israel has no choice but to get out of the territories:

If Israel wants more Stephen Harpers in this world, it needs to start studying what it is doing wrong, and understand the framing through which Harper looks at the State of Israel. Only then will we be able to reproduce this framing amongst other world leaders. Only then will we get more Stephen Harpers instead of getting more boycotts and sanctions against Israel.

Ever since the start of the Oslo peace process, the Foreign Affairs Ministry has stopped defending Israel. Instead, it started defending the two-state solution.

During Oslo, with President Shimon Peres serving as foreign affairs minister and its architect, the traditional discourse of the ministry shifted dramatically.

Israel was not to justify its connection to all parts of the land, including Judea and Samaria, but rather it was to embrace the two-state solution and yearn to implement it. Israel was not to attack our enemies diplomatically, but, rather, it was to highlight advances in the peace process.


The real problem with this approach is that the very acceptance of the two-state solution means that Israel should not be in Judea and Samaria since, in the two-state solution, Israel needs to get out of these areas. If Israel should not be there, it is acting as an occupying force. By using a framing which accepts the two-state solution, Israeli diplomats invited international pressure and boycotts.


This flawed framing of Israel’s diplomacy will never create more Stephen Harpers.

It will just create more boycotts.

The Canadian prime minister’s great friendship with Israel shows that this strategy was based on nothing more than pure conjecture.

Dan Illouz goes on to suggest various strategies that should be employed by Israel’s diplomats to defend its position:

First, Israeli diplomats should never differentiate between Judea and Samaria and the rest of Israel.

Second, diplomats should learn to tell Israel’s story without relation to the Israeli- Arab conflict. Israel’s story is a story of great hope and can be inspiring to all people.

Third, diplomats should use all the tools available to them to defend Israel’s right to all parts of the Land of Israel.

This includes the Edmund Levy Report that justifies Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria. The reason is simple: Even if one believes in the two-state solution, shouldn’t he want Israel to get to the negotiating table in the best possible starting position? In order to get to the best possible starting position, it is crucial to use all the tools we have in order to get there. Without doing this, we are once again inviting more boycotts.

You can read more about the Edmund Levy Report which is mentioned above in my post here. Arlene Kushner has more and you can also visit the Facebook page promoting the Levy Report.

Dan Illouz’s analysis and suggested solutions are startling in their simplicity and obviousness. Why didn’t anyone think of this before or make these suggestions? And if they did, why have these tactics not been employed even until today?

His article, together with the two other articles about the double standards and distortion of language in order to delegitimize Israel, should be required learning material for all Israeli diplomats and activists.

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6 Responses to Reclaim the language, reclaim the land

  1. peteca1 says:

    Americans and Europeans running around trying to fix the Israel-Palestinian issue again.
    And again.
    And sgain.

    All i can say is … Look at what is heppening in Syria, Iraq, and Iran. If these conflicts widen, or if Iran goes nuclear, do you think that Israeli leaders will have any time to worry about Gaza?? Really? People who believe that are living in a dream wotld. The threat levels in the ME will be so high that Israel will have no choice but to focus on the highest priorities. The issues with the Palestinians will be number 50 on that list. Abbas has had a ton of chances to work something out. If he is waiting for the perfect opportunity – he waited too long.

    Pete, USA

  2. Betty says:

    Great article. Language of defeat has left Israel and supporters on the Blackfoot for too long. Must take the initiative and stop being in the defensive. Reframing the debate and aggressively putting our rights human and historical is critical

  3. Earl says:

    The Israeli government should not retreat from the Jewish peoples’ rights under the Treaty of San Remo- and start advancing aggressively Howard Grief’s thesis. Israel’s position today would have been far stronger politically if this stance had been taken upon the illegal founding of “Palestine”, viz., the “Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan” a century ago…

    • anneinpt says:

      We all know what we should be doing. The question is WHY we are NOT doing so. What happened to our leaders of yesteryear? Oh, sorry, I know. Shimon Peres and his Oslo process came along. That was the beginning of our downfall. I fear that Bibi is not backboned enough to completely counteract the insidious influence of Oslo.

  4. Pingback: How many states for two peoples? | Anne's Opinions

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