The elasticising of semantics

October 26, 2018 by Yisrael Medad - JNS
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“Zionism developed as a colonialist movement” is how Professor Ishay Rosen Zvi, head of the Talmud and Late Antiquity section in the Jewish Philosophy Department at Tel Aviv University, opens a recent op-ed of his published in Haaretz.

Yisrael Medad

U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) had accused Israel of being an “apartheid” state, as I myself noted in a column published here and, taking it a bit further, The Guardian’s cartoonist accused Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison of pandering to the “Israeli enthusiast apartheid vote” (while suggesting those type of people claim that Gazan kids die because the “fall on Israeli bullets”).

In the congressional district NY19 in the Catskills, Democratic challenger Antonio Delgado said in a debate that Israel “isn’t a democracy.” In a recent pamphlet, the new Rabbinic Call for Human Rights organization, T’rua asserts that Israel’s “Supreme Court has reiterated, as recently as 2010, that the West Bank is to be treated as occupied territory.” That manifesto, oddly enough, was issued “in collaboration with Breaking the Silence.” Breaking the Silence activists are “collaborators”?

Another example is from Britain, where a member of the anarchist Jewdas group compared Zionism to Nazi ideology during an “anti-Semitism awareness” session to Labour Party members. Annie Cohen said that “Zionism is a racist ideology,” adding that it was “not possible to have a democratic Jewish state.”

Which raises the theme of how is language used, or rather misused, purposely or simply sloppily is talking about Israel’s current diplomatic and political condition.

Quite plainly, language in the discourse is being corrupted and definitions are being eviscerated. Moreover, the object of this exercise is to demonize Israel and Zionism, poison minds and attempt to disenable any defender of Israel and Jewish nationalism from responding by literally dictating the conversation to the total disadvantage of a pro-Israel stance. And tax-exempt donations to the New Israel Fund monetize this language.

In essence, we need to acknowledge that nothing has really changed from the beginning of the attacks on Zionism in the mass media led by Lords Northcliffe, Rothermere and Beaverbrook in the early 1920s and the targeting of Jews as Jews, which allows anti-Semitism a free ride. As David Cesarani put it in 1989, is anti-Zionism motivated by principled objections to Zionism and sympathy for the Palestinian Arabs, or more due to hostility to the Jews or that their antipathy to Zionism is based on prejudices regarding Jewish behaviour?

Zionism’s opponents elasticize language. They stretch terms that properly belong in one sphere of activity or thought and seek to apply it, unfairly and incorrectly, to what is happening in Israel. There’s even the trick called “Holocaust inversion,” for example. When I first became involved in hasbara efforts in 1964, one of the favourite ploys was “we can’t be anti-Semitic for we are Arabs and Arabs are Semitic.”

Today, from Carter on down, “apartheid,” which indicates a complete separation based on race is now applied to Israel as if there are two sets of toilets and water fountains. Or that T’rua handout I quoted from above reads “Green Line: Israel’s internationally recognized border” when the actual ceasefire agreement states

Article VI 9. The Armistice Demarcation Lines defined in articles V and VI of this Agreement are agreed upon by the Parties without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto.

Or in other words, the Green Line was quite definitely not Israel’s internationally recognized border. In fact, the word “border” appears but once and as a future issue Israel could raise, an issue of “border rectification.” The exact term used in the agreement is “Armistice Demarcation Lines.” Language is artificially stretched, elasticized and the intent of the newly defined term becomes a weaponized semantic.

As for “colonialism,” what is it that Arabs did in the seventh century if not conquer a country not theirs, occupy it and then colonize it? Who “occupied Palestine,” or rather, the area the international community set aside for the establishment of an Arab Palestine state, if not Jordan, an act the international community basically ignored because Jews were not involved? Where is the actual apartheid practised, if not within the confines of the Haram A-Sharif on the Temple Mount, where Jews cannot even drink water from the fountains there—not to mention pray or even just read from the Bible?

For all these examples and many more, there are no words to describe the deviousness in subverting historical truth and current events. Opponents of Israel and Zionism abscond with the rhetoric, and not only fashion a made-up narrative but create a new language in which to argue the Arab conflict with Israel. Their elasticizing of semantics is stretching the truth.

Yisrael Medad is an American-born Israeli journalist and commentator.