Palestine – Semantic Skullduggery Sinks Solutions

June 22, 2012 by David Singer
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The Palestinian Authority (PA) Ministry of Information has now issued a book instructing Palestinian Arabs on the words they should use to replace ” the Israeli and American dissemination of poisoned terms”…writes David Singer.
Palestinian Arabs are encouraged to use terms that indicate that Israel is the result of “a racist, colonialist endeavor,” and the book instructs Palestinians never to use the name “Israel” alone but instead to use the term “Israeli colonialism.” To use “Israel” by itself is damaging, according to the PA, because to do so “describes Israel as a natural state.”

Whilst most of the misleading and deceptive terms to be employed are not new – the book highlights official PA approval and acceptance of the use of such terms in the semantic war that has been ongoing for the last 130 years – alongside the actual conflict that has been played out between Jews and Arabs during that period.

For example – the use of the term “West Bank” was introduced by Jordan in 1950 to replace the biblical names “Judea and Samaria” – names that had been used throughout the centuries and were still being used by the British Mandate authorities in 1948. This change of name has been an effective propaganda tool in trying to erase any Jewish connection with and entitlement to these areas after they were occupied by Jordan in the 1948 War of Independence and subsequently lost by Jordan to Israel in the 1967 Six Day War

Similarly the use of the term “freedom fighter” instead of the term “terrorist” has had an impact on the way the Jewish-Arab conflict has been perceived.

Describing the conflict as the “Arab-Israeli conflict” or the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” also suggests that the conflict only begun in 1948 and completely ignores the important legal and historical milestones that had taken place in the previous 30 years.

Encouraging the use of the words “racist and apartheid” in the same breath as the word “Israel” or the words “land theft” where “State lands or waste lands” are involved – conjure up poor and negative images of Israel that every day confounds the world with its scientific, agricultural, medical and intellectual discoveries.

These carefully chosen and continuously used terms have had remarkable success in aligning countries around the world to lend their support to the creation of a new exclusively Arab state between Israel and Jordan for the first time ever in recorded history. That is no mean feat.

Yet this kind of semantic war has been one of the major obstacles to resolving the conflict.

Whilst both sides are using different terms in talking about the conflict  – any attempt to come to meaningful decisions in resolving the conflict is bound to fail – until both sides start talking about the conflict using the same language.

It is fair to say that in this kind of semantic tug of war – the People of the Book have been linguistically outsmarted by the successors to the authors of the One Thousand and One Nights.

But this brand of semantic war pales into insignificance when one considers the semantic war being waged when the parties are using the same terms – but applying different meanings to those terms.

Both sides have been engaging for the last 19 years in a dialogue under the Oslo Accords and the Bush Roadmap that has not been based on terms that have first been defined and agreed upon between them

The deliberate ambiguities and vague generalisations in the Oslo Accords and the Roadmap have led to innumerable differences and disagreements.

Any lawyer worth his salt will insist on terms being fully defined in agreements so that the parties will be in no doubt as to what the use of that term in the agreement means.

The simplest and most basic of these misunderstandings relates to the meaning of the term “Palestine “.

Does Palestine only include Israel, the West Bank and Gaza? Or does it also include Jordan – 78% of the territory called Palestine covered by the Mandate for Palestine conferred on Great Britain by the League of Nations in 1922 following the San Remo Conference and the signing of the Treaty of Sevres in 1920?

According to Article 2  of the the Palestine Liberation Organization Charter – Jordan is included:

“Palestine,with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit.”

So why is the PLO only demanding territorial concessions including land swaps by Israel – and not Jordan – in its push for statehood and independence?

Why should Jordan  – the Arab country that invaded and occupied the West Bank for 19 years between 1948-1967 when an independent Palestinian Arab State could have been created in a Jew-free West Bank – be quarantined from being part of the solution – now that 350000 Jews live there?

When the Hashemite rulers in Jordan proclaim that “Jordan is Jordan and Palestine is Palestine” – what do they mean? When these same rulers pronounce that “Jordan is Palestine and Palestine is Jordan” – what are they trying to convey?

Any territorial grant of land by Jordan to a putative Palestinian Arab state equal to the amount of territory retained by Israel in the West Bank would have no effect on Jordan’s security or territorial integrity. Yet it could have a real impact in bringing about a resolution to the long running conflict.

Jordan helped create the current problems in the West Bank. Why shouldn’t Jordan be part of the solution to ending those problems arising from its former occupation of the West Bank and the fact that it sits on 78% of “Palestine”?

All of these questions must now take on a new meaning following the declaration by PLO chairman – and Palestinian president – Mahmoud Abbas – that the negotiations between Israel and the PLO under the Oslo Accords and the Bush Roadmap are “clinically dead”

Here again is another new term introduced into the political lexicon – which now needs to be defined so that both Israel and the Palestinian Authority are in agreement as to its meaning as it inevitably becomes part of the international dialogue.

Anyone care to speculate that Israel and the Palestinian Authority will ever agree on what the terms “Palestine” and “clinically dead” mean?

David Singer is a Sydney Lawyer and Foundation Member of the International Analysts Network


7 Responses to “Palestine – Semantic Skullduggery Sinks Solutions”
  1. Otto Waldmann says:

    Very interesting !!

    I found this article on a web site called ” Forum”.
    Some four comments have been posted by others than David himself in reply. All four commentators are clearly against David. David replied to them in the same impeccable manner he wrote the article itslef.
    When I tried ( twice) to register for comments, guess what, Forum rejected me, based on my email address, which includes my full name.
    That SAYS it all about the rectitude of the plastelinian camp !!!

    • Shirlee says:

      Welcome to the club Otto. It happens to me frequently

      As much as these people scream about Free Speech, they aren’t prepared to be part of that on their web sites.

  2. Paul Winter says:

    Actually, David, I do not believe that our enemies have outsmarted us. Our brilliant leaderships in the Diaspora and in Israel have contributed to the political victory of our enemies and still continue to do so. Anyone with more than one neurone would and possessing a spinal cord would have refused to use the enemy’s terms in any debate and ould have pulled out of any talks where any terms other than the proper Jewish ones were used. There are no Palestinians, there is no occupation, there is no 40 km wide “West Bank”, the third holiest place in Islam is a 20th century politicisation of an 8th century hoax, there are no settlers only pioneers who are building the land given to them by history and law. It was unbelievably stupid to think that accepting an enemy’s lies would lead to a much desired peace. Until Jews disallow the false claims of constitutional liars, the propaganda war against Jews will continue, with the likelihood that shooting wars will erupt with Jewish blood spilt while politicians dance between verbal minefields. Mohammedan lies must be exposed and denounced for the mutual benefit of both hostile populations!

  3. Otto Waldmann says:

    David, you are spot on once again. The fluidity of political vernacular must be seen as both reflecting the rhetorical deflection from tangible, core reality and also the undercurents of real politik. Duplicitous, one may say, yet the “fiction” language may engage in what contains the seeds of intent as well of the ingredients of active endeavours. As intent is part of existing, current programatic discourse, everything that is seen/heard from a party, in this case the palestinian ideology cum political activism, , exemplifies with easily identifyable precision their strategies and tactics.

    – deflection by the simple fact of use of specific universally accepted terms , ( see “fredom”, “lawful/justice” “democracy” etc ) engaging the useful masses adjacent to the politcal negotiating process as such. In the “masses” we must include media, academia and, as we have seen, the very effective, however limited in number, sixth column, the elements belonging generically to the oposite camp, i.e. our so called “self hating and the peacenik Jews “.

    – real politik needs little difining space but, once we outstrip the “chromatic” coating of the vernacular we detect at once the physically active ingredients. The “mere ” terms “racist” engages the spirit and the physical in targeting the oposite race as the enemy, i.e. the Jew . This isolation helps clarifying the object of the “argument”. Jews of all pursuits and locations will be the fundamental target. See Olympians in Munich, Rabbis and their children in Toulouse , the same in Mumbai and Israel generally is a given.

    Little surprise that even some of our, Australian, politicians are embracing this rhetoric. Bob Carr has proven on numerous occasion the worst offender in using “acceptable” terms in justifyinf totally unaccptable political practices. Sadly our “well versed” communal representatives have failed consistently for the past few DECADES to counteract this phenomenon. The said leaders seem incredibly happy with themselves ( as group pictures amply show ) while the Jewish cause is suffering.


    Sorry I almost forgot . We do have a 30 page letter to SBS in our rhetorical armory. As letters go, it is full of …letters which make the abovementioned words, some hard to work out as they seem smudged by what looks like copious quantities of hot chocolate spilled all over.
    Can someone tell me what has come out of it …..

    • Shirlee says:


      Gurnisht!! Go to the ECAJ web site, it’s all there

      • Otto Waldmann says:

        Shirlee, many thanks for the ECAJ link. Consequently please clarify the meaning of your “gurnisht”.
        For mine, ECAJ is almost entirely plastered with:

        – complaints about the imminent screening of “The Promise”
        – comoplaints about the actual screening of “The Promise”
        – complaints about the completion of the sceening of “The Promise”
        – complaints about the refusal by SBS to reply to the 1st complaint about the imminent screenin of…
        – complaints about the refusal by SBS to reply to the actual scfreening….
        – complaints to SBS about the………….of The Promise
        – complaints about the marketing by SBS of “The Promise”
        – complaints to that Otto Waldmann did not complain to SBS aboiut The Promise”
        – complaints to JWire hat they published the present about Otto Waldmann and The Promise

        so…… vere ist the issue of the 90 humungous ones gifted to the palestinians by OUR Govt. and ECAJ complaining to SBS about the ………………….!!!!!???? ’cause gurnisht most definitely applies to ECAJ and THIS PARTICULAR ISSUE !!!!

        AAAAAAHHHH, you are still refering to The Promise, yes it is all there, including the inferred reality that SBS discharged itself in our (ECAJ) pockets big time.

  4. Liat Nagar says:

    Such interesting and apt discussion, David. I believe the media have been instrumental in cementing in the minds of people Arab terminology and euphemisms, most probably purposefully. To that end I’ve consistently communicated with both television and radio stations, as well as newspapers, in an endeavour to elaborate truth and fairness. It’s also true that we have been outsmarted by the Arab spokesmen/women linguistically, and will continue to be if we don’t bother to make our thoughts more potently and articulately accessible to the public at large. We need speakers with clarity and authority, and writers, to continually put our perspective. We also need writers, film makers and visual artists to offer ourselves in the form of ‘fiction’, which, if done well enough, brings the heart of the facts to life, thereby providing capacity for empathy instead of enmity. “The Thousand and One Nights’ is rightly famous as a qualitative piece of literature, and as Jews we should be pushing our own literature.

    The facts alone as we know them will not be enough to countermand the Arab mythology that has become fact to the world. As a writer myself, I know the power of words. The facts are one thing and telling the story incorporating the facts as ‘life’ are another.

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