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 “antisemitism 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 antisemitism 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 antisemitic 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.


4 Responses to “The elasticising of semantics”
  1. Leon Poddebsky says:

    The Jewish “left” (particularly those Jews who didn’t want to be Jews- such as Trotsky-Bronstein) has a sordid history of in effect collaborating with the persecutors of the people from whom those Jewish leftists sprang.
    The historical tragi-irony has always been that their erstwhile illusory “comrades” sooner or later turned on them as viciously as any “rightist” tyrant.

  2. david singer says:

    Spot on Yisrael.

    The main culprits engaging in this heinous practice are the United Nations and the Arab propaganda machine. They continue to crank up their Jew-hatred with ever-increasing demonic fervour.

    Here are a few articles I wrote on this elasticising of semantics last year.

    • Leon Poddebsky says:


      The so-called “left” bears equal culpability.
      Jewish supporters of Israel are routinely vilified in ways in which non-Jewish supporters are not.
      Why? The reason is obvious.

      (And the anti-Israel Jews then serve as a fig leaf for the antisemites.)

      • david singer says:


        I think the “left” – especially the Jewish “left” – have become brainwashed by the false propaganda emanating from the UN and Arab propaganda machines as I have detailed in the three articles referred to in my previous comment.

        Take the issue of the “West Bank”. Until 1950 it had been called “Judea and Samaria” in every atlas and geographic encyclopedia for centuries. It was even called “Judea and Samaria” in the 1947 UN Partition Resolution. Suddenly its name is changed to the “West Bank” after it was unified with the East Bank of the Jordan river to form a new territorial entity renamed “Jordan”.

        The Jewish left now actively pursues policies that seek to deny the right of Jews to live in the “West Bank” – the heart of the Jewish peoples’ biblical, historic and legally designated homeland under the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine. Denying their Jewish patrimony to live in Judea and Samaria gives aid and comfort to the enemies of the Jews as they push forward with their stated objective of removing the State of Israel from the map.

        One can argue about the wisdom of pursuing the policy of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria – but actively opposing the inalienable right of Jews to live there – as the New Israel Fund, for example, unashamedly does by supporting organisations promoting BDS – is only advancing the interests of those who seek to denigrate and delegitimize the rights of the Jewish people to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in what was formerly called “Palestine”.

        That is the tragedy of the Jewish left. They have been seduced by the elasticing of semantics in forgetting who they are, the roots from which they stem and the legal rights the international community gave to them back in 1922.

        Unifying Jews world-wide to stand united rather than divided on Israel’s right to exist in the face of these UN and Arab propaganda challenges cannot be over-emphasised. Jews joining hands with Israel’s enemies on campuses, rallies, social media and in the media generally must be called out and be continually condemned.

        United we stand – divided we will fall. Division is what UN and Arab propaganda unfortunately seems to be achieving with great success.

        The penny will eventually drop. Hopefully it will not be too late.

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