Monday, December 26, 2016

Revenant Justified

In 2004, over twelve years ago, I published an op-ed advocating replacing "settler" with "revenant".

You can read it here and it contains this:

But what should we term the Jews who live in the territories? A substitute for the word “settlers” has been hard to come by. I once introduced myself to a British Foreign Office Official at an appointment I had arranged at its London’s King Charles Street complex as a “Jewish civilian resident of a community located in Samaria”. Puzzled momentarily, he quickly interjected “but I thought I was to converse with a settler”. True, that was too many words, and therein is the problem. I think, though, that a more accurate noun perhaps has been found, one that is more relevant to the reality. 

It is revenant. 

According the American Heritage Dictionary, a revenant is one who returns after a lengthy absence. A revenant can be any person who shows up after a long absence such as those who come back to their ancestral home after years of political exile. This is the classic definition although Sir Walter Scott used it in his novel the Fair Maid, to denote a ghost. It stems from the French "revenir," which means simply "to return". 

Jews lived in the hills of Judea and Samaria for over 3500 years, as nomads, as tribal chieftains and as kings, priests and prophets. They were dispersed once and returned. They were exiled and returned....Eighty years ago, the world recognized unabashedly and with no disagreement the right of Jews to reestablish their historic homeland as a political entity. And following a brief 19 year long hiatus, Jews are once again living there. 

This, then, may be the word we need to employ. One word, of course, does not a victory make. Terminology is never terminal. Nevertheless, a major part of Israel’s Hasbara problem, especially in the medium of the electronic media and in academic and other political forums is its lack of ability to create a neutral space for discourse. Once the term “occupied” is tossed out in any gathering, any adequate response forces the speaker to deal with eighty years of detailed history, intricacies of international law and the interpretation of this or that Convention. 

If one is referred to as a settler, immediately the audience is disposed to consider the object as a near-monster, an oppressor, one who doesn’t belong and so forth. The person described as a “settler’ loses his humanity. He is a stereotype. Those who contend that Jews possess no rights in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, what should be called properly Yesha, have an easier task if they talk about a “settler”. A revenant, on the other hand, belongs. He has rights to the land, both his personal location and the collective geography. 

If one needs a humorous moment in the debate, the religious residents of Yesha could be referred to as reverent revenants. There are also irreverent revenants. Other residents could be irrelevant to the situation. 

Good linguistic advice is that to own a word, one should use it ten times. I have employed it seven times in this article. Perhaps you will join with me in multiplying its use? 

Also read this.

And now?

Merriam-Webster note:

Here are nine more notable words that sent people to the dictionary in 2016:Revenant

I rest my case.


Joe in Australia said...

Yisrael, if you follow Merriam-Webster to its definition you will see that "revenant" is defined as "one who returns from the dead, or after a long absence". That's the source that you cited; I prefer the Oxford, which gives a similar definition but whose examples make it clear that the "returning after a long absence" is distinctly secondly, and more of an obscure joke.

Seriously, Yisrael, your use of the word is confusing, and potentially embarrassing. Nobody would understand it unless you explained what you meant. It is a barrier to communication. It is the opposite of hasbara.

YMedad said...

Matey, I beg to differ.

First of all, we have come back after a long absence.

Second, "ghost" isn't out of the ordinary for those versed in Zionist writings. From Pinsker's Auto-Emancipation:
"Among the living nations of the earth the Jews are as a nation long since dead.

With the loss of their country, the Jewish people lost their independence, and fell into a decay which is not compatible with existence as a whole vital organism. The state was crushed before the eyes of the nations. But after the Jewish people had ceased to exist as an actual state, as a political entity, they could nevertheless not submit to total annihilation -- they lived on spiritually as a nation. The world saw in this people the uncanny form of one of the dead walking among the living. The Ghostlike apparition of a living corpse, of a people without unity or organization, without land or other bonds of unity, no longer alive, and yet walking among the living -- this spectral form without precedence in history, unlike anything that preceded or followed it, could but strangely affect the imagination of the nations. And if the fear of ghosts is something inborn, and has a certain justification in the psychic life of mankind, why be surprised at the effect produced by this dead but still living nation

A fear of the Jewish ghost has passed down the generations and the centuries. First a breeder of prejudice, later in conjunction with other forces we are about to discuss, it culminated in Judeophobia."

Thirdly, use is daily all of the place and in a half a year it will be de rigeuer. Tat's hasbara.

Anonymous said...

The feasible goal of our side should be to create a walled-off Ramallah, and declare THAT to be "Palestine City-State" (like the Vatican).

There is an AMAZINGLY small number of people in the world who want to spend money to make "Palestine" be any particular size.

Money talks, bullshit walks.