Saturday, May 29, 2004

'Militants' or 'Terrorists'?

Here's the headline and lead paragraph from today's
New York Times' report on the act of violence in
Saudia Arabia:-

At Least 10 Dead as Militants Attack in Saudi Oil Area
CAIRO, May 29 — Gunmen opened fire against a business complex and two residential compounds in Saudi Arabia on Saturday as the series of fatal terrorist attacks in the country reached the heart of its oil-producing region.

My question is, are they "terrorists" or "militants" or "gunmen"?

What's the problem that the NYT finds in calling a person who uses violence against civilians a "terrorist", whether in
Saudi Arabia or Israel?

Friday, May 28, 2004

Walker, Abington, Et. Al.

Nicholas D. Kristof admiringly quotes Edward Walker Jr. and describes him solely as "a former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt" in an op-ed piece, "The Bush and Kerry Tilt", published in the May 26 issue of the New York Times. But that is a misleading identification.

Mr. Walker is, since 2001, president and CEO of the Middle East Institute, a recognized pro-Arab lobby. It promotes "understanding" of the Middle East. His puff pieces appear in various pro-Saudi Arabia forums and other outlets, inclduing his numerous speaking appearances.

Walker is a classic example of the 'Arabist" tilt in the State Department, an official who serves his personal ideology while in government service and then finds employment within the Arab propaganda network as did Edward Abington,former U.S. Consul-General in Jerusalem, who received payment as an official "advisor" to Yassir Arafat and the Palestine Authority.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Goldberg's "Settlers"

According to the PR hype:

In "Among the Settlers," in the May 31, 2004, issue of The New Yorker, Jeffrey Goldberg gives a comprehensive account of the daily life of the Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza, of the beliefs that drive them, and of the profound effect they may have on the future of Israel. "The most hard-core settlers are impatient messianists," Goldberg writes, "who profess indifference, even scorn, for the state; a faith in vigilantism; and loathing for Arabs. They are free of doubt, seeing themselves as taking orders from God, and are an unusually cohesive segment of Israeli society. Hard-core settlers and their supporters make up perhaps two per cent of the Israeli populace, but they nevertheless have driven Israeli policy in the occupied territories for much of the past thirty years"—and may, Goldberg argues, drive Israel itself to destruction.
·In the end, Goldberg writes, "the borders of Israel, in the view of Jewish religious nationalists, are drawn by God, and one does not negotiate with God. So the settlers have, golem-like, risen against one of their creators, and pledged to stop any attempt—including Sharon's provisional attempt—to disentangle Jews and Arabs."

I do not know whether to be happy or sad. You see, Goldberg spoke to me when he was here researching this story. He was in my office in Jerusalem and I have his business card to prove it. I wouldn't call what we did as an "in-depth interview" although we did about an hour or so. He promised to get back. I do not know if I appear in his essay.

I would have thought that I may have provided him with some balance despite the fact that I live in the hills of Samaria in what I would call an "ideologicaly hard-core" community and perhaps did not jive with perhaps pre-conceived notions. Not only balance but rational thinking, if you'll excuse the lack of humility.

But we will have to wait to see the full text.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Coca-Cola in Nazi German

I don't drink Coca-Cola (nor any other carbonated drink).
According to an article in the UK Independent:

Coca-Cola adverts are the subject of a new exhibition which links the soft drinks giant with Nazi Germany.
The comedian Mark Thomas and the artist Tracey Sanders-Wood, who curated the art show Coca-Cola's Nazi Adverts, which opened in central London yesterday, say the company advertised in Nazi papers, exhibited at Nazi trade fairs and opened bottling plants in Sudetenland shortly after the Nazis invaded Czechoslavia.
Coca-Cola has rejected any suggestion that it sympathised with the Nazi regime, although it admits it operated in Germany while Hitler was in power.

"We reject out of hand the suggestion that as a company Coca-Cola ever sympathised in any way with the abhorrent acts or policies of the Nazi regime in Germany," said Tim Wilkinson, communications director for Coca-Cola Great Britain. "That is an unwarranted insult toward every person working for our company."
Coca-Cola has donated money to help those who were involved in forced labour during the Nazi years in Austria and Germany, but Mr Wilkinson said this was good corporate practice and not an admission of guilt.

Just Five Minutes More

Jessica Montell, director of the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem, published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times

Entitled "Demolishing Houses, and Lives", it started thus:

"Throughout the last week, a macabre exercise has been running through my head. I imagine I have five minutes to get out of my house, never to return. What will I take with me? My wallet and checkbook, a change of clothes for the kids, the photo albums, my daughter's favorite doll, diapers, bottles. In five minutes, I'd never get it all out."

In response, I sent out a letter to the editor and just in case it doesn't get printed, here it is for my reading public:-

Jessica Montell engaged herself in a "macabre exercise", she wrote ("Demolishing Houses, and Lives,
May 26, 2004). Trying to imagine herself given but five minutes to exit her house, she couldn't
decide what personal objects she would take. But, as she admits, she lives in a "quiet neighborhood in West Jerusalem".

However, the civilians of whom she writes sympathetically really had much more than five minutes. They've
known for years that their neighbors and even their sons and relatives are engaged in a war of terror against
Israelis. Their homes are used as cover for the digging of tunnels through which weapons and explosives
are smuggled in from Egypt. Their homes are used as lookouts and snipers' nests from which to shoot at
Israelis. Their homes hide escaped terrorists and when these are killed, these same people march by the
thousands in the streets to encourage their husbands and sons to join the terrorists and continue the
war against Israel.

It is too bad that Ms. Montell hasn't given that fact even five minutes thought.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Newspeak a la Ha'Aretz

Neat Ha'Aretz news vocabulary.
Read the story below.
Okay, no "terrorists" for that is a given.
After all, it is a liberal journal.
But -
no militants,
no activists,
no gunmen,
no militiamen.

Tsk, tsk.

And -
"Palestinians", yes.
"Members", yes.
"Two", yes.
"Groups", yes.

Lovely the way language is a manipulative ideological
Last update - 14:34 25/05/2004
Two killed in Ramallah gun battles between PLO factions
By Arnon Regular, Haaretz Correspondent

Two Palestinians were killed and another seriously wounded in clashes in Ramallah over the past two days between Fatah and Popular Front Struggle, a small group within the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Palestinian sources reported that clashes between the groups began on Monday when the bodyguard of Palestinian National Struggle Front leader Samir Rousha shot and killed a Fatah member who lived in a refugee camp near Ramallah.

Following the initial killing, a serious of violent confrontations broke out between the two groups during which a youth was killed and another individual was seriously wounded.

According to Palestinians, several PNSF offices were set ablaze during the clashes.

Monday, May 24, 2004

They Lied

They Lied
By Yisrael Medad

During the period when I served as a parliamentary aide to MK Geula Cohen in the 1980s, I was once asked by a journalist if I contemplated entering politics myself. My reply was in the negative and asked for a reason, the first thing that came into my head was “I can’t lie to my friends”.

Politics is a dirty business. Although Ms. Cohen likened its “dirtiness” to that of an obstetrician who, while aiding a mother to give birth, is getting himself dirty, which is not all that bad in the circumstances, I still find the pressures, the ego-challenge and the competition a bit too much. It is one thing, though, to jostle about with your fellow party colleagues. To act mendaciously with your voting public on issues of national importance is another matter.

Take Ariel Sharon’s statement to the Knesset on April 22. If Sharon views the Likud poll now as only an exercise of moral-public standing, can one then assume that if he doesn’t abide by the vote’s outcome he would then be considered, by his own admission, an immoral person? After all, the whole original idea Sharon had was based on the estimation that he could get the Likud rank-and-file to follow him on his lemmings’ route to oblivion. His backtracking on this issue would smack of, at the very least, a lack of morality.

But let us return to the essence of the plan Sharon is promoting in a most deceitful fashion.

Despite its name, this is not a disengagement. We are not separating or detaching ourselves from the Gaza Strip, although some dictionaries, appropriately enough, list “withdrawing troops” as one definition of the word. We will continue to be connected but only to the advantage of the Arab population there. Municipal services will be provided including electricity and water. Funds for Gaza will be deposited in Arafat’s accounts and Arabs will be permitted entry in Israel. And let us not forget that, strictly speaking, Israel isn’t “in” Gaza but only in the Katif Bloc and two other communities.

Sharon is trumpeting two statements made by President George Bush as examples of the tremendous support Israel is receiving from this American administration. The first is the recognition of a new Jewish “reality” in Judea and Samaria as a result of demographic changes. However, as much as Sharon would like to have us believe, the United States has not recognized a right by Israel to “settle” in those areas or to retain those “realities”. The second is the denial of a so-called Arab right of return.

In the first instance, American spokespersons, from Secretary of State Collin Powell on down, have been repeating the same message: this is not an explicit recognition of the Jewish communities. Bush was just taking note of the new reality. After all, he did repeat that final status issues, one of which is the settlements as the road map plan includes, must be mutually agreed upon by the sides. And, by the way, how does the unilateral aspect of the disengagement in Gaza dovetail with the demand for mutuality in Judea and Samaria? Why can’t Israel be unilateral there too? Or are we not being informed about the truth of the American position?

Similarly, Bush said that he “rather” would have the Arab refugees return to the Palestinian state. (But, wait a moment, did we all agree to a Palestinian state? Did not the Likud central committee vote that a Palestinian state was not on the Likud agenda?) Despite what Bibi Netanyahu said in one of his interviews about his command of the English language, I would insist that “rather” in this case means “prefer” but does not indicate exclusivity. Bush was not saying the Arabs cannot return at all to areas of the state of Israel. To suggest otherwise is lying, or, expressing a gross misunderstanding of the usage of English.

The media is playing a large part of this effort by Sharon and his advisors to fool the voting public. They are not pursuing the information openly available on web sites that contain evidence on American backtracking. In their interviews, as well as commentary, they are avoiding pressing home the dichotomy in what Sharon is claiming versus what the Americans insist is the correct interpretation.

The Attorney-General is also contributing to the general befuddlement. If he informs the High Court of Justice that he wishes to restrict the spending of state funds to the councils of Gaza and Samaria only in the campaign against the disengagement plan, why then does he not restrict the Prime Minister from using state funds for an internal Likud affair? Would this not be the fair legal approach?

And now, Sharon has "altered" his plan by chambering it into sections. Nothing else.

That the immediate political issues we face on platformed on untruths, obfuscations and lies is a sorrowful situation. Those who believe that this plan is dangerous and illogical must work all that harder to overcome Sharon's machinations.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Words from Churchill

I found this in Winston Churchill's volume on the History of the Second World War, p. 971, (towards the bottom of the page:

He refers to the Arab countries and writes:

To Britain alone they owe their very existence as nations. We created them; British money and advisors set the pace of their advance. British arms protected them.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Off With His Head, Almost?

This was at the tailend of James Bennet's report in the NYTimes today:

In a highly unusual incident, at least three Palestinian men attempted to kidnap this reporter here Wednesday night. The reporter, who had identified himself at Al Najar hospital as an American, was speaking on a cellular telephone in the street in front of the hospital when a stranger approached offering a handshake, a smile and the word, "Welcome."

When the reporter took his hand, the stranger and another man grabbed him and attempted to shove him into an aging Mercedes sedan that pulled up, its rear door open. A struggle and cries for help brought Palestinian police officers at the hospital running, and after a further struggle, the men jumped in the car and disappeared.

Anger at Americans has been building here for three years over the Bush administration's perceived tilt toward Israel, the occupation of Iraq and, most recently, images of prisoner abuse in Iraq. An American might also be considered valuable for use in bargaining with Israel.

If they had found out he's Jewish, he could have had his throat slit and his head held high.

A War Crime? Us?

Why isn't this defined by the media as a "war crime" ?
Is it that only what Israel does, legitimately defending itself against terrorists, to be labeled such?


Armed standoff in Halifax

HALIFAX (CP, May 19, 2004) -- Members of the Halifax police emergency response team surrounded a house in the city's downtown early Tuesday after a man barricaded himself inside and shots were fired.

She said the standoff started after midnight when police arrived to enforce a Children's Aid Society aprehension order.

The shots were fired about two hours later. No one was hurt.

Police advised motorists to stay away from the area. Those who live in the neighbourhood were asked to remain in their homes.

Katrina Brown, who lives across the street from the house, said she found a police sniper in her kitchen when she came downstairs in the morning. She later found several bullet holes in the window of a study upstairs.

"I was a little shocked," she said. "Now that I think about it, I'm all the more shocked."

NYTimes' Absurdity

The NYTimes editorial today, May 20, "The Gaza Quagmire", claims that Israel is planning "to unilaterally destroy the Palestinian territory". That would appear to be an absurdity.

Territory remains. After all, after the Jews were expelled from their country not once, but twice, and
they returned. They returned to build new cities and kibbutzim and they returned to ancient
locations. In 1947, they accepted a partition of their territory yet the Arabs could not agree to this compromise. In 1967, the Jews returned to their Biblical landscape, their historical homeland, and once again, after accepting the Oslo Accords, Israel allowed Arabs to assume control over territory they presumed to call their own.

Israel now is dealing with a ruling Palestinian Authority that for the past decade has broken every agreement and which, as President Bush asserts, supports terror. Israel has been trying, rightly or wrongly, to provide the Palestinians withsome territory and Sharon even wants to give tham all Gaza.

Nevertheless, they refuse to use that territory except as an instrument of war against Israel and its citizens.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

NYTimes as a Platform for Lies

In today's NYTimes (May 18, 2004), a letter to the editor appears.

Written by one Daanish Faruqi of Piscataway, N.J. (who does not appear in a phone book site I searched), it contains these lines:

Hats off to Thomas L. Friedman for realizing that Palestinian terrorism isn't simply a nihilistic rage. Rather, it is a response to outright theft of Palestinian land through settlements, which defy international law in the name of a prophetic commitment to a Greater Israel.

Some of the readers might be convinced by his logic but consider this: if Jewish "settlement" is theft and a reason for a rage (a euphemism for terror), why was there Arab terror before 1967? There were no "settlements" - and from now on, I will be using "communities" - prior to 1967, nor was there an "occupation" but the PLO was founded in 1964. And the PLO engaged in terror - bombings, shooting, etc. without Israel being in Judea and Samaria and Gaza. So, what was the reason for their nihilism then?

Could it be that all of Israel, or, rather, anywhere there is an "Israel" is "theft" and a reason for "rage"? And if Jewish history and a 3000 year old presence in the Land of Israel can be conveniently ignored, as if it is only a "prophetic commitment", and we don't really need God to prove Jewish residency in this land, what do we do Muhammed's nighttime flight on a winged horse from Saudi Arabia to Jerusalem? That isn't "prophetic"? That doesn't contain an element of religion or for the atheists out there, a bit of the stretch of the imagination?

And his conclusion?

Hence, it is impossible to subdue global Islamism without first dealing with the question of Palestine. And the first step in doing so is to demolish Israel's settlements.

Nice guy. Demolish. Not dismantle. Not save the homes for the "poor refugees". No, he's got to smash and obliterate and demolish.

Or maybe he just went into one of those nihilistic rages?

Illegal Occupation of the Truth

Here follows one of my responses to the claims of "illegality" and "occupation" that is the stock
of Israel bashers:-

United Nations Secretary-General Koffi Annan’s repetition of the Arab stock propaganda phrase of “illegal occupation”, to describe Israel’s post-1967 presence in portions of its historic homeland, is a new phase in the traditional UN anti-Zionist attitude. The bandying about of so-called international law has been for too long ignored by official Israeli bodies and its supporters.

Let’s start at the beginning. The Balfour Declaration of 1917, the text of which had been pre-approved by U.S. President W. Wilson who himself affirmed “that Palestine should become a Jewish State”, refers to “a National Home for the Jewish people in Palestine”. The “non-Jewish communities in Palestine” are to have their “civil and religious rights” protected.

The distinction is not coincidental. National and historical rights are recognized clearly and solely in the context of the Jewish people. There is no support for the claim that the land in question ‘belonged to an Arab people’. Indeed, the Mandate text acknowledges that “recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country”. In Article 6, the administration apparatus of the Mandate, a temporary form of government, was charged with facilitating and encouraging “close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and wastelands not required for public purposes”.

It is worthy to note that the United States House of Representatives and the Senate adopted resolutions supporting the Mandate, on June 30, 1922 and May 3, 1922 respectively. President W. Harding signed a proclamation on September 21, 1922 that stated that “the United States of America favors the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish People...and that the holy places and religious buildings and sites in Palestine shall be adequately protected”. These acts reinforced the position fully understood at that time by the international community that the rights accruing a national grouping belonged solely to the Jewish people and that non-Jewish elements could claim but protection for individual rights.

The UN General Assembly’s November 29, 1947 Partition Resolution, accepted by the governing institutions of the Jewish People but rejected by the Arabs, offered sovereignty. That rejection, and the Arab declaration of war on Israel, severed all legal connection to claims the Arabs did or would, in the future, make. The collapse of the diplomacy of compromise revived the full and inalienable rights of Jews to all the territories of the Mandate, especially Judea, Samaria and Gaza, wherein Jewish communities were razed and their population expelled.

It was Jordan that practiced “illegal occupation”, uncriticized by the UN. The non-Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria never established a state on their territory but did request, in Jericho on December 1, 1948, that these territories be enjoined to the Hashemite Kingdom. A resolution of unification was signed into Jordanian law on April 24, 1950, which purported to transfer to the Hashemite Monarchy sovereign rights to those areas of Western Palestine not under Israeli control following the 1948-49 War. That law surely negated the terms of international law.

As for the implications of the 1967 Resolution 242, Eugene V. Rostow who participated in the negotiations of that resolution makes it plain that Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria is indeed legal, and that the Jewish right of settlement west of the Jordan River is “unassailable”. In a television interview on NBC’s The Today Show, on October 1, 1997, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, when pressed on the legal question of building in Yesha, admitted: “it's legal.”

The status of the areas of Judea, Samaria and Gaza (YESHA) can in no way be conceived as being governed by the Fourth Geneva Convention for the simple reason that they are not occupied territories as defined in this document. Paragraph (6) of Article 49 of the said Fourth Geneva Convention, usually cited, is irrelevant to the question at hand in that Article 2 stipulates that the territory under issue must belong to a High Contracting Party. This is not the case, as the territory under discussion did not belong to any such Party. Furthermore, the drafting history of Article 49 was directed against the practices of the Nazi regime in forcibly transporting populations. It would border on the ridiculous to claim that Article 49 (6), which was fixed to prevent a return of heinous Nazi practices of Judenrein, should now be understood as meaning that the Jewish heartland of YESHA must become empty of Jews.

One last point. The basis for an Arab claim to Palestine, formulated by the PLO, which represents itself as the legal vehicle for that claim, is the Palestinian National Covenant. This document can only be described as racist and invalid on humanitarian grounds and unacceptable in international law. In fact, a Palestinian identity has always been a tactical move by Arabs who always viewed themselves as belonging to a greater Arab nation as in the case of the request of the General Syrian Congress on July 2, 1919 “that there should be no separation of the southern part of Lebanon [that is, the Palestine territory] from the Syrian country”, a position repeated ever since as, for example, by Yasser Arafat when he declared over the Voice of Palestine on November 18, 1978 that “Palestine is southern Syria and Syria is northern Palestine”.

A matter of illegality? Not really. Actually, Annan is engaged in an illogical exercise.

Amnesty Fudges

The Amnesty International Report on Housing Demolitions by Israel contains a short "historical Background" section that includes this statement that the British authorities ruled Palestine "which ended when the State of Israel was proclaimed on 14 May 1948".

Actually, it ended when the U.N. decided that two states, one Jewish and one Arab, be establsihed in Palestine, in the territory west of the Jordan River (the eastern section of which was handed over to a refugee from Saudi Arabia who then created a kingdom).

The Arabs did not proclaim their state, sought to eliminate the Jewish one, went to war on the morrow of the November 29, 1947 Partition resolution.

The Amnesty report continues: "Arab protests against a UN partition plan were followed by war between Arab and Israeli armies". Really? Arab protests, ever since 1920, took the form of riots, murder, pillage, rape and property destruction. It was a situation in which Arab civilians formed irregular miltias and killed Jewish civilians.

Amnesty's report as well as those of other NGO's just can't get a few historical facts correct, so why should they be correct today?

Monday, May 17, 2004

Temple Mount Status Quo

As an introduction to my thinking on the question of the Temple Mount, here's an op-ed I wrote a while back. I also direct you to this site for a monograph I published in 2000

Status Non Quo

What is the one concern in the vast mosaic and arabesque complexity of the Arab-Israel conflict about which there exists consensual unanimity between Israel and its enemies?

Upon what matter is there a three decades-old agreement between Israel’s governments, its Supreme Court justices, the Attorneys-General, its Prime Ministers, the Moslem Waqf, Israeli Islamic fundamentalist groups, UNESCO and a host of other dramatis personae?

Is it the need to obtain peace? Is it the denunciation of terror? Is it the necessity for confidence building measures that would facilitate coexistence and mutual understanding? No, it is none of the above. What does unite all the above disparate role players of the conflict is the denial of the right of Jews to freely enter the Temple Mount compound, the prevention of their right to practice public prayer or even individual worship practices and their obligation to preserve the antiquities therein contained.

Israel's institutions of the establishment elite, in practicing and promoting the above policy, have sought to excuse themselves by claiming that they are waging a campaign that will protect the country from a religious war. That has been the rational of a government-sponsored policy, unswervingly supported by the judicial system, both the Office of the Attorney-General and the justices of the Supreme Court, the police and, until recently, the academic archeological community. True, there does exist a ban upon entrance to the Temple Mount issued by the country’s Chief Rabbinate but if the case of the Women of the Kotel receives the support it does, it would be discriminatory not to allow Temple Mount activists the same benefits.

If an all-out religious war has been avoided, it is also true that all the skirmishes that have occurred such as the Hasmonean Tunnel riots, the Sabra and Shatilla Monument, the El-Marawani mosque, the new massive earthworks and the burial of Feisal Husseini in the Mount’s Western Wall, have been victorious Muslim gains. The Jews, and even Christians, have suffered but losses. It should be obvious that the “status quo” policy is actually a situation of “status non quo” and has been, no less, a sustained effort to subvert the law of the land.

The policy has to date succeeded due to the fact that almost everyone
involved willingly accepted it's defined purpose as "maintaining the status quo". With that euphemism entrenched blissfully in the sub-consciousness, they have blinded themselves to the fact that consistently, unerringly and inexorably, the Muslim Waqf has never agreed to in principle or carried out in practice a similar status quo position. Especially since the Oslo Process was adopted by Israel, but even before, the Waqf staff, supplemented by the Israeli Islamic fundamentalist groups and the Palestinian Authority in a classic pincher-maneuver, have destroyed Jewish historical remains or covered them up with new construction, gardens and pathways and created new facts on the ground as well as below ground.

For almost a year, I have been corresponding with Elyakim Rubinstein on matters related to the destruction of the Temple Mount antiquities. It is my opinion that those who have permitted such damage to be done, actions which he himself termed "an archeological crime" and a "kick against Jewish history", including the Prime Minister and the Ministers of Justice and Internal Security, could be charged according to the Law for the Guardianship of the Holy Places, Paragraph 2, which makes it an offense punishable by seven years incarceration to permit the desecration of a holy site as well as a five year jail term for someone acting in a deleterious manner toward the feelings of those who consider a site to be holy. Certainly, I argued, the obliteration of artifacts and remains of the First and Second Temples is just such a crime.

Rubinstein's response was, to my mind, astonishing. He wrote to me on September 6, 2000 and, again, on September 10, that "the criminal arena is not the place to deal with the problem" and that "this is not a criminal matter but a public political concern". I have no doubt that had Yigal Amir presented a line of defense based on Mr. Rubinstein's reasoning, he would have been remanded for psychiatric care rather than an ordinary jail term.

The Temple Mount belongs to no one political or governmental body. It is a national treasure and surety of the entire people of Israel. The Tisha B’Av fast and its observance are evidence and testimony to its special sensitivity for Jews. That sensitivity must be safeguarded. If the state of Israel cannot accomplish that task, salvation may well arise from another quarter. In the American Congress, Representative Eric Cantor has tabled a bill that could end Muslim crimes.

It was former Prime Minister Menachem Begin who stated that D.C. stood for David’s City. Would it not be strange that an initiative for the preservation of the Temple Mount as a Jewish holy site originate in Washington rather than Jerusalem?

Settler? No. Revenant

Here's my op-ed explaining why I think the word "revenant" should be used instead of "settler".

Revenant Is Relevant
By Yisrael Medad

The American writer Carolyn Wells, who died 60 years ago, asserted “actions lie louder than words”. Be that as it may, words still play an important part in the craft of fooling people. This is especially so in the Arab-Israel conflict.

To take one example, the proper nomenclature for the Jewish civilian residential areas in the disputed territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, as even William Safire has indicated, should be communities rather than the pejorative and negatively connotative “settlements”. Jews live in communities or, for that matter, in cities, towns and villages. They do not live in “settlements”.

In his August 5, 2001 column, On Language, in the New York Times Weekend Magazine, Safire has written: "Words have connotations. In the disputed territory known as the West Bank, an Israeli village is called a settlement, implying fresh intrusion; a small Palestinian town, even one recently settled, is called a village, implying permanence." Of course, his use of “disputed” rather than “occupied”, or for that matter, “liberated”, in another example of the importance of how one calls an act or a situation.

This phenomenon, of harnessing language to political ideology, is not exceptional nor is it new. In a volume discussing political geography, Richard Muir deals with an “image system” whereby a subjective perception of reality is promoted via language so as to achieve superiority either at negotiations or other actions that will help establishing borders to territories. The use of “occupied” and of “settlements” and “settlers” is a projection of a desired reality. That Israel’s official state institutions such as the Foreign Ministry’s information services and their employees continue to use these very terms is unfortunate, to say the least.

Incidentally, I am sure that a very good case could be made supporting the proposition that, semantically, Yasser Arafat himself is an “occupier” of the local Palestinian Arab population. He need not be technically foreign to the area but his policies indeed form an occupation of Areas A and B and do oppress the local population.

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. Despite foreign conquerors, they persisted in returning under the most difficult of political, religious and economic conditions. Their civilization was created in the area as was their literature. Their three most important cities are there.

The Torah and the New Testament use the terms Judea, Samaria and Gaza. The Quran records God’s command that the Jews should live in the Promised Land. 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?
Yisrael Medad resides in Shiloh and comments on political, media and cultural affairs

Most Recent Media Comment Column

WATCHING ISRAEL'S MEDIA: Pseudo-journalism
Jerusalem Post, May 16, 2004

John S. Carroll, editor of The Los Angeles Times, spoke on May 6 to a group of University of Oregon students.

"The media industry has been infested," he said, "by the rise of pseudo-journalists who go against journalism's long tradition to serve the public with accurate information. They view their audience as something to be manipulated."

Carroll referred to these journalists as a "breed" who mislead while claiming to inform and who have strayed from the legacy of respect and care for media consumers. We welcome him, then, to the media scene here in Israel.

Dan Margalit is an elite member of Israel's media. A journalist since 1960, when he worked at Haolam Hazeh, he was a member of the editorial board of Haaretz and is currently a commentator for Ma'ariv.

On television, he hosted the Erev Hadash afternoon news program for the Educational TV Network, was the founding moderator of Popolitika on Channel 1, then moved to Channel 2, taking with him Amnon Dankner and Tommy Lapid; he went back to Channel 1 and now appears on Channel 10 with Politika Plus.

In the years following the Oslo Accords, Margalit's Popolitika program was heavily biased in the accord's favor. Nonetheless, he was also moderator of the famous Netanyahu-Peres debate preceding the 1996 elections, a debate seen by many as pivotal in the downfall of then prime minister Shimon Peres.

Most recently he was the moderator of the TV Channel 10 Begin-Olmert debate on the Gaza withdrawal plan.

He earned an MA in Jewish history and penned an autobiography entitled Those I Have Seen. In his book, Margalit describes how he crossed the line from journalism to political involvement when he supported Moshe Dayan for premier.

It was Margalit's revelation of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's secret bank account in 1976 that led to the collapse of the government – quite a journalistic feather-in-his-cap.
As reported recently in the Makor Rishon weekly, our colleague Moshe Kovarsky, a member of Israel's Media Watch's executive, recently researched Margalit's professionalism and found him wanting. Reviewing his articles in Ma'ariv over the past four months, Kovarsky found Margalit prophesized falsely, assumed no responsibility for his failures, moralized, and fudged the facts.

For example, on January 2, Margalit commented on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Herzliya speech: "This whole disengagement plan will turn out to be nothing more than an insignificant footnote."

On January 23, Margalit wrote in frustration: "In comparison to the regime Sharon has forged, George Orwell's 1984 seems an innocent republic. He demanded: "Go, Sharon, for the sake of God go!"

TEN DAYS later, Sharon announced his plan for a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and the dismantlement of all Jewish communities in the Strip. On February 3, Margalit heard the beating wings of history and conveniently ignored his own demand that Sharon leave office.

He wrote: "One must hope Sharon will pursue this approach he declared in the Likud Knesset faction." Hello? What happened to 1984?

Another fortnight passed and Margalit was derisive of the Likud's ideological position. On February 13, he had this to say: "Likud Central committee members are willing to push and shove to enter the Knesset's Finance Committee session – their minds are on the economy, not the integrity of the homeland."
On March 12, he informed us that "the day before yesterday it became known that Sharon is leaving Ariel outside the separation fence." That quickly proved wrong.

A week later, on March 19, he addressed Israel's negotiations with the United States and knew that "Israel has never before conducted such a disorganized negotiations effort," a statement he would retract a month later, when he praised Sharon's campaign to obtain presidential approval.

Following the Ahmed Yassin elimination, Margalit saw nothing but dark clouds ahead. On March 26, he wrote: "A public figure will be murdered or kidnapped; buildings will collapse in Tel Aviv and Buenos Aires, and planes will be hijacked and blown up."
So far as we are aware, this has not materialized.

While wary of a mega-terror operation, Margalit was very confident of the Likud poll outcome. Writing on April 20, he knew that "the Likud's popular poll has already been decided – not just decided but with a mighty majority."

Waking up to the reality of the impending loss, Margalit, in a column published two days before the poll, became borderline hysterical: "A no to disengagement means an internal breakup, a step toward a split in the kingdom, even to the extent of mass legitimization of army service refusal."

He then informed us that "voting against will bring us apartheid."

Margalit's colored writing makes him eligible for successful nomination as a member of the Israeli pseudo-journalists' club.
Yisrael Medad and Prof. Eli Pollak are vice- chairman and chairman of Israel's Media Watch (

My Right Word

Thomas Friedman is responsible for causing me to try out the communications route of blogging.

His column in the NYTimes of May 16, 2004, Tyranny of Minorities, was the final push I needed.

Among other activities, I am a letter writer to newspapers and other periodicals. I can't avoid dashing off 150 words to correct historical facts and point out illogical reasoning.

Here's what I wrote in response to Friedman's latest op-ed:

Question: What does Thomas Friedman have in common with extremist Muslims? Answer: More than you'd think.

Friedman possesses a messianic belief in his ability to sway public opinion in order to demonize and ostracize the type of Jew he loves to hate: the Jew who lives in his ancestral homeland, the so-called "settler".

His "Tyranny of the Minorities" (May 16) compares my friends, neighbors and my family to Iraqi terrorists who
are willing "to sacrifice their followers and others for absolutist visions" when, before the 1967 war and afterwards, it has been the terrorists of the Palestine nationalist movement who mirror Moktada al-Sadr.

If there is a tyranny of a minority, one of its emissaries is a journalist who represents no one, who calls humans a "cancer", as he has done in this prestigious newspaper and perverts history.

Someone suggested to me that I file a complaint with the Israel Police against Friedman for publishing incitement and then, next time he shows up, proceedings can be started against him. Do you think that's a good idea?