Monday, February 21, 2011

Correct Language Terms: Judea and Samaria

From The Forward's "On Language" column penned by Philologos: This Side of the River Jordan
It’s obviously a losing battle, but I can’t help carrying on with the fight. Every time I see an item in the newspaper, like Jackson Diehl’s September 13 [2010] column on the current Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in The Washington Post, or Roger Cohen’s column on the same subject in the September 14 New York Times, I want to scream.

Here’s Mr. Diehl:

“Start with [Benjamin] Netanyahu… [his] rhetoric has been rapidly shifting: He’s begun calling [Palestinian President] Abbas ‘a partner for peace’ and using the term ‘West Bank’ rather than the Israeli nationalist term, ‘Judea and Samaria.’”

And here’s Mr. Cohen:

“The old Likudnik’s [Netanyahu’s] biblical reference lingers — Judea and Samaria for the West Bank — but he’s embraced two states because he’s grasped the alternative: more Arabs than Jews in a single state.”

How long will the canard continue to be repeated by supposedly educated journalists that “Judea” and “Samaria” are territorially expansionist terms, resurrected from the time of the Bible by right-wing Jewish settlers and their supporters, for a geographical area whose rightful name is “the West Bank”? When will this idiocy finally stop?

One would like to ask the Diehls, the Cohens and all the others a simple question: In the long centuries after the final redaction of the Hebrew Bible, which took place sometime in the second or first century BCE, what, in their humble opinion, was the hill country south and north of Jerusalem called?

It certainly wasn’t “the West Bank,” a term that is barely 60 years old. A translation of the Arabic ad-difa’a al-gharbiya, “the West Bank” was a coinage introduced in the early 1950s to denote the area of Palestine west of the Jordan River that was annexed by Transjordan — its name now changed to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan — following its conquest by King Abdullah’s Arab Legion in the 1948–49 Arab-Israeli war. You won’t find it in a single book, atlas or newspaper article before that.

What will you find? Well, let’s begin with the British period that immediately preceded Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. Having wrested Palestine from the Turks in World War I, and been given a mandate over it by the League of Nations in 1922, Great Britain divided the country that year into administrative districts. There were four of these: a “Southern District,” composed of the Hebron, Beersheba and Gaza sub-districts; a “Jerusalem-Jaffa District,” which included sub-districts for Bethlehem, Jericho and Ramallah; a “Northern District,” whose sub-districts were Acre, Haifa, Nazareth and Safed, and a “Samaria District,” made up of the Baisan (Bet-She’an), Jenin, Nablus and Tulkarm sub-districts. That’s right: The British, whom even Messrs. Cohen and Diehl would not confuse with “Israeli nationalists,” officially called the hill country north of Jerusalem, as far as the Valley of Jezreel, Samaria.

...long before the British Mandate, Judea was the standard English word for the hills around Bethlehem and Hebron, just as Samaria was for the hills farther north. Commercial European tourism to Palestine started in the mid-19th century, and from then on, England witnessed a spate of travel books reporting on visits there. All these books use similar terminology. Thus, to take an example that I happen to have on a bookshelf, the Rev. Samuel Manning’s “Those Holy Fields: Palestine Illustrated by Pen and Pencil,” published in London in 1874, has three sections: one on “Southern Palestine, or Judea,” with itineraries from “Jaffa to Hebron,” “Bethlehem to the Dead Sea,” and “Jericho and the Jordan to Jerusalem”; one on “Northern Palestine, or Galilee,” and one on “Central Palestine, or Samaria,” with itineraries from “Jerusalem to Shiloh” and “Nablus to the Plain of Esdraelon.” Manning, needless to say, was a Protestant minister, not a Jewish settler.

One could go back further, to 18th-century maps, and to the 14th-century “Travels of Sir John Mandeville” (which tells us that “Jerusalem is in the land of Judea, and it is clept Judea,” and that “Sichem” — Shechem or Nablus — is “in the province of Samaritans”), and to the fourth-century Church Father Eusebius of Caesaria’s Historica Ecclesiastica. Surely, however, there is no need. Judea and Samaria, although they derive from the Hebrew biblical terms Yehuda and Shomron, have been part of the geographical vocabulary of Christian Europe since the time of Jesus. “The West Bank” has not been.

To refuse to refer to the West Bank as Judea and Samaria is, whether deliberately or not, to declare that Jews and Christians have no historical connection to these areas. To malign others for calling them that is even worse.

He does miss this, from the UN 1947 Partition recommendation, whereby the Arab State boundaries are marked out in II A so:

The boundary of the hill country of Samaria and Judea starts on the Jordan River at the Wadi Malih south-east of Beisan...

And this:

...the first edition of Encyclopedia Britannica (1771) which defines “Palestine” as follows (quoted verbatim except old characters): Palestine, a part of Asiatic Turky (sic), situated between 36 and 38 degrees of east longitude, and between 31 and 34 degrees of north latitude; it is bounded by Mount Libanus, which divides it from Syria, on the north; by Mount Hermon, which separates it from Arabia Deserta, on the east; by the mountains of Seir and the Deserts of Arabia Petraea, on the south; and by the Mediterranean sea, on the west. It was called Palestine, from the Philistines who inhabited the sea coasts. It was also called Judea, from Judah; and the Holy Land, from our Savior’s residence and sufferings in it; and it is called Canaan, and the Promised Land, in the scriptures.

and finally, this:

It is now common for journalists to refer to the terms Judea and Samaria as the "biblical names" of this territory. The implication is that the neutral, geographical, non-politicized terminology is "West Bank" and the other terms are used only to propound a biblical case for Jewish rights in Palestine. From ancient times through the Palestine Mandate period until 1949, however, the names Judea and Samaria were the only names in use. Arab, British, and American scholars, journalists and government officials all called the region Judea and Samaria. See, e.g., Philip K. Hitti, History of Syria: Including Lebanon and Palestine (1951) p.38; Ronald Storrs, The Memoirs of Sir Ronald Storrs (1937) p.301; John Bagot Glubb, Syria Lebanon Gordan (1967) p. 12; James G. MacDonald, My Mission in Israel (1951) p.40. Samaria was one of the six administrative districts of the British Mandatory government. The United Nations Special Committee for Palestine, in its famous Partition Plan for Western Palestine, which the UN General Assembly approved in November 1947, referred to the region as "the hill country of Samaria and Judea." "West Bank" came into use only after Transjordanian forces seized the territory in the 1948-49 war they launched against the newly declared State of Israel and after King Abdullah decided to annex it.

Use language correctly.


Check this map from 1687 which uses Judea and Samaria. This map of 1826 and a map from 1895

Also this:

They (Judea and Samaria) are the definitive and proper political and geographic names for the region and have been in general use since Clearchus, a disciple of Aristotle. These two areas have no other names. These names were used during the League of Nations Mandate period. They appear in British government documents, United Nations documents including the UN Partition Plan of 1947. They appear in U.S. State Department documents, including a July 18, 1948 map. Even as late as 1961, the Encyclopedia Britannica refers to “Judaea” and “Samaria” in an article on “Palestine” (Vol. 17, p. 118).

...Mislabeling was their technique of disinformation and de-legitimization. The “West Bank” was the name concocted by King Abdullah I of Trans-Jordan and his British advisors, allowing the king to annex land outside of his artificially “created” kingdom. He then changed the name of his kingdom twice, first to “The Hashemite Kingdom of the Jordan” but that was quickly rejected since it gave the appearance of a kingdom only along the banks of the Jordan River. The name then was changed again to the “Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.” The term “West Bank” eradicates all Jewish historical connection to the area. It is a sad commentary that many in the West, including the political left, many of Israel’s supporters, some Israelis themselves, as well as the naive and self-delusional who think the name does not matter, have acquiesced to this unilateral change of names and use it in common parlance...

Besides the political origins of the phrase, one must wonder from a geographical perspective how wide a river bank can be? A river bank may be a few feet or so, but not some 30 miles deep from the river! Just because a new name is invented, does not mean the world should adopt it in common usage. Does an aggressor get rewarded with the additional bonus of a geographic name change designed to eradicate the historic name of a region? In March 1939, Germany renamed the present-day Czech Republic, “Böhmen und Mähren” after seizing that land by aggressive act. During World War II, Germany invaded, occupied and annexed part of Russia calling it “Ostland.” Do we use those terms today? Do we call Mexico the “South Bank” because it borders on the Rio Grande? Should we rename Serbia, the “West Bank” (of Europe) because it lies to the west of the Danube River and re-designate Poland the “East Bank” due to its location east of the Oder-Neisse Rivers?

And this as well.



sewa mobil said...

Nice article, thanks for the information.

Kyle said...

Isn't arguing over the geographical name of the region kinda trivial in the grand scheme of things? I understand it enforces the jewish historical claim to the land, but If bickering over place names is of importance, clearly we're still at step one on the road towards peace. And with a two-state solution the most likely to solve this conflict, names Judea and Samaria will probably remain historical names anyway...

YMedad said...

Well, Kyle, yes to your first point. I mean, if I called you Jill, how could we ever be friends if you are really Kyle? And I assure you, there is a two-state solution already in existence: Jordan and Israel. We do not need a second Arab state in what was called Palestine.