UNDERSTANDING THE MIDDLE EAST
Misused Terms and Phrases
One of the most prevalent examples of media bias is the use of certain words that mischaracterize Israeli or Palestinian actions. Sometimes, the incorrect usage of these words is the quickest way to ascertain if an article is biased against Israel. If a person attempting to blow up a bus crowded with women and children is referred to as an “activist”, the bias of the article is immediately revealed. Sometimes, words are repeatedly misused until they actually become the popular terminology! Below are four examples that we hope will be abandoned in favor of more accurate terms.
“Militant” vs. “Terrorist”:
“Terrorism” is the correct term to describe politically motivated attacks that do not differentiate between civilian and military targets and are designed to create a sense of terror in the minds of the general public. The term has been correctly used by the world media to describe attacks such as the September 11, Al Qaeda attack on the United States, the London bombings, the Madrid train attacks, and many more. In the Middle East, it has been used to describe attacks within Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. However, within Israel, the terms “terrorism” and “terrorists” are often left out of media reports and replaced with “militants”, “gunmen” or even “activists”. This implies that attacks by groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad are somehow different and perhaps justifiable.
The “Wall/Apartheid Wall” vs. “Security Barrier/Separation Fence”:
In 2002, following a series of especially brutal suicide bombings, the Israeli government decided to build a security fence to prevent terrorists from crossing into Israel. When complete, 94% of the barrier will consist of chain link fences with numerous guarded crossings. The fence has electronic sensors to detect tampering, but is not “electrified” (i.e.: able to cause injury to those touching it) as some critics say. The remaining 6% of the route consists of a solid barrier in areas of friction where terrorists could fire directly upon Israeli roads or at population centers. The barrier separates Palestinian Authority-controlled areas from Israeli population centers, the primary aim being based on security concerns as opposed to the racial separation implied by the term “Apartheid.”
Under Apartheid, black South Africans could not vote and were not citizens of the country in which they formed the overwhelming majority of the population. Laws dictated where they could live, work and travel. And, in South Africa, the government killed blacks who protested against its policies. By contrast, Israel allows freedom of movement, assembly and speech. Some of the government’s harshest critics are Israeli Arabs who are members of the Knesset.
“Arab East Jerusalem” vs. “Jerusalem” or “Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem”:
From the way the media regularly report on events in “Arab East Jerusalem”, one would think that this area is separate, either by geography, history, or ethnicity. The term is often used to denote all the areas in Jerusalem that were under Jordanian rule from 1948 until 1967, and use of the term implies that this is the “Arab” side of the city. However, this would include areas like the entire Old City with the Western Wall, where Jews lived for centuries uninterrupted until 1948. In addition, although there are neighborhoods that are predominantly Arab, there are also neighborhoods that are predominantly Jewish. There is no geographic line or border that separates these neighborhoods from one another. To lump all these areas together and collectively imply that an Arab claim to this area is more legitimate than a Jewish claim is simply wrong.
“Occupied” vs. “Disputed” territories:
Palestinians claim that the entire territory east of the 1948 armistice line is “occupied” because it was taken by force in the Six Day War. However, this area includes most of Jerusalem, other Jewish communities that predate the State of Israel, and significant Jewish religious and historical sites. Only after the area was retaken by Israel in 1967 were Jews allowed to return to these areas.
As documented by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs:
The settlements are not located in “occupied territory.” The last binding international legal instrument which divided the territory in the region of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza was the League of Nations Mandate, which explicitly recognized the right of Jewish settlement in all territory allocated to the Jewish national home in the context of the British Mandate. These rights under the British Mandate were preserved by the successor organization to the League of Nations, the United Nations, under Article 49 of the UN Charter. The West Bank and Gaza are disputed, not occupied, with both Israel and the Palestinians exercising legitimate historical claims. There was no Palestinian sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza Strip prior to 1967. Jews have a deep historic and emotional attachment to the land and, as their legal claims are at least equal to those of Palestinians, it is natural for Jews to build homes in communities in these areas, just as Palestinians build in theirs.
The territory of the West Bank and Gaza Strip was captured by Israel in a defensive war, which is a legal means to acquire territory under international law. In fact, Israel’s seizing the land in 1967 was the only legal acquisition of the territory this century: the Jordanian occupation of the West Bank from 1947 to 1967, by contrast, had been the result of an offensive war in 1948 and was never recognized by the international community, including the Arab states, with the exception of Great Britain and Pakistan.
This picture of the Jewish agricultural community of Kfar Etzion was taken in 1943, five years before the Israeli War of Independence. It was a Jewish agricultural community south of Jerusalem. The community was destroyed by the Jordanian Army and Arab irregulars in 1949. The land was under Jordanian military control from 1949 until 1967. Only after the area was retaken by Israel in 1967 were Jews allowed to return. It is part of the settlement block of “Gush Etzion” which is referred to as “Israeli occupied territory.” Most Jewish settlements were built on land to which there is clear Jewish ownership. The Gaza settlements from which Israel withdrew were built on land purchased by the Jewish National Fund in the early 1900s.