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November 28, 2014 / 6 Kislev, 5775
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Watch your Language: West Bank No More

Debate: Should "West Bank" and other politically charged terms be used by a Jewish website such as the JewishPress.com

west bank

Reader D. wrote us this afternoon:

I believe that terms like WEST BANK are not neutral but are in fact politically loaded—just as the term Yehuda V’Shomron. Since they both are equally loaded, why take the enemies’ language rather than our own?

Words do matter, they paint pictures in our minds. Why not paint a broader brush stroke, one that includes the history of our people. “Judea and Samaria” reflects our ancient history, from days of Kings and Kingdoms. It defines our heritage. West Bank strips the land of the TRUTH.

West Bank is universally recognized by the world. SO WHAT? This thinking is the biggest failure of our people—the fear of standing up for our rights and stating, Why is it wrong to take our side, rather than that of the hostile world’s? Why are we adopting the politically loaded language of our enemies?

It’s a new world, and Israel needs to stand tall and define herself apart from the world’s opinion. We need to begin by adopting a winning expressive language, rather than the Orwellian language that is now being used to erase us. We have lost the propaganda war and this is part of the reason why—we have adopted the language of our enemies—this is insanity.

I do not think being PC is good for the morale of our people. If we are to win the war, it begins with ideas, and words. West Bank connotes Arab land, even if it is easier to use because Judea and Samaria is clumsier to print or say.

Respectfully

D.

 

Dear Ms. D.,

Obviously, I agree with much of what you wrote, although, unlike yourself, I don’t believe our war is with the world. I am completely convinced that our war is with ourselves, as a nation and as communities within the nation. I also don’t like the term “war,” but I can live with it.

So, even though I work for the JewishPress.com and you read it, I suppose I should lay out my essential beliefs, so that you’ll understand where I’m coming from:

I believe that God is at the center of everything; that He communicated with us through Moses and the rest of our Jewish prophets; that the only Jewish way of communicating with God is through the mitzvot-commandments; that living in Eretz Israel is an essential commandment, so much so that I consider living in diaspora a sin; I believe in the right of every person to live wherever they wish, provided that they uphold the law, and that Jews have an inalienable right to live wherever they want since they are persons.

I don’t believe that we own Eretz Israel, though, I believe that we only get to live here if we behave in a manner that pleases God, who, in His wisdom, has kicked us out of here twice already. God owns the planet and this beautiful land of Israel, and God decides who gets to stay. You don’t like it, take it up with the Torah.

Now, in my thirty plus years of professional journalism I’ve never been accused of being PC. And it’s funny that you are making the accusation, since you’ve designated at least two words as being politically incorrect – in your political idiom.

I must share with you that as an Israeli-born man of a certain age, I loathe the tyranny of “Judea and Samaria,” formerly “Judea, Samaria and Gaza,” and even “Judea, Samaria, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan.”

When I was growing up we called it simply “the territories,” Hashtachim. Left wingers completed the term in their head with “occupied,” right wingers added “liberated.” Simple, straight forward, useful and entirely clutter free.

Working at the JewishPress.com, I’ve learned to live with the cumbersome “Judea and Samaria,” which I invariably misspell when I’m writing fast, and, frankly, I would have loved to go back to calling it West Bank. It’s MY West Bank, I liberated it (OK, I was 12 at the time, but I watched) from Jordan, and it’s now mine. Calling it West Bank don’t make it anyone else’s. Thinking that by changing its name to something biblical (which is way inaccurate, seeing as there’s a major Benjamin in there, between the Yehuda and the Shomron parts) we’ll win hearts and minds, that’s silly. Only the choir will sing this one.

I also prefer “Jewish Settlements,” which is frowned upon by the PC crowd on the right. Trust me, I got some emails. So we concede to the left all these words that used to be the pride of the renewed Hebrew language? Hitnachlut-settlement and Mitnachel-settler are glorious words, in both languages. They evoke images of pioneers leaving the civilized cities to erect homes and towns in the wilderness. What’s wrong with that?

In the past we conceded the beautiful term “Messiah,” the anointed one, to an unholy religion. Must we continue to go through history shedding our linguistic treasures? And for what reason? Because some impatient minds would rush to judgment, deciding that the fact that I call an area “West Bank” means I want to give it away?

Yes, words have power, as you put it, they do matter, and I want all of them. I want words to free me, not reduce me to the size of your prejudices. The West Bank is shorthand to the area west of the Jordan River. It was a reference to the area east of the armistice line of 1949, and then again of the liberated territory all the way down to the cool waters of the Yarden. I love the West Bank, it’s a fertile and prosperous region, and it will remain Jewish as long as I have something to say about it.

Best,

Yori Yanover
Celebrating the Joy of Jewish Journalism
on
The new and improved JewishPress.com

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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20 Responses to “Watch your Language: West Bank No More”

  1. Use of that name rewards the ethnic cleansing that Jordan did in Judea and Samaria in 1948. Ethnic cleansing that was photographed / reported by Life magazine and shown to the entire world (who yawned in response).

  2. Which G-d are you talking about Yori? The one that sat out the Holocaust, or the G-d that's going to intervene in worldly affairs now? If we're good? Yes, I'm a diaspora Jew. Never been to Israel although I have quite a few relatives there. I hope to get there sometime next year.

  3. I don't use the WB term and love the old Morty Dolinsky story of when he was GPO head replying that he checked, and "there's no bank by that name in the country." If you make it clear that you consider both sides of the Jordan River Jewish then you can easily refer to them as east bank and west bank.

  4. Miriam Goodman says:

    The name of our land is Yehuda and Shomron…..

  5. Not too thrilled with Judea and Samaria either.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The Associated Press has banned use of the term "terrorist," requiring "militant," instead. And, of course, all secular media proclaim the "West Bank," "red line," and even call Gaza "Palestine." Please always call them by their Jewish-view names, instead.

  7. David Martin says:

    Yori Yanover you ARE PC, and your response is sooooo PC, the name is Judea and Samaria regardless if you like it or not.

  8. Simcha Arona says:

    I agree with D. We all need to say Judea and Samaria!

  9. Arty Cohn says:

    My father-in-law grew up in the Gallicia section of Poland which was a part of the Austro-Hungarian empire when he went to grade-school. I have his grade-school atlas. This atlas terms the northern portion of the"Territories" as Samaria, and the southern portion as Judea.

  10. "West Bank" of the Jordan River is the whole western Eretz Yisrael, if we want to be exact geographically. The areas that non-Israeli and anti-Israeli sources are calling "West Bank", have names they are: Yehuda and Shomron or if you like it better Judea and Samaria. Period.

  11. I loathe the name West Bank. West of what? The implication is that it is west of Jordan, therefore it's Jordanian territory. But what is Jordan? Jordan is a hunk of territory stolen from the Palestinian mandate by the Brits and given to an Arab monarch who was not even a resident of that area. Any other name than the West Bank would do for me.

  12. Bill Bilek says:

    "The West Bank is shorthand to the area west of the Jordan River. It was a reference to the area east of the armistice line of 1949, and then again of the liberated territory all the way down to the cool waters of the Yarden."

    Not exactly. The land in question was called Judea and Samaria throughout history, UP TO, AND INCLUDING 1947 (when UNGA 181 referenced "Judea and Samaria" when recommending the failed partition to the British mandatory). It was only for 19 years (out of 3000) that the land was called West Bank, and the continued use of that term is prejudicial to the LEGAL position that Israel claims.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Jesse, you need to start studying Torah and find yourself a good Orthodox rabbi– either in your town or online– who will teach you emuna and how Hashem controls the whole world and everything in it, for all time, ranging from the Holocaust to what a worm is having for dinner. (And how there is "free will" within the system, as well.)

  14. uunlisted
    I'm never going to go for mindless faith, even if it is comforting to me. I believe there is a G-d, but don't expect me to believe that he intervenes in worldly affairs. God won't protect Israel but Israel's strong army and nuclear deterrent will. When theologians try to explain the Holocaust they end up twisting like pretzels. Part of G-d's plan? You are sounding like a Christian. The rebirth of the State of Israel, the biggest miracle of the modern age, doesn't even balance out the Holocaust. And trying to do that is obscene to me. ":Well, the Holocaust was necessary in order to the reemergence of the Jewish State." Is G-d a politician? I am not well versed in my own religion but I do know this, Jews can argue with G-d. They used to put G-d on trial in the Shtetl after a Pogrom. They would bury the dead, clean up, tend to the raped and wounded, And then they would have a trial. Jews have a deal with G-d and he let them down. After the trial it was always decided to give G-d another chance. What choice did we have? As well, this was a profound and sophisticated catharsis
    Listen–you believe what ever you want to. I don't seek pat answers to something as unfathomable as the bottomless evil and depravity in humans. But I am willing to live, keep living out of the question of what it means to be human. Human and a Jew.

  15. though I am a christian I did study the Old testament, and I only know Israel by the names of Judeah and Samaria as I was taught this way, Still have no idea where the name west bank came from, how it originated, So west bank could belong to anyone. When the Israelites crossed the Jordan river, then what was the place called they put their foot on?

  16. response to Jesse Kaellis, The Lord G-d said He would save a remnant of them and He did by putting in some of the gentiles hearts to hide and harbor some of the Jews, even at risk of their own lives. So yes the Lord does care for Israel read Amos the last two chapters. G-d bless

  17. Anonymous says:

    Shalom Batya – remember me Dvorah bee? I am off FB for good!!!

  18. Anonymous says:

    give me a break, whats the big deal calling it Judea Samaria, what it is too many extra strokes of the keyboard? call it by its historical name. in the meantime, the arabs are spending billions to make sure the world thinks it is theirs. BTW WEST BANK is a term given by the Hashemites. DL

  19. Anonymous says:

    its is a hashemite term (jordan)

  20. Roy Neal Grissom says:

    Yori, it's great that you believe that G-d is the center of everything. Now if only this were reflected in the editorial and political endorsement policies of the Jewish Press, which is based on an undeviating loyalty to traditional ultra-left, ultra-secular minority politics.

    Perhaps the editorship of JP will ponder G-d's centrality the next time they endorse some low-life politician who doesn't even accept the basic standards of the universal Noachide Laws.

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