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{Reposted with permission from author and CIJ News}

Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me-except when it comes to Israel and the Arab war against the Jews. Names and words are, as much as stones and stabbings, part of the fabric of that war. False terms and words are used repeatedly until they become a part of our lexicon. Once that happens, the false impression of those words are what remains and the only way to dial back the propaganda is to insist on using the original, accurate term or word, even in the face of ridicule.


That means insisting on “Israel” instead of “Occupied Palestine,” “Arab” instead of “Palestinian,” and “Judea and Samaria” instead of “West Bank.”

Just for instance.

Another word that hurts Israel more than it helps her is “annexation.” On countless occasions, friends to the right when it comes to settlements and the disputed territories, have suggested Israel should “annex” Judea and Samaria, now. Whenever this happens, I am careful to correct them and suggest that rather than annex this territory, we should apply our sovereignty, instead.

“It’s just semantics,” they’ll insist, which it is not. To “annex” territory is to appropriate land and add it to your own. In other words, you’ve taken territory that doesn’t belong to you and affixed it to yours.

Applying sovereignty to a designated area, on the other hand, is a statement that the territory already belongs to you and that you are merely declaring it so and administering the area as you would any other part of your country.

In the first case, you are a thief: you’ve seized land not your own. In the second case, you are acting appropriately with regard to something already in your possession.

Now, I am not a lawyer. I’m a staff writer at Kars4Kids, a car donation program. I’m not about to go into a long and torturous explanation of the legal rulings here, or international law as it applies. What I will do is explain my layman’s understanding of the subject and leave you to accept what I have to say or explore the topic further on your own, if you so choose. I’ve added some links here to help you with that.

Here goes:

The accurate geographic term for Judea and Samaria is “Judea and Samaria.” If you look at maps going way back, that is how the territory in question is labeled. If you look at the checklist of indigenous rights expert and anthropologist José R. Martínez-Cobo, the Jews are the one and only people eligible to be considered “indigenous” to Judea and Samaria. Not coincidentally, the ancient Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria is proven by archaeological artifacts and ancient accounts of the history of the area, for instance that of Flavius Josephus, and ahem, the bible.

Speaking of Josephus, the Romans weren’t the only occupiers of Judea and Samaria. Skip ahead many occupiers later, and you’ve got the British Mandate. The sun, however, was by that time, rapidly setting on the British Empire and when it came time for the Brits to divvy up the Mandate for Palestine, the Jews were promised the whole shebang: the entire British Mandate for Palestine.

The Arabs, however, cried foul, so the Brits went back on their word, gave the Arabs some 80% of what had been promised to the Jews, and called it “Transjordan.”

Later called, “Jordan,” the Arab state of Palestine was to be ruled by Abdullah, a Hashemite Arab the British handily brought over from Mecca to be installed as Jordan’s “monarch.” Today, Jordan’s population is around 80% “Palestinian Arab” or made up of descendants of Arabs who lived in the British Mandate for Palestine. Ergo, the “Palestinians” have long had their own territory and a state (not to mention Gaza).

Of course, the Arabs were/are not happy with 80% of the Mandate promised to the Jews (plus Gaza). The Arabs wanted the whole thing. Which is why they attacked Israel in 1948 and in 1967. Even though the territory belonged to the Jews in the first place, before there was ever an Arab people or a prophet named Mohammed.

Now between 1948 and 1967, Jordan occupied Judea and Samaria and called the area, the “West Bank,” which refers to the West Bank of the Jordan River. The idea behind instituting this semantic substitution was to delegitimize the concept that the Jews, “Yehudim” in Hebrew, are at all connected to Judea, “Yehuda” in Hebrew. The term “West Bank” thus entered our collective lexicon, a false term meant to rob the Jewish people of their ancient connection to the land.

And in fact, in 1950, Jordan went beyond mere semantics and annexed Judea and Samaria to Jordan. The UN, however, did not accept this annexation, and in fact, only two UN member states were in favor of proclaiming this annexation legal. That would be Great Britain (as trustworthy as ever!), and Pakistan. All the other UN member states were of one mind that Jordan was illegally occupying Judea and Samaria. As such, when Israel recaptured this territory in 1967 in a defensive war, she was only taking back what was rightfully hers, according to international law, as decided by the UN.

What exactly does it mean to “illegally occupy” territory, anyway? According to article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, it is the forcible transfer of people to captured territory in order to colonize the area. The Jewish people who settled in Judea and Samaria after 1967, such as this author, moved there voluntarily after the land was taken back from Jordan during the course of a defensive war. (No one forces me to live in Efrat. I want to live here. I’d fight to live here.)

When Israel took back her rightful property in 1967, however, it was decided by the Israeli government to keep the status of the territory technically vague. It was hoped there could be peace negotiations and therefore, the final legal status of Judea and Samaria was left open to show Israel’s willingness to go above and beyond what was required—to show Israel’s willingness to bargain land for peace. Even though we’d whupped Arab butt.

So Israel didn’t apply its sovereignty to Judea and Samaria, but kept the territory under military rule, and time went on and Jews began building homes and every time they did so, the world would scream ILLEGAL, though in fact, the territory in question, belonged then and belongs now to Israel according to international law, and the Jews who have settled there have done so voluntarily. The only thing lacking then and now with regard to the legal status of Judea and Samaria is the appropriate application of Israeli rule there, in other words, bringing Judea and Samaria under the umbrella of civil law such as is applied in places like Tel Aviv and Haifa, for instance, rather than leaving Judea and Samaria under the rule of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the military courts.

Now in 2012, Benjamin Netanyahu, as Prime Minister of Israel, established a commission to look into the legal status of Judea and Samaria. The Edmond Levy Report was issued later that year and established beyond a doubt that Judea and Samaria are legally part of the State of Israel. The Netanyahu government, however, did not adopt the recommendations of this report. Netanyahu likely feared the international backlash that would result were his government to adopt the Levy Report recommendations even though that adoption would be merely a technicality (that would, however, allow us to place Judea and Samaria under the umbrella of civil law and administration).

That the government fears to adopt the Levy Report says that Israel’s leaders are diplomatic to a fault. Israel is already at war, so rather than fear world censure for doing what is right, Israel should assert her rights: show some muscle and apply her sovereignty over all her sovereign territory. It cannot possibly make things worse—witness the 24-hour spate of Arab terror attacks on Israeli citizens on October 7, 2015.

This is war, Habibi.

But back to the Levy Report. What is important about the Levy Report is that it resolves a technical issue and establishes beyond all doubt that according to international law, Judea and Samaria are part of Israel. Now if Judea and Samaria are part of Israel, they cannot be added to Israel, since they are already part of Israel.

Hence, Israel cannot annex Judea and Samaria. (You cannot annex what is already yours.)

What you can do is declare proudly, for all to hear that Judea and Samaria are part of Israel and that as such, Israel will administer these areas as she does any other part of the sovereign State of Israel. In other words, we can and should exercise our sovereignty over Judea and Samaria.

Am I the first person to make the distinction between annexation and sovereignty? Not at all. Back in 1981, Prime Minister Menachem Begin was forced to defend the Golan Heights bill against Knesset critics who claimed the bill constituted “annexation” and was therefore an affront to world sensibilities. Begin’s response was to echo Abba Eban in his response to the UN when that world body censured Israel for applying sovereignty to the eastern part of Jerusalem in 1967, “You use the word ‘annexation,'” said Begin, “but I am not using it.”

So here we are, many years after 1967, with peace further away than ever, with a couple murdered in front of their children; and a mother with 11 stab wounds, a murdered husband, and a wounded baby. We’ve got riots, stabbings, stonings, drive-overs, kidnappings, fire-bombings, missiles, and more. Two years ago, 80% of Israelis polled, said they were in favor of exercising sovereignty over Judea and Samaria. One year ago, the PA stepped away from peace talks and applied to 15 organizations for recognition. At that time, Women in Green issued a statement: “The necessity of presenting sovereignty as a political vision is independent of the Palestinians’ deceptive course and mirages,” it says. “The leaders of Israel must take initiative and lead the way.”

Israelis need a true vision to replace the false vision of land for peace and two states for two peoples. Israel needs one true unified vision of strength. We need to be strong and proud and be unafraid to claim what is our rightful inheritance. We are not thieves. The land, all of it, is ours. It is time we acted like it.

Annexation or applying sovereignty: do these two terms really differ? Does it matter which term we choose? I believe it does. I believe that winning the war against the Jews begins with turning the semantic tide of the flood of invective against us.

You, on the other hand, can decide it’s too much trouble to fight the collective acceptance of a word or term. You can decide you’ll lose those sitting on the fence when it comes to Israel if you insist on repudiating the now-accepted terms and words in favor of being accurate and honest. You can talk about “annexation” while I insist on “sovereignty.”

But if you do so, we won’t just lose the battle, we’ll lose the war, as more such terms and words are introduced and accepted into our lexicon on a continuous basis.

If we talk about “annexing” the territories, we are saying they don’t belong to us. We are self-identifying as thieves of our own property. We are saying the land belongs to them, to the enemy. Which it doesn’t and never has. Judea and Samaria are an inseparable part of the Land of Israel, the Jews’ indigenous territory.

This war of words—the words you choose to use in reference to this embattled Jewish land—is insidious and dangerous, because a single misstep—choosing just one wrong word, can sway minds against Israel and the Jews while sowing doubt in our own.

And this is a thing which cannot be countenanced.


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Blogger and mother of 12, Varda Meyers Epstein is a third-generation Pittsburgher who made aliyah at age 18 and never looked back. A proud settler who lives in the biblical Judean heartland, Varda serves as the communications writer for the nonprofit car donation program Kars4Kids, a Guidestar Gold medal charity. The author's political opinions are her own and not endorsed by her employer.