This week marks 30 years since my launch of Israel Resource News Agency, with the task of working with reporters who cover Israel. At that time, the Palestine Press Service was also launched by the PLO to work the press. The PPS issued a manual for the Western media, asking reporters to adjust their terminology, to reflect the PLO of view of the continuing Israel-Arab war. That PLO press initiative coincided with the intifada uprising, when the PLO worked to change its image from “terrorists” to “freedom fighters”.
New terms that the PLO suggested to the press were not etched in stone at the time of Israel’s independence in 1948, nor even heard of in the aftermath of the six day war in 1967. However, the PLO found a new way to carry out the war with Israel on the battle front of the media, in a most subtle manner, by infusing their narrative into Middle East news coverage.
In that context, Jerome Verlin and Lee Bender, ZOA leaders from my home town of Philadelphia, co-authors of “Pressing Israel: Media Bias Exposed From A-Z” (Pavilion Press) and co-developers of a website and mobile app, www.factsonIsrael.com, have issued a memo in which they ask reporters and media consumers who cover the Middle East to reconsider ten tendentious terms now used in Middle East News Coverage. Take a moment to examine them:
#1- “The West Bank” – No, it’s not. “Judea and Samaria” are not just “biblical names,” but the names the hill country of Israel was known by from ancient times, including in the U.N.’s 1947 partition resolution, until after Transjordan invaded in 1948 (and was ousted by Israel in 1967) and named it such to disassociate its inherent Jewish connection.
#2 – “East” or “traditionally Arab East” Jerusalem: Jerusalem has been the capital of three homeland states, all Jewish, in the past 3,000 years, and has had a renewed Jewish majority since 1800’s Ottoman rule. Palestinian Arabs have never ruled any part of Jerusalem. There was no such place as “East” Jerusalem until invading Jordan seized the historical heart of the city in 1948 and expelled its Jews; until then it had never been a divided city. The eastern section of the city is where the Old City, Jewish Quarter, The Western Wall, The Temple Mount (Lately Rechristened by major media as “al-Aqsa mosque compound”) , The Mount of Olives cemetery, Christian Quarter and Church of the Holy Sepulcre are located. Jerusalem is Judaism’s holiest city; it is not holy to Muslims and is not mentioned once in the Qu’ran. Only since Israel reunified the city has there been equal rights and access to religious sites of all faiths. Say rather: Jerusalem, period
#3 – “The UN sought to create Jewish and Palestinian States:” It did not. Over and over in its 1947 partition resolution, the UN referenced “the Jewish State” and “the Arab” [not “Palestinian”] State. There are 22 independent Arab states.
#4– “Palestinian Refugees of the War that Followed Israel’s Creation,” or the “Palestinian Refugee Issue:” This suggests that an indigenous population of Arab “Palestinians” was unilaterally displaced by the 1948 five-Arab-state- army invasion for Israel’s destruction, which encouraged and ordered local Arabs to leave. Much forgotten is that more Jews were consequently expelled from vast Arab lands they had lived in for many centuries (850,000- 900,000) than Arabs left tiny Israel (500,000- 650,000).
#5 – Israel “Seized” Arab Lands in 1967: It did not. Israel acquired these territories in a defensive war from Arabs who vowed to destroy her. Israel has greater historic legal claims and rights to these lands.
#6 – Israel’s “1967 Borders:” There were no 1967 borders. They were armistice lines. The 1949 Israel-Jordan Armistice Agreement expressly declared the “green line” it drew between the two sides’ ceasefire positions as a military ceasefire line only, and not a political border. The post-’67 war U.N. Resolution 242 pointedly does not demand Israel retreat from these lines.
#7 – “Israeli-Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem:” No. The 1920 League of Nations Palestine Mandate recognized the Jewish people’s right to reconstitute its Jewish National Home in Palestine (including Judea and Samaria, and what ultimately became Jordan), and called for close settlement of the Jews on this land, where Jews have continuously lived, claiming it as their homeland, for three thousand years. At worst, the legal status is disputed, not “occupied” or “Palestinian” territories.
#8 – “Jewish Settlers and Settlements” vs. “Palestinian Residents of Neighborhoods and Villages:” Jews are not alien “settlers” implying “occupiers” in a Jerusalem that’s had a Jewish majority since mid-19th century or in the Judea-Samaria Jewish historical homeland. Israelis living there are residents who live in cities, towns and villages.
#9 – “Palestinian Arabs accept and Israel rejects a Two-State Solution” Wrong on both counts. The U.S. and Israel define “Two States” as two states for two peoples – Jews and Arabs. Many Israelis, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, support that plan – it is conditioned on Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. The Arabs have rejected a Palestinian Arab state living side-by-side with a Jewish state five times since 1937, and continuously deny any Israeli right to exist, no matter where its borders are drawn.
#10 – “The Palestinians:” During the Mandate, “Palestinian” typically referred to Palestine’s Jews. The UN’s 1947 partition resolution called Palestine’s Jews and its Arabs “the two Palestinian peoples.” Palestinian Arabs – ancestrally, culturally, linguistically and religiously are akin to neighboring regional Arabs – began claiming exclusive “Palestinian peoplehood” only in the 1960s. Post-1967 war UN resolution 242 does not mention “Palestinians.” Most Palestinian Arabs cannot trace their own lineage to the land to more than three generations.