Glossary of Problematic Mideast Terms

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1) “Arab East Jerusalem” vs Eastern Jerusalem

There is no official distinction between “East” and “West” Jerusalem, as both are currently within the State of Israel, nor is it appropriate to capitalize either. While the splitting of Jerusalem has been proposed as part of a future peace agreement, the status quo is that Israel regards the city, in its entirety, as its indivisible capital. Jerusalem has remained united under Israeli sovereignty since the Six Day War in 1967. (In 1980, Israel extended sovereignty over the eastern portion of the city.) In addition, of the approximately 550,000 residents of eastern Jerusalem, roughly 215,000 (or about 40%) are Jews, so the term “Arab East Jerusalem” is also a misnomer.

2) “Cycle of Violence”

The term “cycle of violence”, referring to so-called “tit-for-tat” fighting between Israelis and Palestinians, is misleading because it’s not clearly descriptive of what transpired, but rather acts as a kind of shorthand for ongoing violence that doesn’t distinguish between the aggressor and the victim. But violence between Israel and the Palestinians consistently follows a pattern: a terrorist attack against Israel, followed by specific and measured Israeli responses. Or, pre-emptive Israeli military efforts designed to thwart and deter Palestinian terror which is followed by Palestinian terror attacks against Israeli innocents. The term “cycle of violence” suggests that both parties are responsible at all times for ongoing violence, but this simply has not been the case.

3) The Green Line

The Green Line is a term used to describe the armistice point in 1949 (after Israel’s War of Independence) where Israel’s army and surrounding Egyptian & Jordanian armies stopped fighting. It is called the Green Line because diplomats used green markers to delineate the armistice lines after the war. But the Green Line is often misunderstood or misrepresented to be a border, which it’s not. It’s merely where the respective armies stopped fighting in 1949.

4) “Illegal Settlements”

According to many international law experts, Israel’s communities do not contravene international law and Israel has legal claim to the lands it regards as Judea and Samaria. Jews have legitimate claims to Judea and Samaria according to international law as these lands were promised to the Jewish people at the San Remo Conference (1920) which saw the establishment in British-mandate Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people. Furthermore, the U.S. is now of the position that Israeli settlements are not “illegal”. There are a number of reasons for this, primarily because the land in question (commonly called the “West Bank”) was previously occupied by Jordan prior to the 1967 Six Day War which was aggressively launched by pan-Arab armies, but Jordan has long since relinquished its claim to the land. There is no sovereign Palestinian state on the land in question, nor has there ever been one, and thus the land is not the legal possession of any Palestinian sovereign. Furthermore, there is no element of international law that can be used to prohibit the voluntary return of individuals to the towns and villages from which they or their ancestors had been previously evicted by forcible means. As Israel disputes this lexicon, for the media to adopt it is not objective and neutral, nor is it fact-based. Effectively, when media use this term they engage in partisan journalism and adopt the Palestinian-Arab narrative.

5) “Military Wing”

Often, news media reports will make reference to the “military wing” of Hamas or Hezbollah, to distinguish it from other, so-called political or humanitarian efforts by the group, but this is a fallacy. Hezbollah, Hamas & other Islamist terror groups in the region are primarily committed to Israel’s destruction through violent means. While it is true that not all of their activities are military in nature, such as food banks for the poor in Lebanon, the organization’s mandate as a whole seeks the destruction of Israel, and any other activities, even while superficially humanitarian, are part of the organizational structure which is indisputably armed and military in nature.

6) 1967 “Border” vs. Armistice Line

As written above, the “1967 border” is in actuality the 1949 armistice line where no country agreed that a border would lie. It was merely where fighting stopped in 1949. It is often used incorrectly to refer to 1967, but it would be more accurate to call it the “pre-1967 armistice line.” This is an important distinction because any final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will certainly include agreements on land, but it is categorically untrue that the basis for negotiations should be where armies happened to have stopped fighting in 1949.

7) Israeli Security Barrier/Anti-Terror Fence vs. Israeli Separation Wall

In the early 2000s, in the face of incessant suicide bomb and other terrorist attacks from Palestinian terrorist groups, Israel erected a physical structure to help keep terrorists out of Israel to safeguard its citizenry. The Israeli Security Barrier is 95% fence, overwhelmingly made of chain-link and not concrete walls, which is aimed at countering terrorism. Its success has been indisputable: suicide bomb attacks fell to a trickle, and then ceased completely, in the years after the fence was constructed. By some estimates, there was a 90% reduction of terror attacks since the barrier was implemented. Only 5% of the barrier is in fact concrete wall and this is specifically to thwart sniper attacks on Israeli communities. Despite this, media reports consistently display the walled sections vs. the fenced portions, which misleads readers and viewers to believe that the barrier is more imposing than it actually is. Media also mislead by presenting the barrier as a dichotomy of a safety measure or a land grab.

8) Palestine vs. Palestinian territories:

Currently, there is no sovereign state of Palestine, with its own recognized capital, system of government, etc. The Palestinian Authority (PA), formerly the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), is a body – interim in nature – which oversees civil control over the large majority of Palestinians. And in the Gaza Strip, the Hamas terror group is the governing power. While Israel has committed its support for a Palestinian state, at the moment, no such state exists, and the term “Palestine” is inaccurate and premature, largely as the Palestinians don’t meet the preconditions for statehood, such as being able to exercise effective control of the territories it possesses. Rather, Palestinian territories would be more accurate lexicon.

9) “Settlements” vs. “Neighbourhoods”

As with a number of terms listed in this glossary, the term settlement is technically true, in that any place where people live is a settlement, but it gives a truly distorted version of reality. The vast majority of Israeli settlements are in fact neighbourhoods which are natural extensions, suburbs really, of Israeli communities within Israel proper. They are not, as the term settlement may suggest, isolated outposts. It is virtually guaranteed that these blocs would remain under Israeli control in any future peace agreement, in part because they are so utterly part of Israel’s contiguity, and not outposts in the desert, as the term settlement could misleadingly indicate. Accordingly, this context matters.

10) “Militant” vs. “Terrorist”

The term “militant” is problematic because it merely refers to an armed individual, which could easily describe partisans during World War Two fighting the Nazis, to individuals who strap bombs to themselves, murdering innocent civilians. Clearly, the term militant, while strictly accurate, serves to obscure, rather than clarify, the nature of these armed individuals. A terrorist, more accurately, is an individual who seeks to use violence primarily against civilians as a means to achieve a political end. Clearly, the term “terrorist” is far more descriptive and accurate than the catch-all “militant”.

11) Judea and Samaria vs. the “West Bank”

The West Bank refers to the western bank of the Jordan River, which the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan named the area when it was an occupying power there prior to 1967. But this term is both a very modern name, and a misleading one, because the Jordanian power has been gone for more than five decades. Rather, the terms Judea & Samaria are the ancient Hebrew terms referring to the area, stretching back more than three millennia.

12) “Disputed” Territories vs. “Occupied” Territories

As mentioned above, the land in question (Gaza Strip & Judea & Samaria/West Bank) were previously occupied by Egypt & Jordan, respectively. Both countries have vacated the land, since 1967, and neither country currently claims the land as their own, and no other sovereign state has claimed the land (with the possible exception of Israel in Judea & Samaria / West Bank). As such, it would be categorically untrue to describe either Gaza or Judea & Samaria/West Bank as being illegally occupied by Israel. At least, there is no legal owner, and at most, the legal owner is Israel, as the only sovereign state claiming ownership of it. But certainly, it would be inaccurate and misleading to characterize the land as occupied territory. Israel possesses legal & historical rights to the land, so it would be a misnomer to occupy one’s own land.

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