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The Language of Destruction

January 17, 2017

by: Rev. Cheryl Hauer, Associate Editor

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Photo: Nelosa / shutterstock.com

My friend, Henry, (not his real name) was in his early teens when the Nazis came to power in his native Germany. Although Jewish, he was extremely popular in his German school, elected president of his class, a football hero and a star pupil. One morning as the school day began, Henry’s teacher called him to the front of the room. “This boy is not your friend; he is an enemy of all Germans,” the teacher began. “He is not even human, but a rodent; he is a liar and an idiot.” The tirade ended with a simple, “Henry, you may sit down.”

Every day for a month, school began in this new and horrific way, ending with the same simple instruction to sit down. Nothing else changed. Yet by the end of that month, Henry told me, everything had changed. He was no longer called on in class; he was kicked off the football team and put out of the school orchestra. Boys who had been his lifelong friends now despised him, attacking him physically and ridiculing him at every opportunity. After the war, Henry spent his life teaching young people about the power of language.

A Lie Told Often Enough Becomes Truth

Nazi leadership embraced the concept that a lie told often enough becomes truth, and it became a very effective tool in their attempt to make the world Judenrein. Today, the maxim continues to hold true and is a stratagem being widely employed by those who hold to those same anti-Semitic beliefs.

Since its inception, the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement has worked to create a very specific anti-Israel language, using carefully chosen rhetoric with precious little regard for truth. Today, that language has become so ingrained in the Israel narrative that virtually everyone, from world leaders to Israeli politicians, uses it. Even the most pro-Israel among us innocently promotes the BDS agenda by simply using their language. The following are a few examples of terminology used to skew the narrative against Israel.

Occupation: According to Joe Sabag, US National Director of IAF (Israel Allies Foundation), occupation is a legal term whose definition does not apply to Israel under the law. Neverthless, the term is intentionally misused against Israel in order to shape negative perceptions of her history and legitimacy. The occupation perspective dictates that Israel has stolen Arab territory and suppressed Arab right to self-determination and must therefore restore it to them.

In a recent Gatestone Institute article, A. J. Caschetta reported that there are 530 UN General Assembly references to Israel as an “occupying power” versus zero for known occupiers such as Turkey, Russia, Pakistan and China. Saying that Jews are “occupying” Judea, Caschetta says, is as nonsensical as saying Arabs are “occupying” Arabia or Gauls are “occupying” France.

Territories: This term, widely applied by BDS advocates, is language designed to erase the connection between Israel and areas that are rightfully hers. It is the same strategy used by Roman Emperor Hadrian in AD135 when he changed the name of Israel or Judah and Galilee, as the Romans knew the area to Philistia, later to become Palestine.

Palestinian resistance: The use of this term implies that Israel is the aggressor and legitimizes terror as a response.

West Bank: For millennia, this area was known as Judea and Samaria. It wasn’t until Jordan occupied the land after Israel’s 1948 War for Independence that it became known as the West Bank.

BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions): This term is used to identify a movement that claims to be a grass roots initiative created to protect the rights of the Palestinian people. It is, in fact, a movement whose aim is the destruction of Israel and whose weapons of choice are economic discrimination which is against international law and propaganda.

East Jerusalem: Every time this term is used, it affirms that Jerusalem is not the eternal, undivided capital of Israel.

Land for Peace (Two-State Solution): Both of these terms are de facto admissions that Israel is an illegal occupier currently in control of land that is not hers and must be returned to its rightful owners.

Borders (Pre-1967 borders): These very destructive terms have found their way into the narrative and are considered by Palestinian and UN leadership to be a critical part of any negotiation regarding the land. However, these lines were drawn after Israel’s War of Independence and were never intended to be borders. They are armistice lines, and the corresponding armistice agreements clearly state that they are NOT borders, but temporary lines drawn to end the fighting with borders to be negotiated at some future date.

Normalization: Historically, this term has referred to the process by which governments reach agreements to begin and eventually achieve peaceful co-existence. Working together, such nations establish diplomatic relations as a foundation upon which other positive agreements can be reached. However, the BDS National Committee has endorsed the following view of normalization:

Any attempt to normalize relations with Israel hinders the struggle to end Israeli injustice. Dialogue, healing and reconciliation serve only to privilege oppressive co-existence at the cost of resistance.

Participation in any project, initiative or activity in Palestine or internationally that brings together Palestinians and Israelis must place as its goal resistance to and exposure of Israeli occupation.

Unfortunately, failure to comply with this understanding has resulted in extreme, punitive measures by Palestinian leadership against their own people who have sincerely been interested in establishing productive relationships with Israel.

Shining Light on the Propaganda War

Photo: Sergey Nivens / shutterstock.com

It was US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis who said that sunlight is the best disinfectant. Shining light on the propaganda war being waged against Israel is the most critical step in bringing it to an end. Our politicians, the media, academics and religious leaders must stop perpetuating a false and tainted understanding of Israel and her current reality through the use of fabricated language. And so must we. One of our most important contributions to Israel’s fight for existence is to clean up our language and hold others to account as well.

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