Words and Phrases

Meanings and Changed Meanings

Many words and phrases have been given new meanings by the way they have been used. Be sure of the correct definition of the words you speak or write. (See the book Nineteen Eighty-four by George Orwell for examples of the process of “newspeak”.) It is a way of deflecting the real meaning to something weaker or less desirable. It is a way of obscuring reality. We often pick up the vocabulary that is designed to confuse just by hearing it. For example, people talk about “boycotting Israel” when the issue is “boycotting products made in illegal settlements on confiscated land”. The shorter wording has been picked up by some people even though it obscures the reality.  Below is a list of common meanings and a second list on the changing use of words and phrases.

Arab/Muslim – Arabs are an ethnic group; ; Muslims belong to the religious group called Islam.  They might be any ethnic group or race.

East Bank/West Bank – In 1947 the UN partitioned the area between the Palestinian Arabs and the Jewish State. Jordan had control over territory on both the east and west sides of the Jordan River and in 1948 Israel declared itself as an independent State. The Arab-Israeli War followed and the west bank of the Jordan River was occupied by Israel. It became known as the Occupied West Bank (with capital letters). What might be called the East Bank (along with other land) is today’s country of Jordan.

East Jerusalem/West Jerusalem – As a result of UN resolutions, wars, and various declarations by countries, there is an ambiguous situation called “East Jerusalem” and “West Jerusalem.” The exact boundaries do change and will continue to change until a final agreement.

Reenacting the Carrying of the CrossIDF - Israeli Defense Forces - is the name used for all army groups even when they are not defending anything but are attacking or simply policing.

Intifadah - means "shaking off" in Arabic and it is used to name periods when the West Bank and Gaza Palestinians act so as to shake off the occupation.   It is not the same as terrorism although it may result in terrorism on both sides.

Isis/Islam – Isis is a group adopting the name and some customs of Islam, but not the religious and ethical values of that religion; Islam is a religion emphasizing that God is One and with ethical values similar to Christianity and Judaism.

Jihad - is a term in the Quran for personal struggle to be a good Muslim.  Recently the media and others have used the term to mean armed struggle but that is not its meaning in Islam or the Quaran.

Israel/Jewish people – Israel is the name of a modern country; the Jewish people belong to the Jewish religion but may live in any country. The new Nation State Law passed by the Knesset is confusing this difference.

Israel/Zionism – Israel is a modern country; Zionism is a political movement for the establishment of a Jewish State in the historic land of Israel.

Jerusalem/Al-Quds – Jerusalem is the common name of the city and the word derives from the Hebrew word Jerusaliam. Al-Quds is Arabic for “The Holy” and is used by many Arabs to name the same city. Jerusalem was declared an International Regime by UN resolution 101.

Israeli/Israelite – An Israeli is a citizen of the modern country of Israel; An Israelite is a citizen of the ancient kingdom of Israel mentioned in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).

Orthodox - Christians use the term "Orthodox" to mean Christians with a particular set of beliefs and actions.  They are classified as Eastern Orthodox or Oriental Orthodox.  In Judaism, the Orthodox are those groups and people  holding to the strict interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, such as Hassidic Jews.

Semitic/Arab – Semitic describes a language system which includes Arabic and Hebrew, Aramaic and Geez; Arab is an ethnic identity.

Status Quo/ status quo – The term “status quo” means the condition that exists. In 1853 a document was signed by the government and the churches in Jerusalem stating the places and times when each Christian group could worship or process. This was designated by capitalizing Status Quo and is observed by the churches to this day. It includes the processions and worship services in Bethlehem as well as Jerusalem. It also defines the relationship between the State and the Church.

Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif – The Temple Mount is the place where the ancient Jewish Temple was located; Haram al-Sharif is an Arabic term used to designate the same area but translates as “the most holy” since it is a holy place where Mohammed visited.

Anti-Semitism/Anti-Israel/Anti-Zionism – People often substitute each of these phrases for one another and confuse the issues . “Anti” means “opposed to”, according to the dictionary."Anti-Semitism", then, should mean “opposed to Semites”. "Anti-Israel" should mean “opposed to the country of Israel” “Anti-Zionism” should mean “opposed to the political theory of Zionism.  In 1875  Anti-Semitism was changed to mean only opposition to Jews and not to other Semites.  Lately, it has been confused with anti-Israel in some speaches and legislation.

The following words and phrases are examples of words and phrases being substituted to deflect from the meaning of the original word.

Judea and Samaria - designates two of the three provinces in the area during the time of Jesus and before then.  (The thrid one was Galilee) It is used today by Israelis to designate the area which includes Israel and the Occupied Territories.

Settlers and Settlements – This is a very complicated word. In today’s usage it usually means the people and places where Israelis have built houses, factories, and common civic amenities on land which is in the West Bank and is territory taken over from Palestinian Arab (Christian and Muslim) ownership. Some define it as “Israelis building apartments” or as “Israeli citizens in disputed territories”. The key is the where these places are built since they are being built in territory which was supposed to be used by Palestinian Arabs by the UN-brokered agreement, and not by Israelis. Confusion also comes from the fact that when Israel was establishing itself in the Paalestinian territory between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, they sometimes used the term “settlements" before calling them kibbutzim.

Occupation/security – The area commonly known as the West Bank was partitioned by the UN to be a part of Jordan and included land on the east and west banks of the Jordan River. It was occupied by Israel in 1948 and is known internationally as “occupied territories”. When referred to by Israelis as a “security zone” it is the same space but understood by Israel to be important to their security and an integral part of Israel. If you live there you experience it as "occupied".

Occupied territories/disputed territories – As above, this is the same area but called “occupied” by most of the world and known as “disputed” by Israel. Pressure is being put on the U.S. government to drop the term "occupied" although the occupation has not been lifted. It is still apparent if you visit and have to show your passport.

Right of return/final resolution of the refugee situation – The Palestinians hope to return to their homes and towns that were occupied by Israel in 1948. Israel uses the term “final resolution”, which does not include the return of Palestinians but settles the ownership of the whole area as Israel. The "Final Resolution" also reminds people of the Nazi term "Final Solution",  and implies a relation to the Nazi term. 

Rubber bullets - They are standard metal bullets covered with a thin layer of rubber.  Since they explode as bullets they can do the same kind of damage. They do not bounce as "rubber" implies.

Anti-Israel terror/Legitimate resistance – Israel uses the term “Anti-Israel Terror” to describe the same actions as the Palestinians of the occupied West Bank call “Legitimate Resistance”.

International observers/third party intervention – International observers is a term used by the UN and countries of the world to designate observers from outside countries looking for infractions of the law. Third-party intervention implies that these observers intervene in a country’s freedom.

Zionism - A movement for the establishment of a Jewish nation in the historic land of Israel.