Quibbling over Israeli semantics

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Quibbling over Israeli semantics

Saudi Gazette Sunday, December 09, 2012
 By Ray Hanania

IF the Arab world is slowly turning away from compromise with Israel, it is because Israel refuses to compromise. Instead of making substantive concessions, Israel plays a game of semantics.

In Israel’s eyes, if you are anti-semantic, then you are anti-Semitic, too. Here are some examples of Israel’s semantics:

Israel claims it “withdrew” from Gaza in 2005 and “returned” lands it captured in 1967 to Palestinian rule. But Israel didn’t really leave Gaza.

It simply moved its military to the borders creating the world’s largest prison, choking the civilian population.

The semantics of Israel’s distortions sound better than the truth to naïve Americans who are brainwashed by Israel’s semantics game. That’s not to say the Israelis are all wrong and the Palestinians are all right. It is rather to say that there are fanatics on both sides.

Israelis live in a world of self-denial, complaining about Arab violence but closing their eyes to their own violence. They would rather reject a genuine peace than admit they are wrong. All this makes for a much different image of Israel than the bill of goods Israel has sold to the American people.

Palestine has been physically occupied for the past 65 years, but so too have the minds of Americans. Denied the right to freely discuss the Palestine-Israel conflict, Americans have been held hostage to Israeli semantics.

Europeans, on the other hand, see Israel for what it really is. Rather than a democracy, Israel is closer to South African apartheid. Israelis hate the “apartheid” word. The criticism that hits closest to home is the criticism that stings the most. The truer something is, the more it hurts. Israel is not precisely an apartheid state. Its policies of occupation put it in its own space somewhere between apartheid and democracy. Yet its laws and policies reinforce the image of being apartheid-like, and far from being a democracy.

Here are a few examples:

Israel has an Anti-Boycott Law — you can’t boycott Israel or its racist Jewish-only settlements. You could go to jail. Israel has established “Acceptance Committees” — Jews in Israel can “vote out” any non-Jew (Christian or Muslim) from living in any community. There is also an Anti-Nakba Law — no one is allowed to criticize Israel’s founding or claim Palestinians suffered in 1948. Israel institutionalizes religious discrimination — Christian and Muslim citizens of Israel have a special code on their identification cards which clearly identify them as non-Jews. What does that sound like to you?

Israel gets away with all this because the United States, which has self-proclaimed itself the “leader of the free world” – which by the way isn’t so free at all – closes its eyes to Israel’s discriminatory practices.

America has no choice, of course. Americans don’t control their own decisions when it comes to Israel. Instead, American actions are skewered, contradictory and shockingly absurd, violating the fundamental principles that make America the “leader of the free world.”

Apparently, you don’t have to be free to be the leader of the free world.

Just “close” to being free. Maybe 80 percent free. Free on some stuff, and not so free on others. Free for some people, but not so free for others.

America challenges racism and discrimination across the world, but it has a blind spot when it comes to Israel.

The tragedy is that in this game of Israeli one-upmanship, Americans end up losing. Americans pay billions in extra taxes that could go to support healthcare and employment needs, but which instead is used to subsidize Israel. By supporting Israel and ignoring Israeli discrimination, Americans undermine their own credibility.

The worst aspect though is that America is forced by all this to turn its back on its own Christian people. America is a “Christian” country but doesn’t spend much time worrying about Christians victimized by Israel’s obstreperous policies. You would think that Christians would care for their own the way Islamic nations care for Muslims and the way a Jewish state supposedly cares for its own citizens. Americans don’t. Just look at the facts. Bethlehem is the heart of Christianity. It remains under Israeli military siege. Lands owned by Christian Palestinians and institutions in and around Bethlehem are routinely confiscated by Israel and given to Jewish settlers. This oppression by Israel has contributed significantly to the near extinction of the presence of “Biblical Christians”. With no one to defend them, Christians are fleeing Israel at a far greater pace than Muslims.

The complexities of these issues make it difficult for Arabs to explain them to Americans. The semantics prevent Americans from seeing the truth.

“Apartheid” as a word does not comfortably fit all that Israel is doing, but it sure sounds close. What Arabs need to do is to create new words to precisely define what Israel is doing. Of course, it would be far easier to just make peace than it would be to create a new dictionary of terms to accurately describe Israel’s practices. Israel says it wants peace, just not with the Palestinians. Who’s willing to quibble over the semantics?

— Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist. He can be reached at www.TheMediaOasis.com

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

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Ray Hanania