The Times of Israel’s new Arabic edition is definitely a curveball I wouldn’t have been ready for. Still, it’s a great chance for me to get over my rusty Arabic skills by comparing the already sleeker-looking layout of the website’s English page with the new Arabic template. By the way, nice choice of font. Still, there’s apparently a niche demographic that is predictably upset: the people for whom we’ll just never, ever be right-wing enough.  

صورة شاشة للصفحة الرئيسية

Ahlan wa sahlan, yo.

Being a blogger for the site and also living in Gush Etzion, I definitely get to have a perspective on how people are reacting to the new edition. And while I expected the same people to have the same things to say, certain expressions of rage have touched my nerve.

Various people across social networks are complaining that the Times of Israel’s investment into Arabic is predictable because it’s a “leftist” paper. The evidence? TOI uses terms like “Palestinian” and “West Bank,” simultaneously ‘inventing a people’ and disassociating Jews from their land by de-Judaizing its name.

I didn’t realize I had to live in a bubble in order to live in Gush Etzion.

Most Israelis use the term “Palestinian.” I know that I do, in English and in Hebrew. I can’t just say “Arab” and be certain people know whom I’m talking about. I also use West Bank because that’s how most of the world refers to it. The name has no definitive Arab element to it and merely refers to the geography of the area relative to the Jordan River – a river, by the way, that gets its name from the Bible. Even if I wanted to make a point of calling the area something definitively Jewish, I don’t understand why “Samaria” is the term of choice, associating the ancient Samaritans with the area. It’s no better than using “Palestine” as if it I’d want it to be considered Philistine. It’s Menashe’s territory and the area around Jericho is Benjamin’s. But all this is mute because “West Bank” is a neutral term anyway.

Ancient Tribes of Israel Map Borders

Calling it Samaria obviously means you deny the Tribe of Menashe’s right to the land. Obviously. (Image: CC-BY-SA 3.0 Richardprins via Wikimedia Commons)

Now if I shouldn’t refer to the West Bank by that name, should I also never use the term “East Bank” when I talk about Jordan? What term should I use when referring to Jordan? If I say East Bank, that’s equivalent in significance to West Bank, but because it’s politically irrelevant to Israeli territory, is it necessarily biased? Shouldn’t we call it Reuven?

I don’t get it. I don’t understand why my loyalty to Israel or even to a certain political segment of society suddenly depends on my non-usage of these specific terms.

I don’t just read one newspaper and don’t get all my civic opinions based on a single newspaper that fits my political preferences. I don’t use the term “homicide bomber” when referring to terrorists because it’s redundant (it loses all distinction when you eliminate the word “suicide”) and I don’t call violent criminals terrorists if it’s going to make them sound like political activists rather than the criminal murderers that they are.

Jordan River Valley Watershed Boundary (West Bank & East Bank)

The white area of the map is the watershed boundary of the Jordan River Valley, making it pretty easy to see the geographic justifications of terms like “West Bank” and “East Bank.” (Image: Available for download from the Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database (TFDD) (2007))

Jumping down people’s throats for their terminology is a mistake for the Religious Zionist community. You prejudge your peers’ political and philosophical views without considering that they don’t maintain the rigid stance on language that you do. Everyone has their particulars, but I’m not going to be told I’m less of a Zionist or that my politics are automatically left-wing because I use the term “West Bank.” That’s asinine. I voted for HaBayit HaYehudi. I live in a settlement. Don’t tell me I’m a leftist because I use a term that people understand and isn’t ideological enough for you. Get to advocating for your positions rather than get hung up on semantics. In the end, the details matter little.