The war of words

The war between the State of Israel and its neighbors is largely based on words, name-calling, and public relations. Despite the history of the Jewish people, and the irrifutable historical events chronicled in the Old and New Testaments, which resulted the Land of Israel being known as the ‘Holy Land’, there has arisen a new narrative that attempts to conquer public opinion, and weakens the seemingly irrefutable arguments of Israel regarding its country, homeland, and past.

To wage this war, the Arab nation has recruited language to excite the imagination and construct the virtual reality that serves in its war on Zionism and the Jewish people, the holy books and history books. Thus sprouted terminology such as Nakba, Land Day, the Day fo Rage, Intifada, apartheid, occupation, oppression, racism, and occupied territories. Thus, the Arab dictionary and the eastern imagination joined forces to construct new narratives to fight against Israel and its values.

Israel did not pay appropriate attention to the meaning of word-use in this struggle. The use of Nakba to indicate the War of Independence was quickly validated, even in Israeli textbooks and Israeli discourse. As it was seen by Arab eyes, we agreed to call the bloody clashes – intifada, and the violent lawbreaking demonstrations – Land Day.

The malicious vocabulary slowly became part of the global lexicon, and inspired a campaign of slander and pressure on Israel, which resulted in international boycotts and vilification against the State of Israel, Zionism and the Jewish nation.

Knowing the power of words in propaganda systems, and how far the written and spoken word can deteriorate public opinion, we could have been expected to be more sensitive to words that are spoken and written, and to refrain from adopting them into the general and Israeli lexicon. We did not adequately assimilate the fact that our neighbors’ rhetoric (even in their internal disputes) is at the center of a general blood feud in the Middle East. Opposing factions in this area do not settle for verbal criticism of each other or incitement of one media channel against another. Verbal rivalry has become blood-soaked war – from the streets of Bagdad and cities of Iraq, through Syria, Lebanon, and even Turkey, spilling over into Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Tunis, and Algeria, and slowly seeping into Palestinian Authority territories and Hamas-controlled Gaza. We feel the explosive atmosphere, which is inflamed by the same slogans, infiltrate the Israeli Negev, and counting…

The war of words is a dangerous war, and it is the bridgehead to acts of violence and bloodshed. We must beware and safeguard at all costs not to allow these carefully well thought out and planned words to cause us any more image damage, or to serve as part of the vicious incitement in Arab society. We must fight not only against sticks, stones, and Molotov cocktails, but also against the words that ignite these means, and make our streets aflame, as we increasingly feel.

Vioent protests should be called riots, which is the name that was given in the 1920s, during the bloody events in the streets of Old Jerusalem, Hebron, and Jaffa, when the people that opposed Jewish settlement attempted to set the streets on fire in all the locations of Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel.

These events and riots continue to this day, and we must condemn them, rather than calling them by names that were invented by the riot inciters themselves, who try to portray the rioters as exalted freedom fighters. They are criminals and lawbreakers, who should be condemned and vilified; they should be treated forcefully and prevented from continuing the activities that are deteriorating the entire Middle East – turning it into a region that is saturated in blood, fire, and plumes of smoke.

The more determined we are and the sooner we act – the better the outcome will be for all of us.

About the Author
Dr David Altman is senior vice-president at the Netanya Academic College and vice-chair of the college's Strategic Dialogue Center