The war of words

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In a recent interview with the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat, translated by MEMRI, Syria's Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass made a number of revealing statements.


On the military front, he explained that Israel and the US are terrorist states. At the same time, terrorism-supporting countries like Syria and Saudi Arabia are victims, and terrorist organizations like Hizbullah in Syrian-controlled Lebanon and Palestinian terrorist groups operating in Israel and headquartered in Damascus are legitimate resistance movements.


On the theological front, Tlass explained that the Jews have no right to object to his book "The Matza of Zion." There he described the 1841 blood libel against the Jews of Damascus, which accused them of killing children to make Pessah matzot, as historical fact. Tlass argued that Jews have no right to object to his writing, because killing children to make matzot is a "Jewish ritual."


Finally, Jews, according to Tlass, have no right to claim that anti-Semitism is discrimination against Jews, because Arabs are the majority of Semites.


Aside from lying about every subject he was asked to discuss, Tlass in one interview managed by statement and inference to distort the meaning of a number of key terms. These include terrorism, resistance, occupation, racism, discrimination, anti-Semitism, and anti-Zionism.



By Tlass's redefinition of these terms, both Israel and the US are criminal states. The US must be reeducated and Israel must be destroyed.


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Last week, Prof. Rashid Khalidi of Columbia University debated Dr. Daniel Pipes, the head of the Middle East Forum, on MSNBC's Scarborough Country. In the course of his remarks, Khalidi personally attacked Pipes twice, implying that he is a bigot because he supports Israel.


He also referred to support for Israel by senior policy makers in the Defense Department and Vice President's Office as "virulent."


As the Edward Said Professor of Middle East Studies, Khalidi no doubt is aware that Webster's defines "virulent" as "malignant; extremely poisonous or venomous."


While referring to support for Israel in this way, Khalidi, under direct questioning from host Joe Scarborough, nonetheless felt it necessary to lie about the fact that in the past he has referred to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz as "a fanatic, extreme right-wing Zionist."

He also denied referring to Israel as a "racist" state with an "apartheid" system and of claiming that America has been "brainwashed" by Israel. Yet when interviewed by writers from The Australian Financial Review and the online magazine, Khalidi was absolutely clear in making these statements.


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Two years ago this week, the UN World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance was in the midst of its deliberations in Durban, South Africa. The end result of the weeklong conference was the subversion of the definitions of "racism," "racial discrimination," "xenophobia," and "related intolerance."


At Durban, Israel and the US were isolated, as every other member nation of the UN and every major international human rights organization either stood by and watched or was actively engaged in the systematic criminalization of Israel, the marginalization of the Holocaust, the whitewashing of anti-Semitism, and the demonization of the Jewish people as a nation and of Jews as individuals.


In the course of its deliberations, the terms "Zionism," "anti-Semitism," "racism," "refugees," "colonialization," "terrorism," "civilians," "resistance," and "occupation" were all redefined to one end. That end was to foment a distortion of reality whereby, one week before the September 11 attacks on Washington and New York, Israel was castigated as the single most lethal and virulent threat to the world.


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George Orwell once said: "Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."


In the two years since the Durban conference, our political language has been distorted by an alliance of the international political Left and the Arab world to the point where neither Israel nor the US can easily use words to either describe the reality we live in or to motivate others to join us in fighting our enemies.


After September 11, US President George W. Bush called on the nations of the world to join the US in destroying terrorism. Most nations came forward and expressed their support for his call. Yet when Saudi Arabia can claim to be fighting terrorism, even while it funds al-Qaida and Hamas, it is clear that we have reached a point at which we cannot even have a conversation about terrorism and expect our interlocutors to be talking about the same thing.


For Israel, the disintegration of language is even more devastating than it is for the US. Every single term that we need to describe what is happening to us and what we ourselves are doing has been seized by the new Orwellian language police. By distorting the meaning of terrorism and anti-Semitism, our enemies deny us the ability to speak about the crimes being carried out against us.



If we are terrorists because we control Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, then we cannot defend ourselves.


If the Palestinian Authority, which organizes, incites, and enables Palestinians to murder us at every opportunity, is simply involved in legitimate resistance to our terrorism, then we cannot defend ourselves, either.


The fact that the Western media refuse to refer to Palestinians who commit mass murders of Israelis as terrorists, but prefer the term "militants," indicates that from their perspective there is something basically acceptable about these murders. Referring to Palestinian gunmen and suicide bombers in this manner distinguishes them from other people who commit similar crimes against non-Jews. The fact that the Israeli media also use the term "activist" and "terrorist" interchangeably to describe those who murder us shows that we too have lost the power to describe our enemies.


If being anti-Semitic means being anti-Arab, then Israel is the greatest anti-Semitic entity in the world. Arab hatred and demonization of Jews, which occurs daily throughout the world, is acceptable. Widespread European hatred of Jews can also be defended as simple opposition to Israel. Hatred of Jews and the Jewish state, as well as acts of war against it, are turned on their head. Israel is the criminal. Jews are racist anti-Semites. Israel is the terrorist.


The subversion of the term "refugee" in the case of Palestinians is equally debilitating for Israel. For every other group, the status of refugee exists only for those individuals who actually lived in a country and left. But for Palestinians, every relative, child, and grandchild of an Arab who left Israel in 1948 is a refugee.  


Under international law, it is the responsibility of the countries that take in refugees to provide them with a home. But for Palestinians, the situation is reversed. It is the responsibility of the countries in which these people were born and live never to accept them, and it is Israel's responsibility to allow 4 million hostile Arabs to immigrate and receive citizenship. Because we have accepted this subverted definition of refugee, Israelis engage in vacuous and self-defeating conversations about the so-called right of return of millions of people who have never set foot here and who actively seek the destruction of the state.


Because we have relinqu
ished our right to language, for three years we have been unable to have any serious national conversation about the reality we experience every single day. As Prime Minister Ariel Sharon demonstrated when he referred to the disputed territories of Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip as "occupied," we have surrendered our right to define reality to our enemies.


We cannot describe our lives.


For three years the Palestinians have been making war against us. Yet because they have taken over our language, we cannot so much as give a name to the war that we are unable to notice. We have been so imprisoned by our enemies' perversion of our words that we find it strange when outsiders have the courage to make statements about the "so-called occupied territories." We cannot even recognize when someone is trying to help us.


"Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men," said Orwell, "is the restatement of the obvious."


And so, two years after Durban, 10 years after Oslo, three years after the Palestinian terrorist war was launched, and two years after the September 11 attacks, we must take it upon ourselves to do just that. If we allow our enemies to define our world for us, we are destined to lose our place in it.


Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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