Falk appointed to investigate Israeli actions in the Occupied Territories

March 31, 2008

As a Princeton alumna, I was pleased to hear that Princeton’s Richard Falk (Albert G. Milbank Professor of International Law and Practice) has been appointed by the UN as a special investigator on Israeli actions in the Palestinian Territories. But it also ties in with some of the discussions on language that we’ve seen on the blog recently, since Falk is an American Jew who characterized Israeli actions in the Occupied Territories as “Slouching Towards a Palestinian Holocaust,” and in this appointment he replaces South African professor John Dugard, who characterized Israel’s occupation as apartheid. Falk has also written on the legality of the Vietnam war and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, characterizing the latter as a war of aggression that should be tried by a war crimes tribunal.

Here’s what the Jerusalem Post has to say about the UN’s appointment of Falk: Read the rest of this entry »

More on Israel and language

March 1, 2008

It’s funny that just a couple of days after Noah and I responded to a comment about the inappropriateness of a comparison between Nazism and Zionism and posted bits from Yonatan Mendel’s analysis of the word choices of the Israeli press, there’s a bit of a furor over an Israeli deputy minister who used a certain word to describe what the Palestinians would “bring upon themselves” if they didn’t stop firing rockets from Gaza into Israel. (See the BBC coverage here, and the Guardian’s coverage here.)  Apparently the word he used in Hebrew was “shoah,” and “shoah” is the word that in Israel is usually reserved only for referring to the Holocaust.

In a private discussion board that I lurk on, there’s some debate over whether the word should be translated as “holocaust” or “catastrophe,” but what nobody doubts is the fact that the Israeli deputy minister’s logic — that somehow the victims of a holocaust/catastrophe bring that suffering upon themselves — is astonishing.

– L.L. Wynn

Yonatan Mendel’s “Diary” in the LRB

February 29, 2008

A shout out to Asli Bali who alerted me to this piece by Yonatan Mendel in the London Review of Books. Mendel discusses the language of Israeli journalism and how it works to sustain the political status quo when it comes to the matter of Palestine. Mendel is doing his PhD at Cambridge on language and security, but he previously worked for the Israeli news agency, Walla, and that’s what he draws on in this piece. Here are a few quotes:

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“In most of the articles on the conflict two sides battle it out: the Israel Defence Forces, on the one hand, and the Palestinians, on the other. When a violent incident is reported, the IDF confirms or the army says but the Palestinians claim: ‘The Palestinians claimed that a baby was severely injured in IDF shootings.’ Is this a fib?” …

“Another example: in June 2006, four days after the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped from the Israeli side of the Gazan security fence, Israel, according to the Israeli media, arrested some sixty members of Hamas, of whom 30 were elected members of parliament and eight ministers in the Palestinian government. In a well-planned operation Israel captured and jailed the Palestinian minister for Jerusalem, the ministers of finance, education, religious affairs, strategic affairs, domestic affairs, housing and prisons, as well as the mayors of Bethlehem, Jenin and Qalqilya, the head of the Palestinian parliament and one quarter of its members. That these officials were taken from their beds late at night and transferred to Israeli territory probably to serve (like Gilad Shalit) as future bargaining-chips did not make this operation a kidnapping. Israel never kidnaps: it arrests.” …

“Remarkably, there are no Occupied Territories in Israel. The term is occasionally used by a leftist politician or columnist, but in the hard news section it doesn’t exist. In the past they were called the Administered Territories in order to conceal the actual fact of occupation; they were then called Judea and Samaria; but in Israel’s mass media today they’re called the Territories (Ha-Shtachim).

– L.L. Wynn