Are you confused about Israel? Rest assured, you are not alone, so I have compiled this glossary to guide you towards wisdom.
Apartheid: Literally, ‘apartness’, you may think this means a system of segregation on the grounds of race, enforced by the state, as most famously adopted in South Africa. In Israel, it means that citizens of all races and religions are constitutionally guaranteed the same rights, where Arabs who constitute 20 per cent of the population vote and are represented in the legislature, sit as judges, and, comprising 17 per cent of Israel’s doctors, work alongside Jewish doctors to save all Israelis’ lives.
Colonisation: This usually means the act of acquiring political control over another country, subjugating its population, and exploiting it economically. In relation to Israel, it means indigenous people regaining sovereignty over part of their ancestral homeland in a remnant of the Ottoman Empire constituting 0.2 per cent of Arab lands, in accordance with international law (the League of Nations mandate and UN Charter), while offering repeatedly for the local Arab population to have their own state. The most egregious act of colonisation was when 14,300 persecuted Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to Israel within 36 hours in 1991. Such Jews are called settler colonialists.
Criticism of Israeli policies (which is definitely not antisemitic): This includes calling for Israel’s destruction, claiming Zionists control the media, attacking Jews on the streets of New York and London, and defacing synagogues with swastikas.
De facto annexation: Annexation is a term applied when one state unilaterally proclaims its sovereignty over other territory, such as Russia over the Crimea. Last year, it was proposed that Israel annex parts of the West Bank. This did not proceed. De facto annexation means pretending that it has happened anyway so that Israel can still be condemned, as the Irish parliament has just resolved.
Democracy: This is a system of government where a state’s citizens elect who will represent them. Since April 2019, Israel has held four elections. However, it is not a democracy because the Palestinians who are not citizens of Israel are not entitled to vote. Instead they vote in their own elections in accordance with the Oslo Accords, except that President Abbas, now in the 17th year of his four-year term, has just cancelled them again, for fear of losing them. This also constitutes ‘apartheid’ (see above).
Defender of Jerusalem: This is what Hamas now calls itself, after having launched three rockets at the sacred city, which was precipitated by the cancelled elections referred to above, but justified by the atrocities referred to in the next two entries.
Desecration of Al Aqsa: What Israel security forces committed in trying to prevent Hamas supporters from rioting and stockpiling rocks there and throwing them onto Jews praying at the Western Wall below.
Ethnic cleansing: Usually, the systematic forced removal of ethnic, racial or religious groups from an area. It also includes the long-running private land dispute at Sheikh Jarrah that is awaiting a Supreme Court decision, where four Palestinian families who have ‘protected tenant’ status refuse to pay rent, and may be evicted. It definitely does not refer to the removal of all Jews from East Jerusalem and the West Bank when Jordan controlled them from 1948-1967, or the fact that the Palestinian Authority, backed by the UN, aims to revert to this position.
Genocide: Usually, the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. As regards Israel, it means providing healthcare and aid to members of a fast-growing population while doing all it can to minimise the number of deaths of that population as well as its own in a war it did not choose.
Indiscriminate: This term applies to IDF’s air strikes on Gaza, every target of which is first approved by the IDF’s legal department as a military target such as rocket stores, rocket launchers, underground tunnels, personnel and operational facilities of Hamas and other terrorist groups. Because these are embedded among civilians, it also involves warning them first, often with phone calls. It definitely does not apply to rockets launched by those terrorist groups at Israeli civilians, because the Iron Dome stops about 90 per cent of those rockets from reaching their intended target, which is not fair play and is clearly not ‘proportionate’ (see below).
Occupation: This is a form of provisional control by a ruling power over a territory, without a claim of formal sovereignty. Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005, uprooting over 8,000 Jews and its military, handing over power to the Palestinian Authority. Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007. Israel and Egypt control their borders with Gaza. Clearly, Israel occupies Gaza.
Pink-washing: Usually, this is regrettably throwing your new red shirt into the laundry with a white shirt. For Israel, it means celebrating LGBT rights, promoting Tel Aviv as one of the great gay capitals of the world, and holding Pride Parades, because this is obviously done to distract from the Palestinian issue.
Proportionality: This principle under the laws of armed conflict prohibits attacks against military objectives which may be expected to cause incidental civilian harm which would be excessive in relation to the ‘concrete and direct military advantage anticipated’. In relation to Israel, it means the number of people it loses in a war must be no less than those it kills, and if it is not, it will be guilty of genocide (see above).
Refugee: This is a person who has been forced to leave their homeland to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. This does not apply to Jews who flee to Israel, who are instead settler colonialists (see above). In relation to Palestinians, ‘refugee’ is an inherited status, so has increased about tenfold since the 1948 Independence War when Arab states attacked Israel, that some Palestinians fled. Palestinian ‘refugees’ include people who have never set foot in the land they are refugees from, people who still live in the land that they are refugees from, and citizens of other lands, such as Bella and Gigi Hadid, the world’s most famous Palestinian refugees.
Zionism: The belief in the right to self-determination of the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland; decolonisation after millennia of occupation and oppression. To its detractors, a unique form of evil that must, along with its supporters, be eradicated from the world in the name of human rights.
If you’ve mastered all that, you’re now as expert as the best Instagram influencers. Get hashtagging!
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