The Last-Minute Decision That Gave Israel Its Name

April 29 2020

When David Ben-Gurion declared “the establishment of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel” 72 years ago today (according to the Jewish calendar), very few people were aware of the decision, made just four days earlier, to call this new country “the state of Israel.” Most assumed its name would be Judea, although other contestants were Zion, Ever (the root of the word Hebrew), or simply “the Land of Israel.” In an essay drawn from a lecture in his new online course on Israeli independence, Martin Kramer writes:

From its outset, Zionism had talked about creating a Jewish state. . . . As Jewish was a derivative of Judea, this name might have seemed a logical choice. But according to the UN partition plan, virtually all of the traditional geographic area [historically known as] Judea was supposed to be either internationalized—Jerusalem and its environs—or part the Arab state. Calling a state Judea that didn’t include the geographic Judea would have been an anomaly.

But even if the state did wind up possessing a chunk of Judea, it would include much more than it—for example, the Negev. And how could the state be called Judea, when most of it was something else? It was problematic in another way. What would its citizens be called? Y’hudim, [i.e., Judeans, but also the Hebrew for “Jews”]? How would that comport with the Arab citizens of the state, projected in the partition plan to number half a million? So Judea was ruled out.

Erets Yisrael, [the Land of Israel], the biblical Hebrew name for Palestine, was ruled out because of the dangers involved in its irredentist flavor.

Ben-Gurion was the first to push for “Israel,” and managed to garner seven out of ten votes in favor of his suggestion from the provisional cabinet. Thus, writes Kramer, “the name ‘Israel’ came to the state by a process of elimination, [and] because there wasn’t time to come up with anything better. A majority voted for it—unenthusiastically.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: David Ben-Gurion, Israeli Declaration of Independence, Israeli history

Gaza’s Quiet Dissenters

Last year, the Dubai-based television channel Al-Arabiya, the Times of Israel, and several other media organizations worked together to conduct numerous interviews with residents of the Gaza Strip, taking great pains to protect their identities. The result is a video series titled Whispers in Gaza, which presents a picture of life under Hamas’s tyranny unlike anything that can be found in the press. Jeff Jacoby writes:

Through official intimidation or social pressure, Gazans may face intense pressure to show support for Hamas and its murderous policies. So when Hamas organizes gaudy street revels to celebrate a terrorist attack—like the fireworks and sweets it arranged after a gunman murdered seven Israelis outside a Jerusalem synagogue Friday night—it can be a challenge to remember that there are many Palestinians who don’t rejoice at the murder of innocent Jews.

In one [interview], “Fatima” describes the persecution endured by her brother, a humble vegetable seller, after he refused to pay protection money to Hamas. The police arrested him on a trumped-up drug charge and locked him in prison. “They beat him repeatedly to make him confess to things he had nothing to do with,” she says. Then they threatened to kill him. Eventually he fled the country, leaving behind a family devastated by his absence.

For those of us who detest Hamas no less than for those who defend it, it is powerful to hear the voices of Palestinians like “Layla,” who is sickened by the constant exaltation of war and “resistance” in the Palestinian media. “If you’re a Gazan citizen who opposes war and says, ‘I don’t want war,’ you’re branded a traitor,” she tells her interviewer. “It’s forbidden to say you don’t want war.” So people keep quiet, she explains, for fear of being tarred as disloyal.

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Read more at Boston Globe

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Palestinian dissidents, Palestinian public opinion