Twisting Language to Defame Israel

November 4, 2021 | Stephen Flatow
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According to journalists, foreign-policy experts, and anti-Israel propagandists, one of the great crimes committed by the Jewish state involves the so-called “settlements” of the West Bank, although there is rarely any effort to explain how Jerusalem suburbs hurt Palestinians or obstruct peace negotiations. Stephen Flatow presents a case study in how the media make innocuous construction projects seem like vicious land grabs, using a recent New York Times article about the government’s approval of construction of housing for some 3,000 families:

[B]uilding some apartments within [West Bank] towns doesn’t sound too ominous. So Patrick Kingsley, the Jerusalem bureau chief of the New York Times, came up with a new, nonsensical term that makes apartments sound much more menacing than they really are: “settlement units.”

“Settlement units” is a rhetorical trick. . . . It’s a way of trying to make Israel look bad when the facts alone won’t accomplish that objective. It’s also a way of trying to energize Israel’s critics so they will immediately launch their own propaganda blasts. And sure enough, the same day that the Times published Kingsley’s huge article about “settlement units,” [the soi-disant “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobbying group] J Street issued a press release denouncing Israel for its “plans to advance thousands of new settlement units throughout the West Bank.”

J Street also trotted out an additional rhetorical device, one it’s used before: it characterized the Israeli decision as “settlement expansion.” From that deceptive term, one would think that the settlements are spreading out further and further. Which is exactly what J Street wants the public to think—that those evil settlements are like a cancerous tumor, metastasizing and squeezing the Palestinian Arabs out of the region.

J Street doesn’t want you to know that the new apartments and houses will be built on land that already belongs to the state of Israel or to those Jewish communities. No Arabs will be displaced. Nobody’s land is being stolen. But acknowledging those facts would make it harder for J Street to incite the public against Israel; hence, the use of tricky language. The U.S. State Department, which vehemently opposes Jews living in the heart of the ancestral Jewish homeland, is only too happy to play along.

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