Makdisi on the Language of Israel and Palestine

by Kevin Jon Heller

Saree Makdisi, a professor of comparative literature at UCLA and an old friend from the literature program at Duke, has a superb editorial in today’s Los Angeles Times about the media’s — and thus our — use of language concerning Israel and Palestine.  Here’s a taste:

In the U.S., discussion of Palestinian politicians and political movements often relies on a spectrum running from “extreme” to “moderate.” The latter sounds appealing; the former clearly applies to those who must be — must they not? — beyond the pale. But hardly anyone relying on such terms pauses to ask what they mean. According to whose standard are these manifestly subjective labels assigned?

Meanwhile, Israeli politicians are labeled according to an altogether different standard: They are “doves” or “hawks.” Unlike the terms reserved for Palestinians, there’s nothing inherently negative about either of those avian terms.

So why is no Palestinian leader referred to here as a “hawk”? Why are Israeli politicians rarely labeled “extremists”? Or, for that matter, “militants”?

There are countless other examples of these linguistic double standards. American media outlets routinely use the deracinating and deliberately obfuscating term “Israeli Arabs” to refer to the Palestinian citizens of Israel, despite the fact that they call themselves — and are — Palestinian.

Similarly, Israeli housing units built in the occupied territories in contravention of international law are always called “settlements” or even “neighborhoods” rather than what they are: “colonies.” That word may be harsh on the ears, but it’s far more accurate (“a body of people who settle in a new locality, forming a community subject to or connected with their parent state”).

These subtle distinctions make a huge difference.

Go read the whole thing.

http://opiniojuris.org/2009/06/21/makdisi-on-the-language-of-israel-and-palestine/

17 Responses

  1. Ah, you beat me to the punch: I was going to post something about this at Ratio Juris. There’s much that could be said here about the social psychological role of what Erich Fromm termed “social filters” in conjunction with the function of propaganda in the generation of, in this instance, what Engels originally termed and the Frankfurt School theorists and others on the Left would term “false consciousness.”

    By the way, Makdisi’s book, Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation (2008) is a must read, and his argument for a “one-state” solution (or at least why a ‘two-state’ solution is not now possible) to the conflict is worthy of serious consideration.

    [The article originally appeared in the June 19 edition of the paper.]

  2. On a number of points Makdisi is simply wrong.  Avigdor Lieberman is often described as “extremist” or “hardline” as is Netanyahu’s government.   Hamas is referred to as a militant organization because one of its foundational principles is a violent struggle to liberate Palestine.  Justifiably some of the pre-state Jewish groups were also described as being “militant.”  With regard to state sovereignty, there are maybe situations where the situation is gray.  See e.g. Stephen D. Krasner’s _Problematic Sovereignty_.  The situation in Kosovo has raised many questions regarding sovereignty and what are its limits, etc.  The Japanese constitution, written by American lawyers (how colonialist of them), has limits on the Japanese armed forces and the question is still being addressed sixty years after the end of WW II.  Another example is the situation between Peru and Ecuador. In 1998 a peace treaty was signed with some interesting mechanisms for defusing border disputes which some would label as an infringement on absolute state sovereignty.

  3. Michael,

    Makdisi is referring to the media in the U.S., so perhaps you might cite an example or two which might help us see how he is “simply wrong.”

    Individual Hamas politicians may in fact not be involved in any “militancy” whatsoever, one reason there is a separation in the organization between the military and political wings (as was the case, for instance, with the IRA).*

    Again, the mass media and political leaders in this country utterly failed to appreciate the fact that the Israeli government did not endorse any meaningful or workable conception of state sovereignty for the Palestinians. I take it you’ve not recently looked at maps of the Palestinian territories. It’s obfuscatory to invoke different conceptions of sovereignty as somehow rationalizing the Israeli position on this issue. Three of the states cited above possess meaningful state sovereignty and the Kosovo case hardly seems comparable to the situation in Palestine, as the latter is not about secession, etc.

    *In any case, Makdisi probably had in mind something like the double standard frequently applied by the media and politicians in this country when it comes to the military operations of Palestinians and Israelis thus, for example, nary a peep of outrage was heard in this country when the Israeli air force killed the Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh in his Gaza home with a one-ton aerial bomb that also killed 14 innocent people, including 8 sleeping children. [I know, you’ll now inform us that that was ‘collateral damage’ justified by jus in bello principles of necessity, proportionality and discrimination.]

  4. Patrick:

    Shehadeh was a military leader who, by his own estimation, was currently engaged in a war.  He should not have resided among civilians during active hostilities, and int’l law does explicitly provide that a legitimate military target may not insulate himself by residing among civilians.

    As to the distinction between hawks and extremists, extremists can be said to advocate the targeting of civilians with no independent military objective, while hawks advocate a military stance that, while aggressive, does maintain discrimination between civilian and military targets.  Furthermore, although there have in the past been Jewish Israeli extremist groups under this definition, they are outlawed in Israel today, while a Palestinian extremist group controls the Gaza Strip.

  5. Hamas members are fighting for collective self-determination for Palestinians and do not have the luxury of determining the conditions of their existence, as do the Israelis. International law is barbaric inasmuch as it said to allow what happened in this case. The Israelis had choices to make in this instance and it is certainly beyond belief to claim that the option which they chose was the only humanitarian one available.

    It was Israeli extremists who justified and carried out the recent assault and ariel bombardment of Gaza. As Henry Siegman has explained:

    Israel, not Hamas, violated the truce: Hamas undertook to stop firing rockets into Israel; in return, Israel was to ease its throttlehold on Gaza. In fact, during the truce, it tightened it further. This was confirmed not only by every neutral international observer and NGO on the scene but by Brigadier General (Res.) Shmuel Zakai, a former commander of the IDF’s Gaza Division. In an interview in Ha’aretz on 22 December, he accused Israel’s government of having made a ‘central error’ during the tahdiyeh, the six-month period of relative truce, by failing ‘to take advantage of the calm to improve, rather than markedly worsen, the economic plight of the Palestinians of the Strip . . . When you create a tahdiyeh, and the economic pressure on the Strip continues,’ General Zakai said, ‘it is obvious that Hamas will try to reach an improved tahdiyeh, and that their way to achieve this is resumed Qassam fire . . . You cannot just land blows, leave the Palestinians in Gaza in the economic distress they’re in, and expect that Hamas will just sit around and do nothing.’
    The truce, which began in June last year and was due for renewal in December, required both parties to refrain from violent action against the other. Hamas had to cease its rocket assaults and prevent the firing of rockets by other groups such as Islamic Jihad (even Israel’s intelligence agencies acknowledged this had been implemented with surprising effectiveness), and Israel had to put a stop to its targeted assassinations and military incursions. This understanding was seriously violated on 4 November, when the IDF entered Gaza and killed six members of Hamas. Hamas responded by launching Qassam rockets and Grad missiles. Even so, it offered to extend the truce, but only on condition that Israel ended its blockade. Israel refused. It could have met its obligation to protect its citizens by agreeing to ease the blockade, but it didn’t even try. It cannot be said that Israel launched its assault to protect its citizens from rockets. It did so to protect its right to continue the strangulation of Gaza’s population.
    Everyone seems to have forgotten that Hamas declared an end to suicide bombings and rocket fire when it decided to join the Palestinian political process, and largely stuck to it for more than a year. Bush publicly welcomed that decision, citing it as an example of the success of his campaign for democracy in the Middle East. (He had no other success to point to.) When Hamas unexpectedly won the election, Israel and the US immediately sought to delegitimise the result and embraced Mahmoud Abbas, the head of Fatah, who until then had been dismissed by Israel’s leaders as a ‘plucked chicken’. They armed and trained his security forces to overthrow Hamas; and when Hamas – brutally, to be sure – pre-empted this violent attempt to reverse the result of the first honest democratic election in the modern Middle East, Israel and the Bush administration imposed the blockade.
    Israel seeks to counter these indisputable facts by maintaining that in withdrawing Israeli settlements from Gaza in 2005, Ariel Sharon gave Hamas the chance to set out on the path to statehood, a chance it refused to take; instead, it transformed Gaza into a launching-pad for firing missiles at Israel’s civilian population. The charge is a lie twice over. First, for all its failings, Hamas brought to Gaza a level of law and order unknown in recent years, and did so without the large sums of money that donors showered on the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. It eliminated the violent gangs and warlords who terrorised Gaza under Fatah’s rule. Non-observant Muslims, Christians and other minorities have more religious freedom under Hamas rule than they would have in Saudi Arabia, for example, or under many other Arab regimes.
    The greater lie is that Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza was intended as a prelude to further withdrawals and a peace agreement. This is how Sharon’s senior adviser Dov Weisglass, who was also his chief negotiator with the Americans, described the withdrawal from Gaza, in an interview with Ha’aretz in August 2004:

    What I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements [i.e. the major settlement blocks on the West Bank] would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns . . . The significance [of the agreement with the US] is the freezing of the political process. And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and you prevent a discussion about the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package that is called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed from our agenda indefinitely. And all this with [President Bush’s] authority and permission . . . and the ratification of both houses of Congress.

    Do the Israelis and Americans think that Palestinians don’t read the Israeli papers, or that when they saw what was happening on the West Bank they couldn’t figure out for themselves what Sharon was up to?
    Israel’s government would like the world to believe that Hamas launched its Qassam rockets because that is what terrorists do and Hamas is a generic terrorist group. In fact, Hamas is no more a ‘terror organisation’ (Israel’s preferred term) than the Zionist movement was during its struggle for a Jewish homeland.

    It is Israeli extremists who are determined to destroy Hamas, for they
    believe that its leadership, unlike that of Fatah, cannot be intimidated into accepting a peace accord that establishes a Palestinian ‘state’ made up of territorially disconnected entities over which Israel would be able to retain permanent control. Control of the West Bank has been the unwavering objective of Israel’s military, intelligence and political elites since the end of the Six-Day War. They believe that Hamas would not permit such a cantonisation of Palestinian territory, no matter how long the occupation continues. They may be wrong about Abbas and his superannuated cohorts, but they are entirely right about Hamas.

    Or cf. David Bromwich on Israeli extremists:
    Like the suicide bombings of the Second Intifada, the rockets from Gaza were a choice of tactics of a spectacular vengefulness. The spectacle was greater than the damage: no Israeli had been killed by a rocket before the IDF launched their assault. Yet the idea of rockets falling induces terror, whereas the idea of an army invading a neighbouring territory has an official sound. The numbers of the dead – as of 15 January, more than 1000 Palestinians and fewer than 20 Israelis – tell a different story. Many people remain unmoved by the tremendous disproportion because they cannot get the image of rockets out of their heads.

    And an Israeli, Yitzhak Laor, speaking about the extremists among his compatriots:

    We’ve been here before. It’s a ritual. Every two or three years, our military mounts another bloody expedition. The enemy is always smaller, weaker; our military is always larger, technologically more sophisticated, prepared for full-scale war against a full-scale army. But Iran is too scary, and even the relatively small Hizbullah gave us a hard time. That leaves the Palestinians.

    Israel is engaged in a long war of annihilation against Palestinian society. The objective is to destroy the Palestinian nation and drive it back into pre-modern groupings based on the tribe, the clan and the enclave. This is the last phase of the Zionist colonial mission, culminating in inaccessible townships, camps, villages, districts, all of them to be walled or fenced off, and patrolled by a powerful army which, in the absence of a proper military objective, is really an over-equipped police force, with F16s, Apaches, tanks, artillery, commando units and hi-tech surveillance at its disposal.


    The extent of the cruelty, the lack of shame and the refusal of self-restraint are striking, both in anthropological terms and historically. The worldwide Jewish support for this vandal offensive makes one wonder if this isn’t the moment Zionism is taking over the Jewish people.


    But the real issue is that since 1991, and even more since the Oslo agreements in 1993, Israel has played on the idea that it really is trading land for peace, while the truth is very different. Israel has not given up the territories, but cantonised and blockaded them. The new strategy is to confine the Palestinians: they do not belong in our space, they are to remain out of sight, packed into their townships and camps, or swelling our prisons. This project now has the support of most of the Israeli press and academics.

    We are the masters. We work and travel. They can make their living by policing their own people. We drive on the highways. They must live across the hills. The hills are ours. So are the fences. We control the roads, and the checkpoints and the borders. We control their electricity, their water, their milk, their oil, their wheat and their gasoline. If they protest peacefully we fire tear gas at them. If they throw stones, we fire bullets. If they launch a rocket, we destroy a house and its inhabitants. If they launch a missile, we destroy families, neighbourhoods, streets, towns.

    Israel doesn’t want a Palestinian state alongside it. It is willing to prove this with hundreds of dead and thousands of disabled, in a single ‘operation’. The message is always the same: leave or remain in subjugation, under our military dictatorship. We are a democracy. We have decided democratically that you will live like dogs.

    And now Ilan Pappe on Israeli extremism:

    In 2004, the Israeli army began building a dummy Arab city in the Negev desert. It’s the size of a real city, with streets (all of them given names), mosques, public buildings and cars. Built at a cost of $45 million, this phantom city became a dummy Gaza in the winter of 2006, after Hizbullah fought Israel to a draw in the north, so that the IDF could prepare to fight a ‘better war’ against Hamas in the south.

    When the Israeli Chief of General Staff Dan Halutz visited the site after the Lebanon war, he told the press that soldiers ‘were preparing for the scenario that will unfold in the dense neighbourhood of Gaza City’. A week into the bombardment of Gaza, Ehud Barak attended a rehearsal for the ground war. Foreign television crews filmed him as he watched ground troops conquer the dummy city, storming the empty houses and no doubt killing the ‘terrorists’ hiding in them.

    ‘Gaza is the problem,’ Levy Eshkol, then prime minister
    of Israel, said in June 1967. ‘I was there in 1956 and saw venomous snakes walking in the street. We should settle some of them in the Sinai, and hopefully the others will immigrate.’ Eshkol was discussing the fate of the newly occupied territories: he and his cabinet wanted the Gaza Strip, but not the people living in it.


    Israelis often refer to Gaza as ‘Me’arat Nachashim’, a snake pit. Before the first intifada, when the Strip provided Tel Aviv with people to wash their dishes and clean their streets, Gazans were depicted more humanely. The ‘honeymoon’ ended during their first intifada, after a series of incidents in which a few of these employees stabbed their employers. The religious fervour that was said to have inspired these isolated attacks generated a wave of Islamophobic feeling in Israel, which led to the first enclosure of Gaza and the construction of an electric fence around it. Even after the 1993 Oslo Accords, Gaza remained sealed off from Israel, and was used merely as a pool of cheap labour; throughout the 1990s, ‘peace’ for Gaza meant its gradual transformation into a ghetto.

    In 2000, Doron Almog, then the chief of the southern command, began policing the boundaries of Gaza: ‘We established observation points equipped with the best technology and our troops were allowed to fire at anyone reaching the fence at a distance of six kilometres,’ he boasted, suggesting that a similar policy be adopted for the West Bank. In the last two years alone, a hundred Palestinians have been killed by soldiers merely for getting too close to the fences. From 2000 until the current war broke out, Israeli forces killed three thousand Palestinians (634 children among them) in Gaza.

    Between 1967 and 2005, Gaza’s land and water were plundered by Jewish settlers in Gush Katif at the expense of the local population. The price of peace and security for the Palestinians there was to give themselves up to imprisonment and colonisation. Since 2000, Gazans have chosen instead to resist in greater numbers and with greater force. It was not the kind of resistance the West approves of: it was Islamic and military. Its hallmark was the use of primitive Qassam rockets, which at first were fired mainly at the settlers in Katif. The presence of the settlers, however, made it hard for the Israeli army to retaliate with the brutality it uses against purely Palestinian targets. So the settlers were removed, not as part of a unilateral peace process as many argued at the time (to the point of suggesting that Ariel Sharon be awarded the Nobel peace prize), but rather to facilitate any subsequent military action against the Gaza Strip and to consolidate control of the West Bank.

    After the disengagement from Gaza, Hamas took over, first in democratic elections, then in a pre-emptive coup staged to avert an American-backed takeover by Fatah. Meanwhile, Israeli border guards continued to kill anyone who came too close, and an economic blockade was imposed on the Strip. Hamas retaliated by firing missiles at Sderot, giving Israel a pretext to use its air force, artillery and gunships. Israel claimed to be shooting at ‘the launching areas of the missiles’, but in practice this meant anywhere and everywhere in Gaza. The casualties were high: in 2007 alone three hundred people were killed in Gaza, dozens of them children.


    Israel justifies its conduct in Gaza as a part of the fight against terrorism, although it has itself violated every international law of war. Palestinians, it seems, can have no place inside historical Palestine unless they are willing to live without basic civil and human rights. They can be either second-class citizens inside the state of Israel, or inmates in the mega-prisons of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. If they resist they are likely to be imprisoned without trial, or killed. This is Israel’s message.

    Resistance in Palestine has always been based in villages and towns; where else could it come from? That is why Palestinian cities, towns and villages, dummy or real, have been depicted ever since the 1936 Arab revolt as ‘enemy bases’ in military plans and orders. Any retaliation or punitive action is bound to target civilians, among whom there may be a handful of people who are involved in active resistance against Israel. Haifa was treated as an enemy base in 1948, as was Jenin in 2002; now Beit Hanoun, Rafah and Gaza are regarded that way. When you have the firepower, and no moral inhibitions against massacring civilians, you get the situation we are now witnessing in Gaza.

    But it is not only in military discourse that Palestinians are dehumanised. A similar process is at work in Jewish civil society in Israel, and it explains the massive support there for the carnage in Gaza. Palestinians have been so dehumanised by Israeli Jews – whether politicians, soldiers or ordinary citizens – that killing them comes naturally, as did expelling them in 1948, or imprisoning them in the Occupied Territories. The current Western response indicates that its political leaders fail to see the direct connection between the Zionist dehumanisation of the Palestinians and Israel’s barbarous policies in Gaza.

    It is Israeli extremists who fail to recognize the de jure applicability of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 to the Palestinian territories. It is Israeli extremists who do not consider the “Separation Barrier” to be illegal under IHL. It is Israeli extremists who continue to support, build and occupy Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories. It is Israeli extremists who continue to rely on arbitrary and illegal inhumane measures like “deportation, forcible transfers and assigned residence” policies against Palestinians. It is Israeli extremists who have transformed Gaza into the world’s largest prison. It is Israeli extremists who continue to practice “collective punishment’ (e.g., housing demolitions). It is Israeli extremists who are practicing colonialism and apartheid in the Palestinian territories, as the findings of a recent report by The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) make clear, summarized here by Valentina Azarov of the International Law Observer:

    The HSRC commissioned an international team of scholars and practitioners of international public law from South Africa, the United Kingdom, Israel and the West Bank to conduct the study. The resulting 300-page draft, titled ‘Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid?: A re-assessment of Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law’, represents 15 months of research and constitutes an exhaustive review of Israel’s practices in the OPT according to definitions of colonialism and apartheid provided by international law. The project was suggested originally by the January 2007 report by eminent South African jurist John Dugard, in his capacity as Special Rapporteur to the United Nations Human Rights Council, when he indicated that Israel practices had assumed characteristics of colonialism and apartheid.
    Regarding colonialism, the team found that Israel’s policy and practices violate the prohibition on colonialism which the international community developed in the 1960s in response to the great decolonisation struggles in Africa and Asia. Israel’s policy is demonstrably to fragment the West Bank and annex part of it permanently to Israel, which is the hallmark of colonialism. Israel has appropriated land and water in the OPT, merged the Palestinian economy with Israel’s economy, and imposed a system of domination over Palestinians to ensure their subjugation to these measures. Through these measures, Israel has denied the indigenous population the right to self-determination and indicated clear intention to assume sovereignty over portions of its land and natural resources. Permanent annexation of territory in this fashion is the hallmark of colonialism.
    Regarding apartheid, the team found that Israel’s laws and policies in the OPT fit the definition of apartheid in the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. Israeli law conveys privileges to Jewish settlers and disadvantages Palestinians in the same territory on the basis of their respective identities, which function in this case as racialised identities in the sense provided by international law. Israel’s practices are corollary to five of the six ‘inhuman acts’ listed by the Convention. A policy of apartheid is especially indicated by Israel’s demarcation of geographic ‘reserves’ in the West Bank, to which Palestinian residence is confined and which Palestinians cannot leave without a permit. The system is very similar to the policy of ‘Grand Apartheid’ in apartheid South Africa, in which black South Africans were confined to black homelands delineated by the South African government, while white South Africans enjoyed freedom of movement and full civil rights in the rest of the country.
    The report concludes that the three pillars of apartheid in South Africa are all practiced by Israel in the OPT. In South Africa, the first pillar was to demarcate the population of South Africa into racial groups, and to accord superior rights, privileges and services to the white racial group. The second pillar was to segregate the population into different geographic areas, which were allocated by law to different racial groups, and restrict passage by members of any group into the area allocated to other groups. And the third pillar was “a matrix of draconian ‘security’ laws and policies that were employed to suppress any opposition to the regime and to reinforce the system of racial domination, by providing for administrative detention, torture, censorship, banning, and assassination.”
    The Report finds that Israeli practices in the OPT exhibit the same three ‘pillars’ of apartheid….

    Outlawed or not, Jewish Israeli extremism continues to flourish.

  6. “Avigdor Lieberman, head of the hard-line Yisrael Beiteinu Party”, NY Times 2/8/2007

    “…but also heighten the risk that his government would appear extremist“, NY Times 10/31/2002 (about Ariel Sharon)

    Headline NY Times 9/26/2008-“Radical Settlers Take on Israel”

    “The decision is one of a series of measures announced by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in response to a rise in violence by extremist Jewish settlers”, NY Times 11/3/2008

    Headline Fox News article, 3/24/2009-“Israel’s Labor Party Votes to Join Netanyahu Hard-line Government”

    “Israeli President Shimon Peres chose hard-line Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday to form a new Israeli government”, caption photo on-line from Washington Post 2/21/2009

    Enough of those examples. 

    Patrick, as for your description of Hamas:  “Hamas members are fighting for collective self-determination for Palestinians.”  According to their own charter, Hamas is fighting for the destruction of Israel, clear and simple.  Here is one little snippet in their own words.

    “[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion; the nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its faith, the movement educates its members to adhere to its principles and to raise the banner of Allah over their homeland as they fight their Jihad”

    I have been in the West Bank and Gaza so I know first-hand what is happening there.  Occupation is never pretty and it is often brutal.  Has Israel made mistakes?  Sure.  Has their conduct regarding civilians been different from America and its allies in recent wars?  I think that it would be difficult to show much difference.  Hundreds of civilians have been killed by American and allied forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan in support of troops and in attacks about specific militant targets.

    The word “colonies” may resonate negatively for Europeans with their colonial past, but my guess would be that most Americans remember their origins in thirteen colonies and that would probably cause them to think positively about West Bank settlements.

  7. As for my description of Hamas, it is far more accurate than quoting from its Charter: see my recent comments at Crooked Timber, nos. 52 and 57: http://crookedtimber.org/2009/06/18/utopophobia-and-other-freedom-beefs/comment-page-2/#comment-280070 

    The rest is too precious and I’ll let it speak for itself.

  8. Michael,

    I have a brief and final response with a link to a couple of comments I made at Crooked Timber so it may take some time to appear.

  9. Patrick, you probably realize there are many contrary views. Quoting left-wing commentators (Siegman, Laor, Peppe) is not very convincing, since what they do is interpret facts, not merely display them. Right-wing commentators do the same thing, of course.
    I’m just saying using either ones’ views does not help any argument.

  10. This is a pretty subjective exercise.  If one was to scan the internet for every adjective applied to Israel or Palestinian groups you would probably get the whole spectrum, plus a fair smattering of completely nonsensical ones.

    If you have a problem with the terms used in a given newspaper article, I’d suggest writing the ombudsman.

  11. Guy,

    It’s decidedly and decisively not about left- and right-wing commentators but about well-respected scholars and experts in the requisite fields. These are not the types of talking-head pundits one finds on FOX or even CNN, etc. In any case, the “facts” are not in such matters uanadorned, transparent, or ready-made. While we can and should distinguish between facts and values (and of course some of the latter are objective), these two domains frequently affect each other as both Hilary Putnam and Amartya Sen (a philosopher and economist respectively) have made clear.

    Even a simple statement, like “the cat on the mat” is not just a statement of fact or the utterance of a propositional truth, as Putnam explained in Reason, Truth and History (1981). As Putnam has also reminded us, it’s important to keep in mind the four methodological principles from the late A.E. Singer, Jr.:

    1. Knowledge of facts presupposes knowledge of theories.
    2. Knowledge of theories presupposes knowledge of facts.
    3. Knowledge of facts presupposes knowledge of values.
    4. Knowledge of values presupposes knowledge of facts.
    You may want to look at my bibliography for Islamic Studies at the Ratio Juris blog (you’ll easily find it with google search) for examples of such academic expertise (I won’t provide the link so as not to hold up posting).

  12. Kevin, you promised in the comments to your previous post to inquire as to whether HRW does any anti-Hamas fundraising among “Progressive Jews.”  What have been the results of this (rather credulous) inquiry?

  13. OK, putting aside one’s personal views, biases, and sympathies – and without articulating precisely what would be appropriate language to use – but surely it should be no surprise that different language is used about Israel and the Palestinians.

    The former is a legitimate thriving strong, wealthy nation-state that was one of the first members of the United Nations. The latter is the collective name given to a large group of Arab refugees from various conflicts.

    So complaints that nomenclature reserved for legitimate nation-states – such as ‘hawks’ and ‘doves’ should be used when discussing a group of stateless refugees, such as the Palestinians.

    The REAL issue here is why are not the Palestinians discussed in langauge appropriate to their status; refugees. That language would overwhelmingly be about resettlement and its cognates.

  14. Jock,

    Please indulge us by letting us know that you’ve read at least a couple of the following works:

    Abu-Lughod, Ibrahim. The Transformation of Palestine: Essays on the Origin and Development of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1971.

    Farsoun, Samih K. (with Christian E. Zacharia). Palestine and the Palestinians. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1997.

    Fischbach, Michael R. Records of Dispossession: Palestinian Refugee Property and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.

    Flapan, Simha. The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities. New York: Pantheon, 1987.

    Gorenberg, Gershom. The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977. New York: Times Books, 2006.

    Hadawi, Sami. Bitter Harvest: A Modern History of Palestine. New York: Olive Branch Press, 1989.

    Khalidi, Rashid. Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.

    Khalidi, Rashid. The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2006.

    Khalidi, Walid, ed. All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948. Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992.

    Kimmerling, Baruch. Zionism and Territory: The Socio-Territorial Dimensions of Zionist Politics. Berkeley, CA; University of California Press, 1983.

    Kimmerling, Baruch and Joel S. Migdal. The Palestinian People: A History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003. 

    Krämer, Gudrun. A History of Palestine: From the Ottoman Conquest to the Founding of the State of Israel. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008.

    Masalha, Nur. The Expulsion of Palestinians: The Concept of “Transfer” in Zionist Political Thought, 1882-1948. Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992.

    Morris, Benny. The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

     

    Masalha, Nur. A Land Without People: Israel, Transfer and the Palestinians. London: Faber and Faber, 1997.

    Masalha, Nur. The Politics of Denial: Israel and the Palestinian Refugee Problem. London: Pluto, 2003.

     
    Morris, Benny. Israel’s Border Wars, 1949-1956. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

    Morris, Benny. Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-1999. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999.

    Muslih, Muhammad Y. The Origins of Palestinian Nationalism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.

    Pappé, Ilan. Britain and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1948 1951. New York: Macmillan, 1988.

    Rodinson, Maxime. Israel: A Colonial-Settler State? New York: Anchor Foundation/Pathfinder, 1973.

    Rogan, Eugene L. and Avi Shlaim, eds. The War for Palestine: Rewriting the History of 1948. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

    Rose, John. The Myths of Zionism. London: Pluto Press, 2004.

    Said, Edward W. and Christopher Hitchens, eds. Blaming the Victims: Spurious Scholarship and the Palestinian Question. London: Verso, 1988.

     

    Pappé, Ilan. The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947 1951. London: I.B. Tauris, 1994.

    Pappé, Ilan. A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003 ed.

    Pappé, Ilan. The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. Oxford, UK: Oneworld, 2006.

     
    Shafir, Gershon. Land, Labor and the Origins of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, 1882-1914. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

    Shamir, Ronen. In the Colonies of Law: Colonialism, Zionism, and Law in Early Mandate Palestine. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

    Shlaim, Avi. The Politics of Partition: King Abdullah, the Zionists and Palestine, 1921-1951. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1990.

    Smith, Charles D. Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004 ed.

    Tessler, Mark. A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2009 ed.

    Wheatcroft, Geoffrey. The Controversy of Zion: Jewish Nationalism, the Jewish State, and the Unresolved Jewish Dilemma. New York: Perseus, 1996.

    Palestinians residing in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the state of Israel are refugees? Who were the Zionists? What does Jewish immigration mean? Have you been drinking?
     

  15. I meant to say “All Palestinians residing…?”

  16. I know you can come up with exceptions, but I think hawk and dove speak to an entity in control of the state or competing for control of the state, while extremist or moderate refer to entities without control of the state.  E.g., I see a lot of hawk and dove to describe democrats, I see a lot of moderate and extremist to describe religious figures.

    BTW, I would like to know what the result of Professor Heller’s inquiry to HRW re: his last Israel post.

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