Jerusalem, Israel. One and Only

Judaism is the only religion which is tied to a specific land, the land of Israel.

Judaism created the very notion of “promised land,” not as an aspirational dream as commonly used today, but as an actual piece of land passed as an inheritance for generations.

Only Jews consider the Jewish Temple Mount in Jerusalem as their holiest location.

Jews are the only people who pray facing Jerusalem, regardless of where they are.

Only Jews are commanded to visit Jerusalem three times per year.

The Old City of Jerusalem including the Jewish Temple Mount during Passover

Jerusalem is the most mentioned city in the Hebrew bible.

Jerusalem has been the focal point of Judaism for over 3,000 years.

Israel is the only country whose national anthem is all about its capital city.

Jews have been the largest group of residents in Jerusalem continuously since the 1860’s. There is no other capital where Jews are the majority.

Israel is the only Jewish State.

Israel is also the only country:

  • which is not recognized by dozens of countries at the United Nations
  • whose capital city is not recognized by the majority of the members of the UN
  • which is singled out as a routine part of the UN’s Human Rights Council
  • where Jewish and non-Jewish residents in the eastern part of the capital are attributed different names of “settler” and “resident” in the non-Jewish world

Jerusalem and Israel are unique and special to Jews. The passion of its lovers and haters regarding the exceptional Jewish connection to both says more about their overall attitudes towards Jews than the locations themselves.


Related First One Through articles:

The UN on the Status of Jerusalem

The Green Line Through Jerusalem

The Remarkable Tel Jerusalem

The Jews of Jerusalem In Situ

Ending Apartheid in Jerusalem

I call BS: You Never Recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

750 Years of Continuous Jewish Jerusalem

Here in United Jerusalem’s Jubilee Year

Palestinians agree that Israel rules all of Jerusalem, but the World Treats the City as Divided

The Arguments over Jerusalem

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The anthem of Israel is Jerusalem

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Names and Narrative: “Palestinians” versus Palestinian Arabs / Israeli Arabs

History and politics can sometimes be analyzed on the usage of language as much as policy. The Names and Narrative series reviews how language oftentimes changes the nature of the narrative in the Israel-Arab conflict.

Nouns and the Range of Adjectives

An important component in considering language is the distinction between nouns and adjectives.  A noun is the key element of English sentences.  The noun is the focus of language; the item that commits actions.  In comparison, an adjective is the modifier of the noun, that helps describe the noun more explicitly.

But not all adjectives are the same. In some cases, adjectives can become nouns themselves.

Consider a simple noun like “table.” Describing a “wooden table” would give more context to the table, differentiating it from other tables like a glass table.  As such, “wooden” would be an adjective.  However, it is an adjective that is factual and embedded in the noun “wooden table.”  The two words cannot be separated – the table is, and always will be, made of wood.  I call this an “embedded adjective.”

Compare this to other adjectives for the table.  The table may be a “painted wooden table,” or “a rectangular wooden table.”  In these examples, “painted” and “rectangular” are also adjectives that describe the wooden table.  But these adjectives are not forever tied to the table.  The table could be stripped, and become unpainted.  It could be cut and become a square.  These adjectives are therefore not embedded in the noun, but a semi-permanent description of the noun.

There are also adjectives that are based on a relative position. Consider a “long table” or a “high table.”  A table could be viewed as long or high only relative to something else.  Describing a table in such fashion brings a person’s vantage point into the description.  These are “relative adjectives.”

Lastly there are adjectives that relay a person’s preferences. A “pretty table” conveys the author’s own sense of beauty.  The table itself is not inherently pretty- it is simply an opinion of a single person.  This “subjective adjective” is the polar opposite of an embedded adjective.

Consider the use of adjectives – embedded, relative and subjective – as they relate to the Israeli-Arab conflict in a single expression: Palestinian Arabs.

From Many Palestinians to Exclusively Palestinian (Arabs)

The Holy Land was renamed “Palestine” roughly 2000 years ago by the Romans who defeated the Jewish kingdom. The name stuck even when the Romans departed hundreds of years later.  Arabs from the Arabian Peninsula took over the region when they came as part of the Muslim invasion in the 7th century.  The Ottomans (Muslims, but not Arabs) also kept the name Palestine when they controlled the region as part of their empire for 400 years which ended at World War I.

There were many people that lived in the region during this time. They referred to themselves as Palestinian Arabs or Palestinian Jews or Palestinian Christians.  There was no consideration that “Palestinian” meant only one particular type of person, and “Palestinian” was a subjective adjective (people used it for themselves) and relative adjective (they lived in Palestine and not somewhere else).

That changed during the 20th century.

As world powers that defeated the Ottoman Empire considered breaking the empire into distinct countries (which were to become countries known today as Iraq, Syria and others), they looked to facilitate the reestablishment of the Jewish homeland in Palestine. They developed international laws in 1920 and 1922 known as the San Remo Agreement and the Mandate of Palestine, respectively, which sought to facilitate additional Jewish emigration to Palestine, an area which today covers Israel, Gaza, the “West Bank” and Jordan.

That did not make the local Arabs happy.

The British quickly divided Palestine into two parts, giving the area east of the Jordan River to the Hashemite family in what became the state of Transjordan. Arabs in remaining part of Palestine rioted against the Jews throughout the 1920s and 1930s.  By the end of the 1930s, the Arabs had effectively convinced the British who administered the Mandate of Palestine to stem the tide of Jewish emigration, and make entire sections of Palestine Jew-free (in edicts known as the White Papers).

When the British ended their administration of the Palestine Mandate in 1948, Jews declared an independent state of Israel. Five Arab countries invaded the nascent state, with a war that ended in 1949.  By war’s end, the area known as Palestine was split yet again, with the western half becoming Israel and the eastern half becoming the illegally annexed “West Bank” of TransJordan.  Gaza was taken over by Egypt.  Palestine was no more.

The Jordanians expelled all the Jews from their newly conquered territory.  They granted Jordanian citizenship to all Arabs living east of the 1949 Armistice Lines.  Their citizenship laws clearly and explicitly EXCLUDED Jews from obtaining Jordanian citizenship.

Some of the Arabs in the West Bank who were granted Jordanian citizenship were not happy with the Jordanian arrangement. They preferred their own autonomy and country and not to be part of Jordan.  As such, in 1964, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was created.  Its goal was a new Arab country in all land west of the Jordan River – in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel.  They sought to destroy Israel and replace it with a new state of Palestine.  As they did so, they created new definitions for Palestine and a Palestinian in the PLO Charter:

At first, the charter continued to use the historic formula of noun and adjective of “Palestinian Arab.” Each of the charters preambles began with “We, the Palestinian Arab people.”  However, the charter then went on to describe the land as inherently “Arab” with ties to the rest of the Arab world:

Palestine is an Arab homeland bound by strong national ties to the rest of the Arab Countries and which together form the large Arab homeland.” (Article 1)

That statement stripped the land from non-Arabs that lived and ruled in the territory for thousands of years. It turned the physical ground into “Arab land,” a subjective adjective. The Arabs think of the land as Arab.  However, that terminology became incorporated into the left-wing media’s dictionary as an embedded adjective, as if the land were really inherently Arab (further described in “Nicholas Kristof’s ‘Arab Land’.)

The PLO Charter continued to extend the argument that only Palestinian Arabs have rights to “Arab land”:

“The Palestinian Arab people has the legitimate right to its homeland and is an inseparable part of the Arab Nation. It shares the sufferings and aspirations of the Arab Nation and its struggle for freedom, sovereignty, progress and unity.” (Article 3)

After declaring that the land was inherently Arab and the Palestinian Arabs were the logical possessors of the Arab land, the charter took the next step of defining a “Palestinian” in a new manner:

The Palestinians are those Arab citizens who were living normally in Palestine up to 1947, whether they remained or were expelled. Every child who was born to a Palestinian parent after this date whether in Palestine or outside is a Palestinian.” (Article 6)

From this date, a new term of “Palestinian” was created to refer exclusively to Arabs.

The PLO did make a provision that some Jews could be “considered” Palestinian (as opposed to actually being Palestinian) in a further affront as stated in their modified 1968 PLO Charter:

“The Jews who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion will be considered Palestinians.” (Article 6)

Did the Palestinian Arabs claim that the “Zionist invasion” (of “Arab Land”!) began in the 1880s with the first aliyah? In 1917 with the Balfour Declaration? In 1948 with the declaration of Israeli independence? The Palestinian Arabs certainly didn’t think it was 3700 years ago when Jews moved into the region and formed several kingdoms. Of course they wouldn’t allow their descendants (the Jewish people) to be considered Palestinian too.

When the Jordanians (as well as Palestinian Arabs who were granted Jordanian citizenship) attacked Israel again in 1967 and lost the “West Bank” which they had illegally annexed, the Palestinian Arabs witnessed yet more of their “Arab land” fall under non-Arab control, and the war of land and language intensified.

Names and Narrative:
Palestinians versus Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Arabs

In the politics of language, the debate of using “Palestinians,” “Palestinian Arabs,” and “Israeli Arabs” has become a debate over narratives.

Adalah, an organization established in 1996 that seeks to dismantle the Jewish State, feels strongly about using the PLO’s definition of “Palestinian” and objects to calling them “Palestinian Arabs” or “Israeli Arabs” if they are citizens of Israel.

Consider Adalah’s opening in ther “Inequality Report” of what it considers the racist state of Israel:

Palestinian citizens of the state [of Israel] comprise 20% of the total population, numbering almost 1.2 million people. They remained in their homeland following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, becoming an involuntary minority.”

This formula of “Palestinian citizens of Israel,” rejects the notion of “Israeli Arab.” As such, Adalah seeks to deny the standard adjective-noun term, as much as they reject the historic usage of “Palestinian Arab” and “Palestinian Jew.”

This anti-Jewish State organization does this as a matter of principle.

Subjective adjectives can be parsed and separated. A “Palestinian Arab” both means that there are non-Arab Palestinians, and Arabs that are not Palestinians.

Land = People: As noted above, the PLO sought to declare that all Palestinians are Arabs.  “Palestinian” and “Arab” are inseparable terms, now morphed into the exclusively Arab “Palestinians.”  Stating that the land’s people are only Arab, denies both the history and rights of Jews in the land.

People = Land: Just as important to many anti-Zionists, if the two terms of “Palestinian” and “Arab” are used, they can be separated.  That suggests that the people can be separated from the land.  Does a Jordanian Arab that moves to Egypt stay a Jordanian Arab for generations, or do those descendants eventually become Egyptian?  The Palestinian Arabs produced a bizarre definition that demands that “Palestinians” – regardless of where they have lived for generations – be permanently referred to as Palestinians.

(This absurdity is compounded by the fact that more Arabs than Jews moved to the holy land under the British administration of 1922 to 1948. How do Iraqi Arabs that moved to Haifa in 1930 – and all of their descendants, regardless of their citizenship – become “Palestinians” forever, while a Jew who came from Russia at the same time becomes only a semi-permanent Israeli Jew, only while he lives there.)

Further, as there is no country called Palestine at this time, what does a “Palestinian citizen of Israel” mean? That Israel is simply in a de facto state of existence and the Arabs have citizenship of that entity, but that Israel is occupying the underlying true state of Palestine?  Or that only Palestinians are truly part of the fabric of the land itself?

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Israeli Arab farmers in the Galilee
(photo: First.One.Through)

Pro-Zionists should never use the term “Palestinians”

As detailed above, the pro-Israel community should always use the terms “Palestinian Arab” (or stateless Arabs until if/when a new state of Palestine is created), or “Israeli Arabs” and reject using “Palestinians” as it furthers a flawed and anti-Zionist narrative.

Using “Palestine” and “Palestinians”:

  • Rejects the 3700-year history of Jews in the holy land
  • Declares that the land is inherently “Arab”
  • Argues that the Jewish State is simply in a de facto existence, while the underlying Arab nature of the land is permanent
  • It facilitates removing the Jewish , Zionist “invaders” from EGL (east of the Green Line)/ West Bank in the near-term, and from Israel in the longer-term.

“Israeli Arab” and “Israeli Jew” are relative and subjective terms, similar to “Palestinian Arab.” Do not get caught in the trap of pretending that a “Palestinian” is an embedded term, in which the holy land is Arab, nor those Arabs are permanently Palestinian.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Names and Narrative: Palestinian Territories/ Israeli Territories

Names and Narrative: The West Bank / Judea and Samaria

Names and Narrative: Genocide / Intifada

Names and Narrative: CNN’s Temple Mount/ Al Aqsa Complex Inversion

New York Times Lies about the Gentleness of Zionism

Elie Wiesel on Words

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The Narrative that Prevents Peace in the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Everyone has a perspective.

Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor, was credited with saying “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.

Our opinions and perspectives are shaped by many things including our backgrounds and biases. When two people look at the same incident at the same time, it is quite possible that they take away very different stories. When two people do not see things first-hand, but hear histories second and third-hand, the narratives of each could appear to describe two different events and worlds.

Yet, those strange worlds can coexist and the parties with alternative truths can get along. The reason is not solely because some events in question are not in direct conflict, but because those events do not define each party.

Many histories remain in the past and do not touch the present. Other narratives reach out from history and impact decisions and views of people in the present. The deepest – and potentially most dangerous – narratives are those that are embedded in a person’s psyche, which can distort history, make people act against their own interests and mar the future.

Arab-Israeli “Neutral” Narratives

There are many narratives that contradict each other in the Middle East. Some are conflicting perspectives and some have alternative facts. Here is just a small sample of events from pivotal moments in 1948, 1967 and 2000 from an Arab perspective, followed by an Israeli view:

  • The creation of Israel in 1948 was a “Nakba” (catastrophe) // the founding of the state was a celebration
  • During the “Nakba”, 711,000 Palestinian Arabs were expelled by Israeli forces from their homes // Palestinian Arabs were encouraged to leave where they lived by their leaders, as the armies of five neighboring Arab states invaded Israel
  • Five Arab armies came into Palestine to defend the Palestinians from Israeli attacks // five Arab armies invaded Israel in an effort to destroy the nascent state
  • In 1967, Israel attacked Egypt, Syria and Jordan // Israel preemptively attacked Egypt and Syria after the parties made clear their intentions to attack and destroy Israel; Jordan then attacked Israel and Israel responded in self-defense
  • The West Bank has always been Palestinian land and cannot be settled by Israelis // Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”) were always home to Jews and mandated under international law to be a homeland for Jews in 1922; only under the Jordanian expulsion were Jews barred from the land. International laws related to taking land in a defensive war is not the same as taking land in an offensive war
  • In 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon went to the Al Aqsa Mosque in an attempt to claim control over Islam’s third holiest site, which brought about the Second Intifada // Sharon visited the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site during regular visiting hours; the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat launched the Second Intifada because he was unhappy with the “near-final” peace agreement with Israel

Consider the opposing narratives. Some can reside comfortably in history books, while others actively influence each party’s actions today.

abbas reuters
Acting-President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas
(photo: Reuters)

PAST: Some of these points may be found in either an Arab or Israeli history book. Palestinian textbooks may write about forced expulsions from Palestine during the “Nakba”, while Israeli textbooks may write about Palestinian Arabs being encouraged to leave their homes by their leadership while the armies from five supportive Arab countries attacked Israel in an effort to destroy the country and drive the Jews into the Mediterranean Sea. The arguments are not subtle differences of opinions, and each side holds onto their account of history with examples of stories of a family here, a village there, or quotes from Israeli and Palestinian leadership at that time to underscore their version of history.

Arguably, this is something for historians to debate and a thoughtful person would probably conclude that there are elements of truth to both sides. Whether it is 80/20% or 20/80% for the parties is beyond the point of this discussion. The thrust is that their narratives are stories of the past. While Arabs and Israelis will invariably bring up their point of view in a debate, it need not dictate the debates nor compromise the conversations of the future of the region. A “starting point” of the here-and-now can be established to find a solution for the future.

A second example is the conflict between Egypt and Israel. Each side’s view of who was the belligerent party in 1967 did not impede a path forward to a different future leading to a peace treaty.

PAST AND PRESENT: Some splits in narratives run throughout time. The past can consume the present and the versions of history touch daily dialogue.

Many Arabs argue that a state of Palestine has always existed, but has been occupied by various parties including Israelis, Jordanians, Egyptians and British. They carry placards to “Free Palestine” from current Israeli occupation. For their part, Israelis note that Palestine never existed as an independent country. It was never ruled by a local Palestinian Arab government. The parties are in negotiations to potentially “Create Palestine,” while dismissing the Arab narrative as factually incorrect. The competing narratives are in conflict, but needn’t prevent the parties from moving towards a future that is in alignment.

PRESENT: A last example of a “neutral” clash of each side’s take on history is current history. Israelis and Palestinian Arabs argue forcefully about who started the Gaza war in 2014 and which party is responsible for many civilian deaths. Politicians and people will argue their points forcefully and recommend actions to punish the other side and improve their own position. Ultimately, the war and responses will become part of the past. The parties could opt to move forward with plans for a future OR they could use the war as an excuse to undermine a future peace.

 Bibi -Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Arab-Israeli “Toxic” Narratives

The term “Toxic Narrative” is meant to describe the inability of the two sides to ever establish a true peace; it is not intended to suggest that a narrative is inherently evil.

PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE: The best example of competing viewpoints of the past that stretch into the future, is the Balfour Declaration (1917) and its incorporation into the San Remo conference (1920) and then the international law established by the League of Nations in the British Mandate of Palestine (1922). The two sides’ competing opinions impact the ability of the parties to establish peace for the future.

International Law: The Palestinian Arabs argue that the League of Nations had no right to declare a homeland for the Jews in Palestine. They contend such international decision was made without the approval of the local Arab population in Palestine, and as such, the law itself should be null and void. They further argue that the imposition of such mandate was an effort to colonialize Palestine. The Palestinian Arabs took many steps to halt the implementation of that mandate for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people…and facilitate Jewish immigration…and close settlement by Jews on the land.” The most significant actions were the riots of 1936-9 which enabled the Arabs to get the British to issue the 1939 “White Paper” which would limit the Jewish population in Palestine to one-third of the country, leaving an Arab majority population and facilitate Arab rule.

The Israeli perspective is that the League of Nations (precursor to the United Nations) made a law specifically recognizing the Jewish right to a national homeland in Palestine. They do not believe that such international law was illegal in 1922, and when the United Nations voted in 1947 to only grant a small portion of the Mandated land as a Jewish State, the Jews were disappointed but voted in favor of the proposal anyway.  The Arabs rejected the 1947 proposal, just as they rejected the 1922 Mandate.

Historical Connection: As part of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, the international community recognized the “historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine.” The history of the Jews in the land goes back 3700 years and the Jews were the only people to ever be self-governing in the land. They were also the only people to make Jerusalem its capital, which they did for the third time in 1950.

The history of the Jews has also been challenged by the Palestinian Arabs who continually deny Jewish history in the region and insist that Israelis are attempting to “Judaize” the country, and that Jewish presence in the region is a recent phenomenon. (They have even advanced that Jesus was a Palestinian, not a Jew, even though Arabs did not come to the holy land en masse until the Muslim invasions hundreds of years later).

In short, the two conflicting narratives relate to the RIGHTS of Jews to REestablish a Jewish majority in the land and be self-governing again.

The Palestinian contention is that the entire Zionist enterprise was illegal from the start: The call for Israel’s creation in 1922 was illegal; the declaration of the state in 1948 was illegal; and the assumption of additional land in 1967 was illegal. They view the entire region as “Arab land” and Jewish presence and rule is illegitimate and directly undermines the Arab rights in the land.

The Roadblock to Peace

The Future:  Some argue that despite such widely held opinion by Palestinian Arabs, acting-President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas has stated that he would recognize a state of Israel as part of a peace agreement. As such, the debate of narratives and facts is not truly “toxic” as the Arabs are willing to look past their past.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintains that is not so.

Netanyahu claims that a de facto recognition of Israel as a country that exists today will not prevent a war tomorrow.  A de facto peace treaty that does not recognize Israel’s RIGHT to exist is a flimsy veneer.  Over time the veneer will come off, and the underlying Palestinian Arab contention that Jews have no rights to live and rule on Arab land will lead to further war and bloodshed.  Without a break from the storyline that Jews have no history, no legal authority, nor basic rights to live and pray and be self-governing in Israel, there will never be peace.  No amount of land-for-peace swap could resolve an illegal Jewish claim until the entire state of Israel is under Arab rule.

The Palestinians have not been able to accept such a break with their narrative of the rights of Jews in Palestine.  They could not accept such vision of Jewish rights in 1922 and have been unable to accept it today, as Abbas has repeatedly stated he will never recognize Israel as a “Jewish State”.

As such, the seemingly innocuous request for Palestinians to recognize Israel as the Jewish State has potentially become a roadblock to final settlement talks. A statement that would have no practical impact (compared to tangible matters such as borders or “right of return”), has touched a key nerve in the Palestinian psyche.  They would rather forgo a brighter future than negate their narrative as the sole rightful owners of the land.


People typically speak of the Arab-Israeli conflict and refer to events at important time periods like 1948, 1967 and 2000.  While those events helped shape the present, they need not dictate the future.  Each side can maintain many narratives without destroying the prospects for peace.

The toxic narrative that prevents peace revolves around the rights of Jews to their historic homeland established in international law in 1922.  It is that narrative that must be addressed for the parties to arrive at a long-term peaceful future together.  It has been almost a century, and well past time for Arabs to recognize the legal and legitimate rights of Jews to live in the holy land and to be self-governing.


Related First One Through articles:

Names and Narrative: Palestinian Territories/ Israeli Territories

Names and Narrative: The West Bank / Judea and Samaria