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A Glossary of Dispossession: Hiding Behind Words
by Paul de Rooij    Counter Punch
Entered into the database on Tuesday, January 03rd, 2006 @ 13:43:54 MST


Untitled Document

During 2005 the Israelis and most main media trumpeted the "disengagement" from Gaza, and claimed that bold steps had been taken to resolve the conflict. Despite these claims, the reality is that more Palestinian land has been stolen, many have been dispossessed, and ethnic cleansing has been exacerbated especially in Jerusalem. Meanwhile Israelis are orchestrating a propaganda campaign to hide this latest sordid chapter of dispossession. The main feature of this campaign is its invisibility: Israel and its media surrogates are effectively diverting attention from what is happening on the ground. There are virtually no reports about the progress of the construction of the wall and the effect it is having on those caught in its path. Furthermore, it is evident that events have been stage-managed and over hyped to divert media attention elsewhere, e.g., the hoopla surrounding the eviction of the settlers in Gaza [1]. The third feature is the adoption of propaganda-tainted words; these are a subtle means of altering the perception of the Palestinian condition and the nature of Israeli actions -- and these are the focus of this article.

Words are very important. Words frame issues, palliate, mollify, exculpate or even hide sordid acts. Words like "disengagement", "viable state", "barrier or fence", etc., alter our understanding of the Palestinian condition under the unrelenting ethnic cleansing that has been the norm during the past decades. Invariably western media and its coterie of "analysts" use propaganda-tainted words when referring to Israeli actions and the Palestinian condition. The list below analyses a few of the prevalent words that hide or exculpate the dispossession of millions [2].

Abused terms or curious new terminology
(alphabetic order)
American arbitration "Honest broker" -- all over again

The Israelis refuse to engage in any negotiations with the Palestinians; all the "disengagement" measures were imposed unilaterally. However, the semblance of negotiations is necessary and the US has adopted the role of arbitrator. The US seeks to create the appearance that negotiations are taking place even though the Israelis refuse to have face-to-face talks. The US has taken on this role despite the fact that it funds Israel to the tune of billions of dollars, shields them diplomatically from international censure, and so on. Usually a mediator is a neutral party without a conflict of interest. Never mind, for propaganda purposes the US still can be called "honest broker" or "arbitrator".

Apartheid lights Traffic lights favoring Jews

"... a B'Tselem researcher from the Shuafat refugee camp, cites the existence of a relatively new term in the lexicon of discrimination in the eastern part of the capital, "Apartheid traffic lights." There are almost no traffic lights in the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem. Stoplights exist mainly in those rare locations where there is Jewish traffic. In these cases, for example the stoplights north of the French Hill intersection, the time allotted to Arab traffic from the direction of Shuafat is much less than the time allotted to cars coming from the Jewish neighborhood. As a result, during many hours of the day there are long lines of vehicles waiting at the intersection on the "Arab" roads" [3].

Concessions Desire for a goodwill response to Israeli unilaterally imposed measures

In mid-2005, when the Israelis unilaterally imposed measures in what came to be known as the disengagement, the Israelis and their apologists expressed a desire for Palestinian "concessions" in response to Israeli "goodwill". Their assumption is that Israeli actions are permeated with goodwill towards the Palestinians -- surely the first case of ethnic cleansers demonstrating goodwill towards their victims.

There are numerous counter-examples demonstrating sheer Israeli mean-spiritedness towards Palestinians. It is instructive to read about the recent negotiations surrounding the border crossings between Gaza and Egypt, or the transport link between Gaza and the West Bank. In Gideon Levy's words: "Anyone reviewing these press accounts will discover the main components characterizing Israel's behavior toward the Palestinians -- the evasiveness, the lack of a modicum of goodwill and the failure to honor agreements" [4].

Conflict Management Suppressing the resistance; alternative to peace

Israel is imposing a "solution" on the Palestinians, and this is called the "disengagement". Since there are no negotiations, there is no reason why the Palestinians should accept the outcome and some may decide to pursue the armed struggle. "Conflict management" talks are discussions with Palestinian collaborators to suppress the armed resistance. (q.v. peace)

Controversial Illegal

Mainstream journalists are incapable of suggesting that building colonial settlements is illegal. The euphemism of choice is "controversial". Of course, later on they will suggest that it is "not reasonable" to remove the colonial settlement -- it was merely controversial, not illegal or unethical [5]. (q.v. it is not reasonable)

Disengagement Occupation by other means and an intensification of ethnic cleansing

The so-called disengagement was the imposition of a series of unilateral measures that led to the redeployment of Israeli forces in Gaza, limited removal of the settlement colonies, and an acceleration of the dispossession and ethnic cleansing in the West Bank and Jerusalem. While the propagandists sought to emphasize the pullout from Gaza, it is clear that they sought to hide the sordid developments in the West Bank, or the implications for the Gazan population of the Israeli control from the perimeter of the enclave.

Ethnic thinning Retail ethnic cleansing

Jerusalem city officials recently revealed a new master plan for the city:

"The plan involves thinning out the population in all quarters of the Old City, except the only one restored so far -- the Jewish Quarter -- as a means of slowing down the rapid population growth" [6].

Internal security Repression on the Palestinian reservations

The only role accorded by the Israelis to Palestinian Authority is for "internal security", i.e., repressing its own people. Israel would dearly like to see the PA repress all the armed groups, and "dismantle the terrorist infrastructure."

Israel Proper Conceded theft (proper theft)

"Israel proper" is a propaganda term for Israeli land over which there cannot be negotiations -- this land was stolen, but now it should be considered to be "Israeli" without referring to its dubious origins. All of Israel was established on land stolen from the native Palestinian population, and the implication of "proper" is that the land has now been granted to Israel by whoever uses this term. The implication also is that one shouldn't discuss the 1948 ethnic cleansing and the mass dispossession of the native population. The fact that this term concedes most of the land stolen in 1948 is part of the problem: it views the conflict only in terms of the 1967 conquest to the exclusion of the land and rights of the Palestinian refugees and those who managed to remain in what is now Israel.

Furthermore, since Israel doesn't have defined borders it follows "Israel proper" has no defined borders either. The demarcation of UN resolution 181 should have been a border for Israel, but until recently the Green Line demarcated "Israel proper", and slowly the wall will be considered the border of Israel "proper"; that is, until Israel decides to annex yet more land to incorporate one of its colonies in the West Bank or to appropriate another section of Jerusalem. And, of course, one should not forget that "Israel proper" also includes land stolen from Syria in 1967. The meaning of "proper" is constantly expanding.

The "proper" designation seems to apply only to Israel, and there isn't another country with border or land disputes which is referred to in the same manner. For example, there isn't a term "Britain proper", although it has an illegitimate claim over some islands, Gibraltar... Or the US with a dubious claim over Guantanamo, Diego Garcia (although it was the British who ethnically cleansed the islands for the US), Puerto Rico...

It is not reasonable to expect the settlers to be removed... The thieves cannot be evicted

If removing 8,000 settlers from Gaza created such a ruckus, then "it is not reasonable" to expect to remove the settlers from the West Bank or East Jerusalem. Even though the colonial settlements are illegal under international law, and their construction was rightly seen as a means of precluding a peaceful negotiated settlement, the Israelis and their apologists aim to portray the settlements in the West Bank as permanent and beyond contention -- soon they will be considered part of "Israel proper".

Light killing Sanctioned murder

"Even before the current intifada, in Hebron in 1996, an Israeli settler fatally pistol-whipped 11-year-old Hilmi Shusha. An Israeli judge first acquitted the murderer, saying the child "died on his own as a result of emotional pressure." After numerous appeals and under pressure from the Supreme Court, which termed the act "light killing", the judge reconsidered and, as the Aqsa Intifada was raging, sentenced the killer to six months, community service and a fine of a few thousand dollars. The boy's father accused the court of issuing a "license to kill." Gideon Levy of Ha’aretz eloquently described the fine as the "end-of-the-season clearance price on children's lives," referring to the findings of B'tselem, Israel's leading human rights organization, which documented dozens of similar cases in which perpetrators were either acquitted or received a slap on the wrist." [7]

Look forward and find innovative solutions Ignore history and avoid references to justice

At a recent Harvard Univ. lecture, Shimon Peres stated that: "we should look forward and find innovative solutions." This was deemed to be such a sagely remark that it was used as a preface to the Dershowitz vs. Chomsky Harvard Univ. debate on 29 Nov. 2005.

What Peres is suggesting is that the history of the conflict be ignored, and that proposed solutions shouldn't address the injustice perpetrated in the past, i.e., ruling out restitution, compensation. The Rand Corporation's recent plans are "innovative solutions": railroads, tunnels, bridges, high tech checkpoints -- preferably paid for by the US or the EU. All of these don't address the need to rectify the injustice of the 1948 and 1967 phases of the ethnic cleansing and the incessant house demolitions. Restitution is necessary, but Peres will not consider it an "innovative solution".

Of course some history is more equal than others; when it comes to WWII, then one should never forget history, and always seek restitution for former Jewish property. When it comes to the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, then this chapter should be ignored -- one should only "look forward" -- and there should be no suggestion of restitution. However, it is up to the victims of a conflict to declare "let bygones be bygones" or to forsake their claim to restitution; it is certainly not up to Shimon Peres, a representative of the ethnic cleansers, to say so.

Managing resources Stealing resources

A few years ago Israeli water management experts met their Palestinian counterparts to agree on managing water resources. Some agreements were obtained, but later the Palestinians discovered that the Israelis would be pumping more water than agreed (Israelis installed a 40 inch pipe, far larger than that stipulated in the "agreements"). Palestinians also found that they would have to purchase most of their water from the Israeli water companies instead of pumping it themselves [8]. Furthermore, Palestinians found that future increases in water demand would have to be met from "new sources", i.e., buying it from Israeli desalination plants -- while at the same time Israelis will pump more water from the West Bank aquifer.

Natural gas fields off the coast of Gaza are "managed" by an Israeli company, and no revenue from this resource is forthcoming to the de jure owners of the resource. Under the Geneva conventions, an occupying power is not allowed to exploit natural resources belonging to the occupied territories unless the occupied population consents.

Moderate Moderate war criminal

Now that Ariel Sharon has decided to split away from the Likud party, commentators often state that his new party will be "centrist", and that Sharon should be viewed as a "moderate". A bit of context may be useful: Ariel Sharon is a mass criminal who should be tried in front of a Nuremberg-style tribunal. His sordid history has left a trail of blood and destruction. And now we should view him as a "moderate"? Yeah, he ain't Pol Pot.

Near East Nearer to you

AIPAC, the principal pro-Israeli political action committee in the US, created a pro-Israel think tank with this curious name: Washington Institute for Near East Policy. One wonders why it wasn't named the "W.I. for Israeli Affairs". Reason: Israel doesn't want to be seen as part of the Middle East, and prefers to be seen as part of the "near" East. That is, nearer to Europe.

Negotiations If it is yours, we negotiate

Israelis have an attitude that if there is a land or resource dispute, then they are willing to negotiate as long as they are putatively under control of the other party. However, when the land or resource is within "Israel proper" then no negotiations should be countenanced. (q.v. managing resources, and Israel proper)

Any right to which the Palestinians aspire is a bargaining chip. The right to travel, travel documents, communications between the West Bank and Gaza, allocation of fisheries, etc., all are bargaining chips used by Israel to get more concessions, especially on "security". Negotiations don't deal with anything substantial, but with basic rights that "westerners" would take for granted.

New anti-semitism Criticism of Israel

Consider that Israel is currently ethnically cleansing large areas of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It is implementing draconian measures against the remaining Palestinian population with the intent of forcing them to emigrate. Yet, when one criticizes these actions, or let alone condemns them, then one is accused in turn of "anti-semitism"! The claims of "new anti-semitism" are a smokescreen to deflect attention away from sordid Israeli deeds.

Outpost Demarcation for a new colony

"An Israeli structure (civilian or military) beyond the 1949 Armistice Line that did not get official recognition by the Israeli government. More often than not, these outposts have the tacit approval of the Israeli government and are the precursors to new colonies. Israeli governments usually delay their recognition of those outposts for political considerations." [9]


(NB: The Israeli pronunciation of this word is closer to "piss").

Yep, a dirty word

Arnon Soffer is one of Israel's Dr. Strangeloves, and the "father of the wall". Consider what he thinks of "peace":

Question: What will the end result of all this killing be?
Arnon Soffer: The Palestinians will be forced to realize that demography is no longer significant, because we're here and they're there. And then they will begin to ask for "conflict management" talks -- not that dirty word "peace." Peace is a word for believers, and I have no tolerance for believers -- neither those who wear yarmulkes nor those who pray to the God of peace [10].

Peace is indeed a dirty word when it is uttered without reference to justice. Justice is a more potent concept than peace, and maybe a superior slogan for those concerned with the Palestinian condition.

Population register Prison warden register book

Before the "disengagement" Israel controlled the population register, and all Palestinian births, deaths, marriages, and change of residence had to be reported to the Israeli authorities. After the so-called disengagement the Palestinian Authority in Gaza is still required to report these data despite the fact that it putatively has gained more independence [11].

Preserving the settlers' security Security for the ethnic cleansers...

"On the ground, the creation and maintenance of [the colonial settlement of] Ariel entailed and continues to entail untold hardships to the Palestinians who happen to live in the nearby town of Salfit and in numerous villages a long distance all around. Palestinian inhabitants are exposed to ongoing confiscation of their land so as to feed the land hunger of the ever-expanding Ariel settlement, and their daily life are subjected to increasingly stringent travel limitations in the name of 'preserving the settlers' security'." [12]

Respond Collective punishment

After each suicide bombing or violent action against Israelis there are incessant calls for a "response". The Israeli cabinet meets to determine which act of collective punishment will be implemented. The Israeli government uses the Palestinian population in the occupied territories as hostages, and inflicts collective punishment as a means of "deterrence". Israelis are always allowed to respond; this is the prerogative of the occupier. Palestinians are never allowed to respond, that would be referred to as "terrorism".

This is what Dr. Majeed Nassar, a doctor in Beit Sahour, has to say about this:

"The absolute security notion expresses Israel's narrow-minded ideology revealed through [...] its policy and its psychological structure: [...] The transformation of the notion of security for the Israeli citizen into an abhorrent racism that allows Israel to imprison an entire population by putting them under siege in an attempt to force the Palestinian resistance movement to surrender." [13]

Road map Road to nowhere

Dov Weisglass's (Ariel Sharon's right-hand man) statement that negotiations had been placed in formaldehyde and the subsequent US approval of the so-called "disengagement" process put a stake through the heart of the "road map" and rendered the Quartet arbitration group meaningless. Even though the "road map" was clearly dead, US State Dept. officials, the US president, and media commentators still suggest that Palestinians should follow the "road map". That is, Israel imposes unilateral measures, and yet some still suggest that the Palestinians should follow a defunct "road map".

Security barrier or fence The Wall

To give an impression that a journalist or a newspaper is "balanced" when reporting on the wall, the term "barrier" will be used. Pro-Israeli media will usually refer to it as a "fence".

Furthermore, "security" is the adjective often attached to the "barrier" term, e.g., Donald MacIntyre, The Independent journalist, always uses the joint term: "security barrier". However, the word security in this context prejudges the purpose of the wall, and it is an Israeli-centric interpretation of its purpose. In reality, the wall is a means to annex more land, create miserable conditions for the Palestinians, and to impose a boundary. Chomsky has described the wall as a weapon, and this is a more accurate assessment of its purpose [14].

Removal of settlements Partial measures

Israel is willing to give up some of its colonial settlements, but it isn't willing to give up "settlement blocks". This is a crucial distinction made by Prof. Jeff Halper, founder and director of ICAHD. Israel seeks to keep control over the settlement blocks, i.e., a far larger area [15].

It is important to note that one of the recommendations made by military strategists to smash the intifada was to: "carry out 'temporary' withdrawal of Israeli settlers from exposed and strategically low value isolated settlements..." [16].

Sovereignty Palestinian reservation management

Danny Rubenstein, a Ha’aretz correspondent, recently stated on a US radio program that the Palestinians should make the most of their newly acquired "sovereignty" granted to them under the disengagement plan. Consider that the Palestinian Authority has no control over its borders, resources, must still supply Israel with a detailed population register, and can't even issue travel documents...[17]

When General Amos Yaron, the architect of the wall, was asked if the construction of the wall was taking into account the environmental impact on the Eastern side of the wall (the Palestinian enclave), his answer was: "As a matter of fact, in reality we consider both sides as ours, we are the masters. For us there is no difference between the two sides" [18]. So much for "sovereignty".

Suicide bomber! The poor man's precision bomb
Transportation contiguity Bridges and tunnels between the quartered reservations

Israel has been busy building exclusive roads between the colonial settlements and the main Israeli population centers. These roads intentionally quarter the West Bank into isolated enclaves to preclude the formation of a Palestinian statelet on the West Bank. And now, to fulfill Bush's vision of a "viable" state, there must be "transportation contiguity." This refers to the bridges and tunnels that need to be built to connect the disjoint Palestinian enclaves.

It is impossible to create direct roads between the colonial settlements and the main Israeli cities, and at the same time create a coherent transportation network that will join the Palestinian population centers. The infrastructure created to demolish the potential of a Palestinian state cannot coexist with a coherent transportation infrastructure meant to unite it. Of course, Palestinians will not be allowed to use the roads built for the colonial settlements -- for the most part these roads are for Jews-only.

Viable state Palestinian reservations

Just like a "viable erection" doesn't portend the onset of high impact sex, a "viable state" doesn't indicate the formation of a sovereign state or a vibrant economy. Casting further doubt on what is meant by "a viable Palestinian state" is the fact that on several occasions an AIPAC audience cheered the term every time president Bush uttered it [19]. The term "viable state" is a codeword for a state bereft of sovereignty, a dependent economy, and subject to further Israeli whims, e.g., veto on policies, political candidates, control over resources, acquisition of armaments, etc. The main function of such a state is to become a dumping ground for the Palestinian population from areas Israel seeks to colonize.

Palestinians should consult the American Indians to determine how "viable" their reservations are.

Vision The vision thing

President Bush seldom refers to his "vision", and just like his father, derisively refers to it as the "vision thing". However in 2002, Bush stated that he had a "vision of a Palestinian state", and predicted that it would be established in 2005. What the transcript of his statement doesn't capture is Bush's composure when he uttered this statement -- chuckling before and after the statement. The establishment of the state was later delayed because of Palestinian violence (of course!) -- another vision postponed [20].

Paul de Rooij is a writer living in London. He can be reached at (NB: all emails with attachments will be automatically deleted.)
Paul de Rooij © 2005



[1] The construction of the wall is barely covered, and the consequences for those isolated by wall seem to be ignored. Some of the villages on the Western side (seam area) of the wall have been devastated by the wall's construction, yet a search of the internet reveals that their cases haven't been mentioned by the major media! It is also very likely that the avian-flu threat has been over hyped for similar reasons. Proof that the avian-flu coverage has been used for propaganda purposes is the fact that this issue will die down and disappear in short order. After a few weeks another "mega threat" will be conjured up, e.g., Iranian nukes, an asteroid on a collision course with the earth...

[2] For an earlier glossary of abused language see my Glossary of Occupation, 12 September 2002. There is a more detailed description of why it is important to understand the hidden meaning of words, and why one should be careful with the words one uses.

[3] Danny Rubinstein, "The battle for the capital", Ha'aretz, 31 March 2005. There are several other articles on the same topic; however this summarizes it rather well.

[4] Gideon Levy, "The safe passage: The history of a farce", Ha'aretz, 11 December 2005.

[5] See for example: Jonathan Marcus, "'Greater Jerusalem' takes shape", BBC Online, 25 March 2005.

[6] Nadav Shragai, "New Jerusalem master plan seeks to curb Old City overcrowding", Ha'aretz, 14 September 2004

[7] Omar Barghouti, "Executing Another Child in Rafah", CounterPunch, 25 October 2004.

[8] Lecture by a Palestinian water resources expert at SOAS October 2004.

[9] Glossary of terms compiled by ARIJ

[10] Arnon Soffer, interview with Ruthie Blum, " ONE on ONE: It's the demography, stupid", The Jerusalem Post, May. 20, 2004.

[11] It is instructive to read Amira Hass's articles about this issue. See her "Go study in Australia?", Ha'aretz, 14 December 2005.

[12] Uri Avnery, "You brought the boycott upon yourselves: Gush Shalom letter to Bar Ilan University", 26 April 2005.

[13] Dr. Majeed Nassar, "Israel's Strategy of Absolute Security", 25 February 2002 (later published in Arabic).

[14] Noam Chomsky, "A Wall as a Weapon", New York Times, 23 February 2004.

[15] Talk by Prof. Halper at SOAS, 2004.

[16] Anthony Cordesman, "Israel versus the Palestinians: The Second Intifada and Asymmetric Warfare", October 2000.

[17] Interviewed on YourCallRadio to comment on the "disengagement" plan. Unfortunately, the interview with Laura Flanders isn't available online anymore -- when the radio program changed name it also ceased archiving most of the older programs (a bit of a shame).

[18] The general was interviewed in Simone Bitton's film "The Wall"].

[19] This is the transcript of the talk in front of an AIPAC audience -- unfortunately, the audience laughter and enthusiastic cheering is not caught in the transcript. C-SPAN may still archive this speech, and it is worth listening to.

[20] This was the first reference to his "vision".