A green road sign reads “Jerusalem” in English, Urshalim in Arabic letters while the name (al-Quds) is besieged between brackets. Of course the Hebrew transcription is at the top. Other signs exclude the Arabic name for the holy city. For some, the translation is nothing but a way to address the visitors who speak these languages. For others, such signs speak volumes, that they reflect a political transliteration to legitimize the Israeli occupation.
The same applies to maps, where Palestine is often replaced by Israel. Some would argue that names do not bear such grand significations. But language like other aspects of the occupation has much influence over the course of the conflict. Accepting a map with Israel instead of Palestine means accepting the occupying Israeli regime as a state but not Palestine, it means standing with the oppressor and not the oppressed.
The designation of the land contributes to the effectiveness of the Israeli campaign to normalize the idea of occupation and erase the history of Palestinians. It is also reflective of international policies shaped to serve these goals.
Google Maps, for example, designates the name Israel to the occupied Palestine. If a user searches for Palestine, the application will point to the land of Palestine without referring to it as such. Instead, the map appears with Israel in bold while Gaza is separated by a virtual line and is labelled while the West Bank is merely demarcated. Jerusalem, meanwhile, is referred to as a Palestinian city under the “state of Israel.”
“In all Arab maps published in Jordan, Egypt, etc., the area west of the Jordan River is called Palestine, without any reference to Israel. Palestine is the term now used by those who want to deny the legitimate existence of Israel as a genuine nation among the family of nations,” writes Thomas McCall, the Senior Theologian of the Zola Levitt Ministry.
Zionists, as per usual, twist the truth. Such a statement turns the facts around to the advantage of the Israeli regime by making it sound as if it were legitimate and the Arabs’ unwillingness to acknowledge the designation of the Palestinian land as ‘Israel’ is something to be appalled of.
They believe that by repeating the word ‘Israel’ and making it a part of modern-day geography, the existence of the occupying regime will render legitimate in the eyes of the world. Already, Zionists claim that the Israeli regime is a legitimate state despite the fact that it stands on occupied land and the graves of Palestinians.
They even brand efforts to keep Palestine’s name as propaganda in their own anti-Palestine propaganda.
“Palestine, therefore, must now be considered a political propaganda term with massive anti-Israel implications. The world press uses the term to question the legitimacy of modern Israel. Christians also have used the term Palestine for centuries in referring to the Holy Land. In earlier times this might have been excused (although biblically questionable) because of its common usage. In light of the current propaganda war against Israel, however, Christians must now re-evaluate the term Palestine and consider whether it is biblically, theologically or prophetically accurate,” McCall claims.
Within the Israeli regime, the so-called two-state solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict is rejected because of this. Even though everyone knows that the “peace process” is nothing but a sham that aims to hush the international community, some parties refuse to accept the prospects of an independent Palestinian state, however dim they may be.
Not long ago, Education Minister Naftali Bennett attacked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and War Minister Avigdor Lieberman over talk about the two-state solution.
“The time has come to say clearly: The land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel,” Bennett said.
“In Hebrew, English, Russian and French; in summer and in winter; when there are elections and when there aren’t. Why? Because the world listens to every word we say.”
The Israelis are largely aware of the power of language, signs, and denotations. There is no denial that is also part of the conflict and what seems as a never-ending fight for not only a piece of holy land but also for history and the right to exist.
“We can’t be in favor of the land of Israel in Hebrew and establish a Palestinian state in English,” Bennett said. The same goes for those who are in favor of Palestine. One cannot be for Palestine and acknowledge a legitimate “Israel” because one cannot be with the oppressed and approve of the oppressor.
Many ask: What’s in a name? What difference does it make if we call it Israel or Palestine? The answer is: there is much to a name because it is a matter of identity, of acknowledging what is legitimate and what is not. So, next time you choose to refer to Palestine as Israel, think about which side of the conflict you’re on before you call the land by one of these names. But at the end of the day, the truth is the same in all languages.