"But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought." — George Orwell, 1984.
What do you do if you do not like Israel, but have only one outlet for that dislike: expressing it in rhetoric and print?
Well, if you are a Palestinian, you can always come up with your own terminology -- one that sheds negative light on Israel and anything that is associated with it. This is precisely the tack Palestinians have taken over the past few decades, inventing their own terms and phrases when talking about Israel.
George Orwell, of course, saw through this behavior. For him, "language can also corrupt thought." The anti-Israel sentiments, delivered for decades by Palestinians, not only corrupt thought, but also incite people against Israel, by creating incendiary situations that are designed to burst into flames.
To be clear: this is not the familiar incitement in the Palestinian media that is discussed in international forums.
This is a different color. This incitement demonizes Israel and Jews. In this narrative, Israel is evil, as well as alien to the Middle East.
Orwell, in his wise remarks on language, did not mention the deceit of multiple tongues. But that deceit is deeply embedded in the Palestinian discourse on Israel.
Political affiliations somewhat determine which terminology is employed by Palestinians with reference to Israel. Yet across affiliations, Palestinians employ extremely negative terms to discuss Israel.
Until the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, the "moderate" Fatah faction, currently headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, referred to Israel, as its Palestinian brothers do today, as the "Zionist entity." That was before the PLO officially recognized Israel under the terms of the Oslo Accords. Back then, it was considered disgraceful and unacceptable to call Israel by its name, lest that be interpreted, God forbid, as recognition of Israel.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking in Arabic at a press conference broadcast December 24, 2014, used the word "Israel" in explaining that he refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. (Image source: Palestinian Media Watch)
More than two decades later, Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction and the Palestinian Authority (PA) still find it difficult to mention the name Israel.
Since its creation in 1994, the Palestinian Authority's official policy (in Arabic) has been to refer to Israel as "the Other Side." These were the instructions handed down to PA civil servants and security personnel, and they remain in effect today.
In those days, when the PA security forces were still conducting "joint patrols" with Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers in many parts of the West Bank, Palestinian policemen were banned from using the name Israel or IDF, especially when they were communicating with their colleagues and commanders through walkie-talkies. The names Israel and IDF were replaced with "the Other Side."
A senior Palestinian security official who was asked about this back then admitted that the orders came directly from the office of Yasser Arafat. "Yes, we signed an agreement that recognizes Israel, but most of our officers and policemen still have a real problem mentioning the name Israel," the officer said.
The instructions remain in effect even as the Palestinian Authority continues to conduct "security coordination" with Israel. Palestinian security and civilian officials who maintain daily contact with their Israeli counterparts regularly refrain from uttering the names Israel or IDF. In a sliver of good news, they no longer refer to Israel as the "Zionist Entity."
Yet the Palestinian media and representatives of the PA, in their statements (in Arabic), continue to use terminology that is degrading and even abusive when it comes to dealing with Israel.
Israel, for example, is often referred to as the "State of Occupation" and the Israeli Government is described as the "Government of Occupation."
Many Palestinians remain opposed to the use of the name Israel because they simply do not recognize its right to exist.
Palestinian writer Muhsen Saleh criticized some Arabs and Palestinians for sometimes using the name Israel in their speeches and writings:
"For many years, the Arabs and regimes and their media outlets refused to use the name 'Israel' when referring to the usurper entity that was established on large parts of the land of 1948 Palestine. They used to refer to it as the enemy, the Zionist entity or the Occupation, or at least they used to put the name Israel in quotes as a sign that they do not recognize it. Today, however, the name 'Israel' is being used without quotes and without embarrassment."
The prime minister of Israel, regardless of his identity or political affiliation, is often called the "Prime Minister of Occupation." Some prefer to use the term "Prime Minister of Tel Aviv."
The Israeli Defense Minister, again regardless of his identity or political affiliation, is often referred to as the "Minister of War." The implication: Israel is at constant war with the Palestinians and Arabs. Needless to say, the IDF is always referred to as the "Occupation Forces," whose only mission is to kill Palestinians, destroy their homes and turn their lives into misery.
Another sign of the difficulty many Palestinians find in using the name Israel can be found in their talk about the Arab citizens of Israel.
Palestinian officials and media outlets regularly refer to these citizens as "the Arabs of the Inside" -- implying that the "inside" is actually an internal part of "Palestine." Others refer to these citizens as "the Arabs of 1948" or the "Palestinians Inside the Green Line" or "the Arabs living inside the 1948 Occupied Territories."
And we still have not talked about the fact that many Palestinians refer to cities inside Israel proper as "occupied" cities and towns. Jaffa, Haifa, Acre, Tiberias, Ramle and Lod, for example, are often described in the Palestinian media as "Palestinian Cities" or "Occupied Cities." Jews living in these cities, as well as other parts of Israel, are sometimes referred to as "Settlers."
Jews visiting the Temple Mount, or Haram Al-Sharif, in Jerusalem are regularly described by Palestinian media outlets and officials as "Herds of Settlers" and "Settler Terrorist Gangs."
These are only a handful of examples of the language of the Palestinian narrative. Such language exposes the truth: that many Palestinians have still not come to terms with Israel's right to exist. For them, this not only about the "occupation" of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. The real "occupation," for them, began with the creation of Israel in 1948.
It is no secret that Palestinian leaders have failed to prepare their people for peace with Israel. Even worse, the terminology adopted by these leaders and a growing number of Palestinians is a clear sign that these leaders, through their rhetoric and media outlets, continue to promote a policy that not only delegitimizes Israel and depicts it as an evil state, but also denies its right to exist. Non-Arabic speakers may find this assertion baseless, because what they hear and read from Palestinian representatives in English does not reflect the messages being relayed to Palestinians in Arabic.
The international English-speaking audience would do well to get some accurate translations of what is being said about Israel in Arabic. It is the only way out of Palestinian Newspeak, although it might make Orwell roll over in his grave.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist, is based in Jerusalem.