Some explanations of why I try to avoid certain popular expressions:
Anti-Semitism is a stupid word. ‘Semites’ are people whose languages belong to a certain linguistic grouping, and includes numerous ethnicities. The word ‘Anti-Semite’ was invented by a 19th-century Jew-hater, Wilhelm Marr, who wanted a scientific-sounding name for his Jew-hating club. It is responsible for the single stupidest argument in the history of politics (“Arabs can’t be anti-Semitic – they are Semites!”) For what it’s worth, Arabs can be Jew-haters. And so can Jews.
West Bank: Judea and Samaria (יהודה ושומרון) have been called that from biblical times. Even the UN used those names until after 1950, when the Kingdom of Jordan, having invaded these lands and ethnically cleansed them of Jews, illegally annexed them and started calling them the ‘West Bank’ to distinguish them from the East Bank, where the rest of Jordan was located. Only the UK and Pakistan recognized the annexation, and it was reversed on the ground in 1967. Why do we keep using this expression?
Pre-1967 borders: the cease-fire agreements signed between Israel and the Arab states in 1949 established these lines on the basis of the locations of the armies at the time of the cease-fire. The agreements indicated that they were in no way to be considered permanent ‘borders’ because neither side wanted them. UNSC Resolution 242, which the Arab states and Israel both accepted, calls for ‘secure and recognized boundaries’ to be established. The 1949 armistice lines are neither.
Palestine correctly applies only to the area of the British Mandate for Palestine, in effect from 1922 to 1948. The Romans, of course, invented the name after the Bar Kochba revolt of 135 CE, to recall the Philistines, biblical enemies of the Jews (who were long gone). It applied variously to parts of Syria and Judea. There was no such entity during the Ottoman period — the area that corresponds to today’s Israel was divided into several vilayets [provinces] of the Empire. Residents of the Mandate, both Jews and Arabs, were called Palestinians. There was a newspaper published by Jews called the ‘Palestine Post’, and my wife has a burlap sack labeled “Palestine Button Company, Tel Aviv.” There is no such place as ‘Palestine’ today.
Palestinian people is a controversial expression. Some say that there is no such people, because most of the Arabs that populate the area between the Jordan and the Mediterranean are descendents of relatively recent migrants from various places, mainly Syria and Egypt, and there was never a unique ‘Palestinian’ language, polity or culture. PLO media claims that ‘Palestinians’ descended from ancient Canaanites or Philistines, but this is complete nonsense.
But I do think that today there is a Palestinian people, although I date its coalescence to the 20th century. It was created in opposition to Zionism by leaders like al Husseini, who used traditional Muslim Jew-hatred and racism to create a politics of hatred.
The real father of the Palestinian nation, though, was Yasser Arafat, who promoted a false history (both ancient and recent), and after he was given power over the Arabs of the territories in 1993, introduced systematic indoctrination into all aspects of Palestinian life, especially the education of children. Today there is definitely a unique Palestinian culture, one of the ugliest on earth. Its most prominent manifestation is the glorification of the greatest terrorist butchers as the greatest Palestinian heroes.
Palestinian refugees are entirely different from all other refugees recognized by the UN in that their refugee status can be inherited, and no attempt may be made to resettle them anywhere (except Israel). True refugees from the 1948 war may have numbered as few as 320,000, and certainly no more than 650,000. Far fewer remain today, but the almost 5 million Arabs with ‘refugee status’ who are not treated like legitimate residents of most of the countries where they live, and are fed, clothed and schooled by the UN, should be called something else. How about ‘used’?
The problem with two-state solution is that it means entirely different things to Israelis and Arabs. To Israelis it is an agreement that results in an Arab state that will live peacefully alongside Israel and an end to the conflict with the Palestinians. To the Arabs it means the evacuation of Jews from Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem and the admission of ‘Palestinian refugees’ to Israel. It denotes a temporary situation before the unification of ‘Palestine’ under Arab rule. I’d prefer to just call it a train wreck.
Finally, can we give international law a rest? Few politicians know what it is, and there is no apolitical World Supreme Court that can decide, for example, whether the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to Israeli settlements (there are many highly competent legal scholars that say no, but the European Union and the BBC just keep saying that it does).