Language and Lenses: “West Bank” versus “Judaea and Samaria”

The language that we use to discuss a conflict in some measure predetermines how we will view that conflict because it represents the lens.  This is obvious.  Thus it is equally obvious that when discussing the Arab-Israel conflict whether one uses the term “West Bank” or the terms “Judaea” and “Samaria” to refer to that region makes all the difference.

In a scathing review of Danny Danon’s polemic, Israel: The Will to PrevailPublishers Weekly claims that “Danon refuses to use the terms ‘West Bank’ or ‘settlement,’ preferring instead the ideologically loaded ‘Judaea and Samaria’…”

One must wonder how it is that the ancient and common terms for that part of the world are somehow “ideologically loaded” while the formulation “West Bank,” which was only invented within living memory by the Jordanians for the strict political purpose of erasing Jewish history on Jewish land, is not?   Judaea has been Judaea for at least 3,500 years.  Samaria has been Samaria for at least 3,500 years.  The “West Bank” came into usage about a quarter past last Tuesday and did so for the sole purpose of wiping out Jewish claims to the historical homeland of the Jewish people.

It is, of course, not the least bit surprising that the Arab world would adopt usage that serves their political purposes viz-a-viz the Arab-Israel conflict.  Nor is it surprising that their western allies, such as those on the progressive-left throughout Europe, the United States, and Australia, would adopt usage that is detrimental to the well-being of the Jewish state and, thus, the Jewish people.

What is surprising, however, is the swiftness within which the Jewish Left also adopted that language.

Virtually no one on the western Jewish Left refers to Judea and Samaria as Judea and Samaria.  The term “West Bank” has become almost universal and, from what I can tell, it is almost only the Jewish Right that uses the proper and long-standing names of those regions.  Even the non-Jewish Right tends to use “West Bank” because that terminology has taken hold of the discourse throughout the world, more generally.

Nonetheless, I find it puzzling that pro-Israel / pro-Jewish left-wing Zionists would use terminology specifically designed to erase thousands of years of Jewish history from the region that Jews originally came from.  What accounts for this weak-kneed compliance to a Judaeophobic discursive political imperative among so many Jews?  Why are we so quick, so eager, to adopt the politicized language of our enemies?

For 3,500 years our ancestors referred to Judaea and Samaria as Judaea and Samaria, with variants depending upon regional linguistic preferences.  If Jewish people care about the well-being and dignity of the Jews, more generally, and therefore of the Jewish state, would it not behoove them to use terminology that is at once more historically accurate and more in keeping with that well-being and dignity?

Even UN General Assembly Resolution 181, which acknowledged the Jewish state, uses the terms Judaea and Samaria, not the “West Bank,” in reference to those regions.

I understand, of course, that the ideological teams have long-since lined up and that the Jewish Left considers the “wrong” linguistic usage to indicate the kind of right-wing Zionism that they abhor and oppose even more than they abhor and oppose Hamas or Hezbollah.  What they need to understand, however, is that pissing away Jewish history in the international public arena is neither in the interest of the Jewish people, nor a necessary precondition for the possible creation of a Palestinian-Arab state on Jewish land.

And that really gets to the crux of the matter.  Judaea and Samaria have been Jewish land for about as long as China has been Chinese land and far, far longer than France has been the land of the French.  Jewish people, therefore, should absolutely not be in the business of erasing Jewish history in order to give a discursive and propagandistic advantage to the enemies of the Jewish people and, yet, this is precisely what the Jewish Left does when it robs the Jewish people of the Jewish names for Jewish land.

This does not mean that the Palestinian-Arabs may not have a country on some portion of that land, however.

If the Palestinian-Arabs are interested in a state for themselves in peace next to Israel, then I have no problem whatsoever with a second Muslim state on the historical homeland of the Jewish people.  The only condition, of course, should be that the Palestinian-Arabs cease inciting generation upon generation of genocidal hatred toward Jews and stop carrying out that genocidal intention via violence toward their Jewish neighbors.

Until the Arab-Muslim world gives up its Koranically-based hatred and disdain for the Jewish people, it will be impossible to have any faith that a “Palestinian” state on historically Jewish land will be anything other than a terrorist state devoted to the annihilation of the Jewish state, if not the Jewish people.

Whatever the eventual outcome of this long-standing Arab-Muslim war against the Jews of the Middle East, it should be obvious to Jewish people that denying our own history in that region cannot be a benefit to our people.

It is one thing to give away Jewish land, but it is another thing entirely to give away Jewish history.  The former, in my view, might be acceptable if the recipients were kindly disposed toward their Jewish neighbors in acceptance.

The latter is an abomination.


Michael Lumish is the editor of Israel Thrives.

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  1. Leon Poddebsky

    “The West Bank” is an ideologically loaded term and is used by the enemies of the Jewish People with the aim of committing or abetting the theft of Jewish land and Jewish history.
    The Arab Hashemite monarchy of Jordan , which illegally occupied the region,( Israeli forces not having been able in 1948 to prevent this theft, ) coined the term.
    Until Judea and Samaria were liberated by Israel in 1967 only Britain and Pakistan accepted the fait accompli of the Jordanian theft. (That tells us a lot about the morality of Britain, Pakistan and Jordan.)

    Curiously, however, Israeli and other Jews who use the term do so for any one of the following reasons:
    1. ignorance
    2. convenience; not wishing to swim against the tide.
    3. collaboration with the enemy.

    When Australian soldiers in World War One fought in Turkish occupied Eretz Yisrael, the Australians referred to JUDEA, SAMARIA and a myriad other JEWISH geographical place names.
    I refer readers to Australia’s OFFICIAL HISTORY of WORLD WAR ONE, for verification of these claims.

    The effrontery of our enemies who object to our use of Jewish nomenclature, which we have used for thousands of years, is a manifestation of a racist lust for the eradication of Jewish history and Jewish national territorial rights.

    • What are we to make of Jews who, through a quick and nimble turn of a phrase, wipe out 3,500 years of Jewish history on Jewish land?

      They use the terminology of our enemies to describe the conflict and then wonder how it is that their own venues have turned against them.