A Primer on Israeli Doublespeak

It is indeed a great irony that George Orwell wrote 1984 in 1948, the same year Israel was created. For this nation, above all others, has proven itself most adept in the use and promulgation of doublespeak.

Defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “evasive, ambiguous, high-flown language intended to deceive or confuse,” Israeli governments have always relied on it to justify the expansionist nature of their state, excuse the confiscation of land and minimize the extent to which its inhabitants have been mistreated or abused.

A few examples:

The Security Fence

The monstrosity which Israel is constructing along the entire length of the West Bank is no more for security than it is a fence. The barrier, started in 2003 and now more than half complete, is scheduled to run over 450 miles and reach a height of 25 feet ­ four times longer than and twice as high as the former Berlin Wall. Composed of concrete and electrified wire, surrounded by trenches and mounted with strategically positioned sniper towers, calling it a “fence” is more than farcical.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled construction of the barrier illegal (a verdict, of course, ignored). Within the last week, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs issued a report indicating that it will “restrict access to workplaces, health, education, and to places of worship.” In addition, it fully recognized that Arab-majority East Jerusalem will be severed from the West Bank by its route. In another area, 50,000 Palestinians would be completely isolated and restricted to the zone between it and Israel resulting in their inability “to access critical services such as schools, clinics and shops in either Israel or the West Bank without special permits.”

More telling is where the barrier is being built. According to the UN report, 80% of it on West Bank land.

The “security fence” is thus an offensive structure rather than the defensive one it purports to be. It is just one illustration of how Israel attempts to obfuscate a reality ­ in this case, a very expensive land grab – through use of language.

Moderate Physical Pressure and Work Accidents

Israel was at one time the only country to officially sanction the use of torture, euphemistically referred to as “moderate physical pressure.” Lea Tsemel, a defense lawyer and founder of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) remarked, “Israel is the only Western country that openly uses torture. This is not some brute in the secret services beating up a prisoner. It’s done in the open. There is quiet legitimation by a high-ranking commission and government ministers” (New York Times, May 8, 1997).

The Sunday Times had already arrived at the same conclusion in June 1977: “Torture of Arab prisoners is so widespread and systematic that it cannot be dismissed as ‘rogue cops’ exceeding orders. It appears to be sanctioned as deliberate policy.”

Whenever a detainee died under torture, it was dismissed as an unfortunate “work accident.” It took a ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court in 1999 to ban the practice. Unfortunately they have now reversed themselves. A judgment issued this past June allows Shin Bet to use methods regarded by PCATI as torture when in a “ticking bomb” situation. With likely wide interpretation of this circumstance, it appears a green light has just been issued to reinstate the practice.

The Absent Present

This bizarre term was used describe those Palestinians who were not driven out of Palestine in 1948, but remained within what was to later become Israel. If they temporarily left their homes or were away from their land during the war, they were prevented from reclaiming it. Confiscation of the property of the “absent present” was then permitted (Haaretz, January 14, 1955).

The Abandoned Areas

“We take the land first and the law comes after.”

– Yehoshafat Palmon, Arab Affairs advisor to the mayor of Jerusalem (Guardian, April 26, 1972).

Whether to assuage the conscience of emigrating Jews or not, the Zionists who founded Israel passed a series of discriminatory laws with harmless and protective sounding titles explicitly for the purpose of expropriating inhabited Palestinian land. In some instances, these laws were made retroactive.

They carried such names as the Emergency Defense Regulations, the Abandoned Areas Ordinance, the Emergency Articles for the Exploitation of Uncultivated Lands, and as described above, the Absentee Property Law.

These laws all attempted to reinforce the myth peddled by Zionists depicting Palestine as “a land without a people.” Nonetheless, they were aptly described by the Jewish writer Moshe Keren as “wholesale robbery with a legal coating.”

Definition of Israeli doublespeak: the use of language to hide crimes of the state.

It would surely make Big Brother proud.

RANNIE AMIRI is an independent commentator on issues dealing with the Arab and Islamic worlds. He may be reached at: rbamiri@yahoo.com.


1. Zayid, Ismail. Zionism: The Myth and the Reality. American Trust Publications, Indianapolis, 1980.



More articles by:

Rannie Amiri is an independent commentator on Middle East affairs.

August 13, 2020
David Correia, Justin Bendell, and Ernesto Longa
Nine Mile Ride: Why Police Reform Always Results in More Police Violence, Not Less
Vijay Prashad
Why a Growing Force in Brazil Is Charging That President Jair Bolsonaro Has Committed Crimes Against Humanity
Brett Wilkins
Teaching Torture: The Death and Legacy of Dan Mitrione
Joseph Scalia III
Yellowstone Imperiled by Compromise
Binoy Kampmark
Don’t Stigmatise the Nuke! Opponents of the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty
Margot Rathke
The Stimulus Deal Should Include Free College
Thomas Knapp
America Doesn’t Have Real Presidential Debates, But It Should
George Ochenski
Time to Face – and Plan for – Our Very Different Future
Ted Rall
Joe Biden’s Vice Presidential Pick is … ZZZZZ
Purusottam Thakur
‘If We Don’t Work, Who’ll Produce the Harvest?’
Robert Dreyfuss
October Surprise: Will War with Iran Be Trump’s Election Eve Shocker?
Gary Leupp
The RCP, Fascism, and Chairman Bob’s Endorsement of Biden for President
James Haught
The Pandemic Disproves God
Robert Koehler
Election Theft and the Reluctant Democracy
August 12, 2020
Melvin Goodman
Trump’s War On Arms Control and Disarmament
P. Sainath
“We Didn’t Bleed Him Enough”: When Normal is the Problem
Riva Enteen
Kamala Harris? Really? Desperate Times, Desperate Measures
Kenneth Surin
The Decrepit UK Political System
Robert Hunziker
Freakish Arctic Fires Alarmingly Intensify
Ramzy Baroud
The Likud Conspiracy: Israel in the Throes of a Major Political Crisis
Sam Pizzigati
Within Health Care USA, Risk and Reward Have Never Been More Out of Kilter
John Perry
The US Contracts Out Its Regime Change Operation in Nicaragua
Binoy Kampmark
Selective Maritime Rules: The United States, Diego Garcia and International Law
Manuel García, Jr.
The Improbability of CO2 Removal From the Atmosphere
Khury Petersen-Smith
The Road to Portland: The Two Decades of ‘Homeland Security’
Raouf Halaby
Teaching Palestinian Children to Love Beethoven, Bizet, and Mozart is a Threat to a Depraved Israeli Society
Jeff Mackler
Which Way for Today’s Mass Radicalization? Capitalism’s Impending Catastrophe…or a Socialist Future
Tom Engelhardt
It Could Have Been Different
Stephen Cooper
Santa Davis and the “Stalag 17” Riddim
August 11, 2020
Richard D. Wolff
Why Capitalism is in Constant Conflict With Democracy
Paul Street
Defund Fascism, Blue and Orange
Richard C. Gross
Americans Scorned
Andrew Levine
Trump and Biden, Two Ignoble Minds Here O’erthrown
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Nationalism Has Led to the Increased Repression of Minorities
Sonali Kolhatkar
Trump’s Presidency is a Death Cult
Colin Todhunter
Pushing GMO Crops into India: Experts Debunk High-Level Claims of Bt Cotton Success
Valerie Croft
How Indigenous Peoples are Using Ancestral Organizing Practices to Fight Mining Corporations and Covid-19
David Rovics
Tear Gas Ted Has a Tantrum in Portland
Dean Baker
There is No Evidence That Generous Unemployment Benefits are Making It Difficult to Find Workers
Robert Fantina
War on Truth: How Kashmir Struggles for Freedom of Press
Dave Lindorff
Trump Launches Attack on Social Security and Medicare
Elizabeth Schmidt
COVID-19 Poses a Huge Threat to Stability in Africa
Parth M.N.
Coping With a Deadly Virus, a Social One, Too
Thomas Knapp
The “Election Interference” Fearmongers Think You’re Stupid
Binoy Kampmark
Mealy-Mouthed Universities: Academic Freedom and the Pavlou Problem Down Under