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December 12, 2007

A Subtle Semantic Skew

A Dec. 12 Associated Press story about Jerusalem shows how history can be subtly skewed with just a few words — and the omission of some other words.

The AP article touched on the history of Israel and Jerusalem with the following sentence: "When the British pulled out in 1948, Israel declared statehood and seized control of the western part of Jerusalem, while Jordanian troops took over the eastern side of the city."

Those aggressive Israelis! Or so it seems in the absence of even one word about the context of Israel's declaration of statehood (e.g. that it was in line with UN General Assembly Resolution 181, as well as the League of Nations mandate calling for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people") and the absence of even one word about how Israel came to take over western Jerusalem (i.e. because the Arab world launched a war of destruction against the country). Relaying this context would certainly make the article much more fair and informative.

And just as the words omitted from the article skews the piece against Israel, so do the words included. Not only does the passage paint Israel as an aggressor in 1948 by suggestion Israel "seized" western Jerusalem for no apparent reason, but it uses much more innocuous language to describe the Jordanian conquest of Jerusalem. Israel "seized," but Jordan simply "took over." (How did they "take over" Jerusalem? Peacefully? By agreement? By right? Violently? Illegally?)

If anything, the language should be reversed, with the more aggressive word "seize" being applied to Jordan. After all, Jerusalem was part of the Palestine Mandate, of which Transjordan was no longer a part. Put another way, the Jordanians had absolutely no claim on the city, and certainly had no business invading, seizing and annexing part of it.

Posted by GI at December 12, 2007 11:43 AM


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