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Use and misuse of words


Zen & Understanding the Middle East

Sellers' Market
Will to Believe
Rules of Thumb

"The truth is out there "
Use & misuse of words
False information signals more false information
Technical whiz-bang
Understand the Context
Lies, More Lies, Damn Lies and Newspapers
Beware of Generalizations
Theology and scripture
Misleading Statistics
Smoke in your eyes: a picture can be worth a thousand lies
What is Missing?
Myth versus fact versus narrative
The past was not like the present; the future will be different

Fallacy Recognition in the Middle East

Fallacies and Arguments
Cause and Effect
Slippery Slope
Gambler's Fallacy
Ad Hominem
Appeal to Novelty
Appeal to Emotion
Appeal to Tradition
False Dilemma or Black and White Thinking
Special Pleading
The Spotlight Fallacy
Who is to Say?

Fallacy Handbook

Use and misuse of words

Words shape Middle East history. (see here ). Use of a word in a treaty or a description can create a fact, and that fact becomes a contention in the conflict. If someone writes "West Bank" they are possibly of a different political persuasion than someone who writes "Judea and Samaria." From the historical point of view, there was no West Bank before 1945 approximately, but maps of Israel and Palestine have shown "Judea" and "Samaria" ever since there were maps. In the hands of propagandists, "illegal" becomes synonymous with "bad." For example, the British prevented Jewish immigration to Palestine after 1939, and therefore most immigration was "illegal" as Palestinians often point out. However, the prohibition itself was "illegal" since it violates the terms of Mandate of the League of Nations. "Illegal" is not synonymous with "immoral." If the something is declared illegal, ask if the law has been applied equitably. The law treats rich and poor alike, - it forbids both to sleep on park benches.

Beginning in 1967, the Israeli government and the Israeli army controlled the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza. Israeli troops were recently withdrawn from Gaza. These territories are called "occupied" by some and "disputed" by others, depending on which side they support in the conflict, but the facts remain precisely the same. Occupations are not illegal under international law, and nobody has ruled or declared that Israeli occupation of these areas is illegal, yet many articles and activist groups write about the "illegal occupation."

A "right" sounds like a good thing. If someone talks about a "right guaranteed under international law" it sounds even better. But the law is not always clear, some rights take precedence over others, some rights are not applicable to given situations, and some "rights" are not rights at all. The droit du seigneur is a famous right and well established, also known as Jus primae noctis.

It is the right of ancient Roman nobles and medieval lords to spend the first night with brides of their subjects. The "right of return" of refugees claimed by Palestinians is not clearly established in international law. The right of self-determination takes precedence over it. "Right of return" has more power as a slogan than as a legal argument.

Slogans - If a story or narrative is studded with slogans and value-laden pejorative terms, you are looking at propaganda, not a source of facts. "Apartheid wall," "colonialists," "Zionazis," "Arab Jihadis" and other such terms are usually signs that the article or book was written to convince rather than enlighten.

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Understanding the Middle East I Understanding the Middle East II - Words about Words

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