The New York Times allowed official Israel opinion to appear in its “Letter to the Editor” column this past week.  It contained a protest penned by Joel Lion, Spokesman and Consul for Media for the Consulate General of Israel in New York. Responding to a news story, Lion was upset that Israelis who move into homes legally purchased from Palestinians in Jerusalem are called “settlers” by the the newspaper of record wherein all the news fits, well, almost.

This use of "settlers" he asserts is a term of disparagement and he writes:

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"We do not disparage them as ‘settlers’, rather, we call them ‘residents’ and ‘neighbors’.”  
 
But then he adds this:

"Moreover, there are no settlers in Jerusalem, which is sovereign Israeli territory, just as there are no settlers in Tel Aviv and Haifa."
 
But Joel, if I may call you by your personal name, I have news for you - there are no settlers in Judea or Samaria either.

In defending Israel''s policy in Israel Media Consul Lion, perhaps inadvertently, disparages another 325,000 Jews, I among them.  In writing "there are no settlers in Jerusalem, which is sovereign Israeli territory", a Foreign Ministry official of Israel, the Jewish-Zionist state of the Jewish people, seems to be permitting Jews residing in Judea and Samaria, not currently part of sovereign Israel, to be labelled as "settlers".  Now I know that the Jewish people''s internationally recognized legal right to reside in, build in and reconsititute in Judea and Samaria its national home incorporated in the League of Nations Mandate included the phrase:

"The Administration of Palestine...shall encourage, in co-operation with the Jewish agency. referred to in Article 4, close settlement by Jews, on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes."

And so, "settlers" is not foreign to the Zionist enterprise.  Nevertheless, language use has changed and that term is one that is currently quite pejorative and Lion''s umbrage is testimony to that semantic reality.

I, myself, prefer the word "revenant". In a September 2002 op-ed in the Jerusalem Post, I explained my thinking:

"I think, though, that a more accurate noun perhaps has been found, one that is more relevant to the reality.  It is revenant.

According the American Heritage Dictionary, a revenant is one who returns after a lengthy absence.  A revenant can be any person who shows up after a long absence such as those who come back to their ancestral home after years of political exile.  This is the classic definition although Sir Walter Scott used it in his novel the Fair Maid, to denote a ghost.  It stems from the French “revenir,” which means simply “to return”. 

Jews lived in the hills of Judea and Samaria for over 3500 years, as nomads, as tribal chieftains and as kings, priests and prophets.  They were dispersed once and returned.  They were exiled and returned.  Despite foreign conquerors, they persisted in returning under the most difficult of political, religious and economic conditions.  Their civilization was created in the area as was their literature.  Their three most important cities are there.  The Torah and the New Testament use the terms Judea, Samaria and Gaza.  The Quran records God’s command that the Jews should live in the Promised Land.  Eighty years ago, the world recognized unabashedly and with no disagreement the right of Jews to reestablish their historic homeland as a political entity.  And following a brief 19 year long hiatus, Jews are once again living there.

This, then, may be the word we need to employ.
"

Sovereignty aside, Lion''s complaint that a suggestion that Jews could be condemned through use of pejorative terminology "is racist" applies equally to my status and those of my family, friends and neighbors who reside in territory which, for 3500 years and more, has been the Jewish homeland.

We are no strangers to this geography, neither are we foreigners in our own country.

Foreign Ministry official Lion should be remined of that and instructed to reorient his thinking or, at the least, his public pronouncements.

We have come home.



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