Circle of the rhetoric (Chasing one's tail)

Lisbeth S. Fried lizfried at
Thu Jul 18 12:25:00 EDT 2002

I agree with all this below, except that scholars who have
no trouble referring to the area of Iran when they mean Persia, or
 Iraq when they mean Babylon, somehow balk when they want
to refer to the area of land covered by the modern State of Israel.
Scholars who study the Roman period do not refer to Gaul
when they mean the area of land included in modern
France. People ought to apply the same logic, and use
the name of the modern state. It is Israel.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Yigal Levin [mailto:Yigal-Levin at]
> Sent: Thu, July 18, 2002 12:13 PM
> To: Biblical Hebrew
> Subject: Re: Circle of the rhetoric (Chasing one's tail)
> Before 1948 (C.E./A.D.), "Palestine", though anachronistic,
> was a perfectly
> legitimate "generic" geographical term, although all scholars
> realized that
> the country was only actually officially named "Palestina" by
> the Romans in
> the second century. (The same problem with using "Syria" for
> "Aram". What
> about calling the northern Levant "Amurru/Hatti?) Even
> Zionist Jews, who
> used "Eretz Yisrael" among themselves in Hebrew, had no
> problem with using
> "Palestine" in Western languages. The Jewish English-language
> newspaper
> that is today called the Jerusalem Post was originally known as the
> Palestine Post. The Jewish Agency, which was the main
> organizational and
> fundraising arm of the Zionist movement, was called "The
> Jewish Agency for
> Palestine". Jewish soldiers fighting the Nazis in the British
> army proudly
> called themselves "Palestinians". The Arabs of Palestine, on the other
> hand, resisted being called "Palestinians" and preferred to emphasize
> pan-Arab ideas and to be called "Syrians".
> Since 1948, however, when the Palestinian Jews became Israelis and the
> Arabs of Palestine became THE Palestinians, the semantics
> have changed. By
> preferring to use "Palestine", scholars, journalists and others
> inadvertently (or not) contribute to the popular conception
> of the Arabs
> being the indigenous natives, while the Jews/Israelis are foreign
> colonialist invaders. It is unfortunate that scholars, who
> claim to strive
> for objectivity, thus form a connection between the ancient
> world and a
> modern political struggle.
> I would suggest that "Palestine" be used only when referring
> to the country
> AFTER the 2nd century C.E., "Israel" when referring to the tribal
> confederation (or at least its literary manifestation!) and
> the (united and
> northern) kingdom, "Canaan" for the LB culture and maybe
> province. "Land of
> Israel" as an abstraction, fits the biblical texts but not historical
> reality. As far as a generic geographical term - "Southern
> Levant" is good
> but cumbersome. How about "Holy Land"? Or, for those who are
> uncomfortable
> with "Holy", how about just "The Land"?
> Yigal
> At 05:18 PM 7/18/2002 +0200, Ian Hutchesson wrote:
> >>> >>Perhaps you mean the land of ISRAEL here.
> >
> >>Then it was Canaan.
> >>However, Deutero-Isaiah referred to the God of Israel,
> >>and to the Land of Israel.
> >>If we're talking about Isaiah, and if we're talking about
> >>the *Biblical* writers, it should surely be called Israel.
> >>If you refer to particular areas, you could distinguish
> >>Judah and Samaria. If you refer to "Palestine" then you
> >>refer to the coastal areas, controlled by the Philistines
> >>during the 11th century.
> >>And if Lemche objects, he has not shown that Herodotus,
> >>writing in the 5th century, refers to more than the coast
> >>when he refers to Palestine. If you refer to the land under
> >>the Persians, you could refer to the province of Yehud,
> >>or the satrapy of Beyond the River. If under the Romans,
> >>you could refer to Coele-Syria (All or Greater Syria).
> >>However, if you refer to the *modern* state, then it is still
> >>Israel, it has not yet been partitioned.
> >
> >What is so often sought after and consistently missed
> >is a generic term such as that which we have for the
> >area between and adjacent to the Tigris and Euphrates
> >rivers, ie Mesopotamia. It is necessary to have such a
> >generic term so as to avoid assumptions based on
> >matters tangential to the archaeological and historical
> >pursuit.
> >
> >One can happily talk about Mesopotamia over a historical
> >period of at least 3500 years and one doesn't have to
> >pussy-foot over supersilious debates over the correct
> >flaming name. It is one of the most stupid situations
> >one is confronted with while trying to deal as
> >objectively as possible with the study of the
> >archaeology and history of the region between the Dead
> >Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.
> >
> >We so often do this two-step in names for the region
> >under investigation.
> >
> >If we can't simply use a term the individual prefers
> >and of course accept reciprocally those use by others,
> >can we opt for something purely descriptive, such as
> >Southern Levant? It seems to me to be devoid of the
> >sorts of assumptions that get bandied about.
> >
> >
> >Ian
> >
> >
> >
> >---
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> >
> Dr. Yigal Levin
> Dept. of Philosophy and Religion
> University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
> 615 McCallie Avenue
> Chattanooga TN 37403-2598
> U.S.A.
> ---
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