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Pejorative Words Will Not Give Peace a Chance

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Pejorative Words Will Not Give Peace a Chance – Colin Rubenstein (Brisbane Times-Australia)

(dailyalert.org, Jun. 13, 2014)

Australia’s Attorney-General George Brandis has been attacked for announcing that the Australian government will not refer to east Jerusalem as “occupied.” Yet the use of the pejorative term “occupied” prejudges the issues in dispute and amounts to taking the Palestinian side. By contrast, adopting more neutral terminology – such as calling the area “disputed” – is a more constructive approach because it acknowledges that the issues need to be negotiated.

East Jerusalem includes the old city of Jerusalem, with its ancient Jewish quarter and the holiest site in Judaism, the Western Wall. Israel captured it in its defensive 1967 Six-Day War, from Jordan, which had occupied it since 1948. Prior to that, there had been a substantial Jewish population there for thousands of years, but Jordanians had ethnically cleansed it of its entire Jewish population, destroyed all of the dozens of synagogues, and closed the holy places to all Jewish worshippers. Since Israel recaptured the area, people of all religions have had access to and control over their holy sites.


Legally, it is far from settled that any party has a stronger claim to the area than Israel. The term “occupation” is generally used in international law to denote the presence of one country in sovereign territory that belongs to another. But the West Bank and east Jerusalem are not sovereign “Palestinian territory” since no sovereign Palestinian state has ever existed there.

  • Dr. Colin Rubenstein is executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.
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