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Commentary. UNESCO called Israel an “occupying power,” and everyone bristled at the truth.

UNESCO’s accurate word choice infuriates the Israeli right

Words are important! So said Nanni Moretti in a cult scene of his memorable film, ratifying the statement with a resounding slap to a journalist guilty of speaking with a mediocre and inappropriate eloquence.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since the brilliant filmmaker’s heartfelt cry of pain. These days the perverse abuse of words has become a common practice that doesn’t evoke any suffered reactions. Recently, the Italian prime minister perverted the meaning of words yet again, by replacing the Italian word for “amnesty” with the less indecent sounding Anglicism “voluntary disclosure.”

The order in the speech and word choices can become especially tricky when it comes to Israel, the Israeli government, Israelis, Jews and so on. I was accused of being an “opponent” because I described the Israeli settlements in the West Bank as “colonies” instead of describing them with the neutral term “settlements.” Leaving the pro-Israel extremists aside, but also those who are not extremists — let’s call them the moderates of all persuasions — show an immediate aversion against the crude language of truth, when it is used in regard to Israel.

For these highly sensitive people, words which are acceptable when referring to any other occupier and colonialist country in the world become unacceptable when used to criticize the actions of the Israeli government.

This hypersensitivity has resulted in yet another pro-Israel crusade in the mainstream media and in the streets to denounce UNESCO’s anti-Semitism on its resolution about occupied Palestine.

In the full translation of paragraph 3 of the resolution, it reads: “Affirming the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions, also affirming that nothing in the current decision, which aims, inter alia, at the safeguarding of the cultural heritage of Palestine and the distinctive character of East Jerusalem, shall in any way affect the relevant Security Council and United Nations resolutions and decisions on the legal status of Palestine and Jerusalem…”

In the introduction, the resolution recognizes that Jerusalem and its walls are sacred to the three monotheistic religions and their believers: Jews, Muslims and Christians. Therefore, there was no reason to shout anti-Semitism, nor to accuse UNESCO of denying the Jewish link with those places. In fact it seems to me that the reaction of the pro-Israel extremists, no ifs, ands or buts, stems rather from the fact that in the following paragraphs the resolution refers repeatedly to Israel with the definition of “occupying power” and it denounces the violent nature of many actions in the territory.

Now, Israel is, like it or not, an occupying power and has been one for 50 years, according to U.N. resolutions, not according to the supporters of Palestinians. But be careful if you say it! You would immediately be accused of being anti-Zionist or anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic. Woe to UNESCO that dares to say that Israel is the occupying power.

Instead, the politicians of the Israeli government can shout from the rooftops that Jerusalem is the holy and undivided capital of the State of Israel in the absolute silence of their beautiful souls, and the leaders of religious parties can claim with impunity that all the land of the former Palestine protectorate belongs to the Jews, because it is part of their God-given earth.

The zealots who are part of the electorate of the ultra-reactionary right supporting Netanyahu can rant about destroying the mosques to build in their place the “Third Temple” and perform aggressive acts against Palestinians, and it is no scandal. Instead, it is a scandal that an UNESCO document does not recognize the right of Israeli authorities and fanatics of Israel to exercise their own will.

Maybe the confusion lies in the difference between the Jews and the Israeli government in office. The beautiful souls of democracy know that the two are different, but it causes them an irrepressible nuisance. Yet the problem of a clear distinction between Israelis and Jews is now coming to light.

A recent article on the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz signed by Chemi Shalev was titled: “Trump shows how right wingers can love Israel and hate the Jews.” (Some U.S. right-wing extremists despise progressive Jews with the same venom with which the Israeli right hates leftists Jews.)

This is the masterpiece built by nationalists and Israeli religious fanatics with the active collaboration of the pro-Zionist extremists and the benevolent condescension of some moderates who are friends of Israel regardless.

Thanks to them, the heirs of all kinds of anti-Semites can start hating the Jews again, and then… Then we’ll see.

The religious mass impact of this new ideology are the so-called Christian Zionists. There are millions, who belong to millenarian and Adventist evangelical churches. They support fundamentalist Zionism, claiming the right of Jews to possess all of the Promised Land, and long for a return of all Jews to Eretz Israel because, according to their prophecies, this will cause the second Coming of Jesus and Armageddon. And the Jews? Those who recognize the Christ will be saved. And the others? They will burn in the flames of hell! (The interpretation is mine).

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