There's Nothing Holy About the Holy Land

By Ray Hanania

January 28, 2016 6 min read

Israelis criticize much about how Arabs are against "normalization." It's proof, they claim, Arabs are "anti-Israel" and worse, "anti-Semitic," seeking Israel's destruction.

Israelis complain a lot about Arab rhetoric being inflammatory and use it as evidence to claim that Arabs oppose peace.

"Normalization" is the king of hatred. It represents a path to peace, but it's not just Arabs who are against it. Israelis oppose it too.

Israel is the master of anti-normalization. It blends the semantics of anti-normalization and transforms the innocent into terrorists.

I was reading about how Egypt canceled the public screening of an Israeli film called "The Band's Visit." The comedy is based on the fictional premise that Israel would invite an Egyptian band to perform in Petah Tikva in Northern Israel, a beautiful city where non-Jews are basically banned.

The Egyptian band members end up in another fictional Israeli city with a similar name, Beit Hatikvah (named after the Israeli national anthem) where non-Jews definitely would not be so welcomed.

Egypt is typical of the Arab world. It has many things that exist and don't exist. For example, Egypt has a peace treaty with Israel, more fiction than reality. Egypt also has "democracy" resulting from the Arab Spring, also more fiction than reality.

Israel is no better. If Egypt bans comedies about Egypt's lost in the Israeli desert (remember — it was the other way around in the Bible), the Israelis have bans of their own.

Israel's Cultural Minister banned from its schools Israeli author Dorit Rabinyan's fictional book about a Jewish-Arab love affair called "Gader Haya." It might give Jewish school kids the wrong idea.

Of course, Israeli schools don't just ban books — many also ban non-Jews.

The Israelis are masters of semantics and impose a very stringent anti-normalization vocabulary policy of their own.

For example, Israel controls 8 million Palestinians who live in the Gaza Strip. The Arabs call it an "embargo." The Israelis call it "freedom."

Israel "withdrew" from Gaza but controls and frequently stops the movement of food, medicine, building supplies, electricity, fuel and other things essential to life. Gaza is literally an outdoor prison managed by a brutal warden, Israel.

Palestinians have dug tunnels to sidestep Israel's embargo mainly to move items like food that Israel bans. Members of the Palestinian resistance have used some. Israel doesn't call resistance "resistance." "Resistance" is "terrorism," and the tunnels are "terror tunnels."

Which brings me to the rhetorical debate this week between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Ban (an ironic name) said Israel's occupation, including the beating and killing of Palestinian peace activists, was pushing many Palestinians to turn towards extremism and even violence.

The U.N. secretary general was addressing "the Palestinian Question," which Israelis don't consider as a question at all, and not even as an historical fact.

The U.N. official said that Israel's continued building of settlements that are "Jewish only" by the way, was "steadily chipping away the viability of a Palestinian state and the ability of Palestinian people to live in dignity."

"As oppressed peoples have demonstrated throughout the ages, it is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism," Ban said.

Netanyahu said Ban's comments where examples of anti-Israel rhetoric that encouraged "terrorism." A chorus of the Israeli left and right saying such talk only supported "the killing of Jews" joined him.

Not to mention how Israeli rhetoric contributes to the killing of non-Jews.

Arabs who criticize Israel are labeled as "terrorists" and can be jailed, fined or expelled from their lands and homes. Sometimes, like Ziad Abu Ein, they are even "killed," a term that is also disputed term when it applies to non-Jews.

On Dec. 10, 2014, Abu Ein was among Palestinian peace activists planting olive trees near the village of Turmusayya and Ramallah, two words Israelis wish didn't exist. They were brutally beaten by heavily armed "Israeli soldiers," another interesting phrase. Many Israeli soldiers are American citizens who serve Israel but don't serve in the U.S. military, a topic banned from the biased mainstream American news media.

It didn't happened in Israel, but in the "West Bank," which, like Gaza, Israel manages like an outdoor prison. It's Israeli anti-normalization is at its height.

Israel doesn't call the West Bank "occupied." It's "disputed." It doesn't call the West Bank "the West Bank." It uses the racist, anti-Arab term "Judea and Samaria" a statement that peace and Two-States have no future.

The joke in Israel's government is Netanyahu supports peace and Palestinian statehood in the "West Bank," just not in "Judea and Samaria."

Rather than help Palestinians plant olive trees on their lands, Israeli soldiers beat them with guns and tear gas. Abu Ein, a member of the Palestinian government no less, was killed.

Israel's PR Machine, which spends millions managing anti-normalization rhetoric, rebutted media claims Abu-Ein was "killed" by Israeli soldiers. It just happened, like one of those miracles typical of the "Holy Land," which has become another misleading Israeli rhetorical phrase.

As a Palestinian, I would like to watch the film "The Band's Visit" on a movie screen in the center of another fictional Israeli promised land, "Palestine."

Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist, managing editor of The Arab Daily News at, and to find out more about Ray Hanania and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit

Photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski

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