Saturday, February 20, 2016

MK Berko pushes back

THE ERA OF TWITTER JOURNALISM: 'They won't silence me, even through slander' (Mati Tuchfeld, Israel HaYom)
New Likud MK and terrorism expert Dr. Anat Berko underwent a baptism by fire when a Knesset colleague tweeted incorrectly that she had denied the existence of a Palestinian people • Berko: Palestinian identity created as an antithesis to Zionism.
But Berko had not said any such thing. In an interview with the Israel Hayom weekend supplement, she explained:

"What I'm saying is that the name 'Palestina' came from the Romans' attempt to wipe out the Kingdom of Judea. Arabs have no P in their language, but adopted the name. It was long before 1967, and there is evidence of it being used at the beginning of the 20th century. The British [in documents from the Mandatory period] referred to this place as 'Palestine-Eretz Israel.' My statements in the Knesset plenum were made as a side reference, and people made a big deal out of them. No one said there was no such people. But they [the Palestinians] certainly adopted the name," Berko says.

"Obviously, the nationalist definition of the Arabs in the Land of Israel who are most populous in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza as a separate people began as a response against Zionism. The experts in Meretz might think I was talking nonsense, but the Arab MKs thought otherwise and an entire discussion -- furious on their part -- began about where they came from. Some of them claim that they are the descendants of the Jebusites, and others say that they belong to the ancient Canaanite people. The word 'Palestina' was taken from the biblical Pheonician people."
The last statement, is of course, incorrect. As I have noted before, the word "Palestine" comes from the late second-millennium BCE Philistine invaders. As far as I can tell, it was first applied to this region in general by Herodotus in the late fifth century BCE. And, yes, it was used by the Romans after the failed Bar Kokhba revolt in the early second century CE.

The Phoenicians were fellow Northwest Semites who lived more or less in what is modern Lebanon and who spoke a language similar to Hebrew. They were closely related to the biblical "Canaanites," but the Phoenicians tended to get along pretty well with the Israelites, since no land disputes were involved.

But that is a small point here. The big point is that MK Berko neither said nor meant that there was no Palestinian people.
Berko wants to make it clear that the recent controversy has not deterred her.

"It did become a joke at home, but after the attacks on me I said I was strong, I'd sat with the worst murderers, and now I see what the politicians did to me as an attempt to silence me. But no one will silence me. I'll keep on even if they slander me -- in the world as well as in Israel -- because they tried to silence me there, too."
If all this started because of an inaccurate tweet by a fellow MK, that is a damning indictment of the media. A video of the incident was readily available and seems to have been consulted by the New York Times, so they and the rest of the media should have known better. And they always could have called MK Berko and asked what she meant. Shamefully sloppy journalism.

I look forward to the corrections by the New York Times, Haaretz, Newsweek, the Independent, etc.

Background and a detailed analysis of the story is here (immediately preceding post).