What is in a name? What does it matter what we call ”things” , “events “or “people”. The “thing” is still the “thing”. The “person” is still the “person”.
We all know, of course this is rubbish. My name is David. There are associations connected to that name that influence not only what others conceive about me, but also what I imagine about myself.
The man who wakes with a stiff neck, emits smells that would close the worst latrines, whose belly has become his most defining physical characteristic and who has more dirty washing than he cares to display in this comment, walks with a straight back and a skip in his step when strolling in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv along Hamalech David.
We all know what we call someone can influence not only our own assessment of that person but also the opinion others sub-consciously attach to them.
A simple example: calling someone “Bibi” suggest a relationship of familiarity, whilst calling someone the Prime Minister of the State of Israel conveys a very different relationship and signifies a remoteness. Neither of these images created by the two names, I would suggest, are the truth. They are but swiftly delivered portrayals that often display more about the observer than the observed.
However, when naming obscenities the matter becomes deadly serious. Murder is still murder. Hacking arms off with a meat cleaver is still “human butchery”. The murder of a father is still an unimaginable atrocity. The homicide of a police officer as he tries to protect others is still a barbaric outrage.
However, the name giving began straight away. The mildest was to call these events “acts of terrorism”.
You may say, what is wrong with that? They were acts of terrorism. Perhaps, but already these obscenities are being given a justification. Behind the term “terrorism” in far too many minds lies a rationale that begins with the cliché “there is no smoke without fire”. The perpetrators must be in such an impossible (political, social, “colonialist exploitative”, “frustrated national aspirations”) situation, they had little choice.
Journalists in Israel have tried another name. A writer from Ha’aritz published an article in the Guardian, where he described these events as a “religious war” – an article using these terms in a newspaper famous for its atheism! The implications of man’s mysterious relationship to this indefinable entity called G-d and the consequent irrational behaviour that is caused, more than satisfied the readership with an excuse for murder.
Many have now begun to use the term “intifada”. I have even seen the term “silent intifada”, although what is silent about the screams of death escapes me.
“Intifada” is probably the best this slaughter can achieve. Glorious associations to the time when stone throwing “Davids” reduced “Goliath” to his knees. When Yasser was a man, of whom we could be proud.
A name can mean everything. Choose it well.
Nevertheless, remember a gardening tool is still a spade and a cleaver is still an instrument of butchery.