Monday, February 12, 2007

Antisemitic Book Title

"Daily Life in Palestine at the Time of Christ"

Just got the latest Scholars BookShelf catalogue - lots of great surplus stuff. They introduced a series on Daily Life in Antiquity: Periclean Greece, Aztecs, India, and of course...Israel, with the title above.

Grr. This title strikes me as antisemitic on two counts:

1) The Land of Israel was not called "Palestine" at the time of Jesus, it was the Roman province of Judaea, so-called after the Jewish kingdom of Judah which had still existed there, albeit under subjugation, when the Romans took over from the Greeks (Remember King Herod? What was he king of? The Sturgeon King? No, that's Barney Greengrass).

It was called Palestine only after the Bar-Kochba Revolt was defeated in 135 CE, more than a century after Jesus' death, as a direct slap at the few remaining Jews - it was named after another ancient tribe that had once been in the area, the Philistines.

2) If you're going to pick an anachronistic name, pick Israel - that's the name of the current country/political entity that has sovereignty over the area. To call it Palestine is to delegitimize the State of Israel - calling after either the
Roman-Byzantine-Arab-Crusader-Arab-Turkish-British name for the area, or the name used by the Arab enemies of Israel.

If one is writing a book on life in antiquity, one cannot but be aware of the history of the area. Using "Palestine" is a direct slap at the Jews and their State, the State of Israel.



4 comments:

ari kinsberg said...

unfortunately it is the general convention in academia to refer to it as palestine.ag

noam stadlan said...

I agree with you that it is grating. However, R. Saul Lieberman titled one of his books "Hellenism in Jewish Palestine", and I dont think one can accuse him of being anti Israel or anti semitic. I think that the above commentor is correct, that it is an academic convention, no matter how ahistorical it actually is. Of course, the author could still be anti-Semitic, but this doesn't quite rise to the level of proof.

thanbo said...

Except that Lieberman's book is subtitled "Studies in Literary Transmission, Beliefs and Manners of Palestine in the I Century B.C.E-IV Century C.E." Half of which period indeed postdates renaming the area Palestine.

Simon Holloway said...

I also tend to call it Palestine, but only because I always find myself at a loss for what to say. Calling it Israel seems hugely anachronistic to me, especially if I'm speaking of Jerusalem and its environs - for obvious reasons. Calling it the Levant (or the Syro-Palestinian region) also seems wrong - well, archaic to the point of being ridiculous. Calling it Palestine feels politically loaded, considering the existence of modern-day Palestine in Gaza and the West Bank. Still, it seems to me to be the best of all possible evils, in light of the fact that this is what the place was called for the longest period of time.