“Being Israeled and “Gazalighting” The bizzare new language of Middle East Politics

“Being Israeled and “Gazalighting” The bizzare new language of Middle East Politics

Language is a powerful tool for good or evil, and the language of racism is always changing. On the online website Urban Dictionary, the word “Israel” has taken on a decidedly negative connotation.

The Urban Dictionary, founded in 1999, is a crowdsourced English-language online dictionary for slang words and phrases. As of 2014, the dictionary contains over seven million definitions, while around 2,000 new entries were being added daily.

On October 22, two weeks after Hamas brutally massacred over 1,200 Israelis, a user with the label “oh-la-laa” entered the term “Israeled:”, defining it as “when a person tells you that your property is theirs (when it obviously isn’t), and demands you just give this property to them, and if you refuse, they take it by force and the law will somehow be on the their (israeling) side.”

One week later, a user named “Truth Teller G” defined “israeling” as “when u say an egregious lie to cover ur big lie from before, hoping to elicit sympathy.”

The entrance to a terror tunnel in Gaza City. Credit: Israel Defense Forces.

The contextual example given was:

“My girlfriend lied about being out with friends (but was with her ex) and in the middle of the argument she told me her mom was in the hospital and I was supposed to should show sympathy and understand her hurt feelings. I should have also paid the hospital bill because its somehow was my fault. She was totally Israeling.”

The definition is controversial, upvoted 6,799 times and downvoted 34,939 times.

As the UD is created by a wide variety of users, there is a corresoponding anti-Palestinian term as well. “Gazalighting” is defined as “a terrorist group from Gaza carrying out a massacre, then later denying it and blaming the victim” with the contextual example being, “Did you see Jack was protesting in support of Hamas still? He is gazalighting again!”

Gazalighting is substantially less popular than its anti-Israel counterpart, having garnered 470 likes and only dislikes.

A Jewish home destroyed on Oct. 7 when Hamas terrorists infiltrated Kibbutz Be’eri in southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip, Oct. 25, 2023. Photo by Edi Israel/Flash90.

Sacha Roytman Dratwa, the CEO of the Combat Antisemitism Movement Sacha Roytman Dratwa, lamented the state of online dialogue surrounding Israel:

“Unfortunately, everything is appropriated and weaponized in the hands of those who seek to delegitimize, weaken and eventually destroy the State of Israel,” Roytman told Israel365. “So it is not a surprise that language and the dictionary is likewise manipulated. This addition is anti-Semitic in intent and by design, and is focused on eroding the legitimacy for the Jewish People to hold sovereignty in their ancestral and indigenous homeland. This is an attack on indigenous rights. We call on those who manage the UD to not allow their platform to become another tool with which to attack the Jewish State.”

It should be noted that the UD is a form of entertainment and is not a source of information. Its guidelines note that “anybody can post a definition” but states that submissions should “keep things fun for everyone”. The UD blog noted that due to difficulties with intentionally offensive content, the moderation process was being changed. 

“Under the old system, a definition was published when a majority of volunteer moderators decided it was worth publishing,” UD wrote. “We appreciate our volunteer moderators’ work over the years. Over time, this system had become dominated by a loud minority who published abusive definitions and didn’t publish the good stuff.”

Figure of King David from the 6th-century synagogue in Gaza, even though Jews were “never” in Israel, with no previous connection to it. (Source: Shutterstock)

“Our own moderation team now reviews all newly-submitted and flagged definitions, and rejects definitions that violate our content guidelines.”

As stated, UD is intended as entertainment and should not be considered a factual source. The definition of Israel, posted by Peace to israel on November 1, is just one example of an entry that contains a stunning lie:

“Ashkenazi (Indo-European) jews are not Semites and have no genetic link to the land of Palestine. The ashkenazi converted to judaism after Arab jews migrated north into Europe.”

screenshot from Urbandictionary.com

This claim is referred to as  the Khazar myth and has been cited at times by anti-Zionists and antisemites to challenge the idea that Jews have genetic ties to ancient Israel. It has no basis in fact and has been debunked countless times. The dictionary went on to claim this libel had been substantiated by DNA testing when, in fact, every credible DNA test ever carried out refutes the theory.

The UD went on to make a claim that was the opposite of the truth:

“Only those that practice judaism are jews. Once you change your religion or become an atheist, you are no longer a jew.”

According to Jewish law, the status of a Jew is matrilineal, i.e. a Jew is defined as anyone who has a Jewish mother, regardless of their religious observance.

Antique Flooring from the time of the Second Temple period, found in the Israeli settlement of Shiloh. Shiloh, an ancient city mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, was the capital of Israel before the first Temple was built in Jerusalem. March 30, 2014. Photo by Mendy Hechtman/FLASH90

The definition went on:

“The original jews were Arabs (Semites) from the area now known as israel, a.k.a. Occupied Palestine.”

“Occupied Palestine” was inexplicably defined by one word: “Israel”. A bizarre contextual example was given:

“American: Dude grab your passport and let’s go visit Israel!

Haji: Sorry bro it reads, “The holder of this passport is not entitled to travel to the occupied Palestine”.This definition which seems to be pro-Palestinian refers to “Haji” which the UD claims is offensive slang” and a “disparaging term for arabs”.

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