WASHINGTON – Are accurate definitions important to meaningful dialogue?
Most people would probably say yes.
And where is meaningful dialogue based in accurate definitions more important than any other place in the world for the last 70 years?
Arguably, the answer is the Middle East – particularly the region of Israel, Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian territories.
Yet, if one consults the most popular online dictionary in the world today for definitions on some important geographical references, you will get some wild, politically loaded and, one might even suggest, “fake” definitions, as well as “fake news.”
It started innocently with a search in Dictionary.com for “Hebron,” the name of the ancient city settled by Abraham, the grandfather of Jacob, later renamed Israel.
Here’s the one and only definition that came up thanks to Dictionary.com’s exclusive wordsmithing partner, Random House:
1. “an ancient city of Palestine, formerly in W Jordan; occupied by Israel 1967-97; since 1997 under Palestinian self-rule.”
Problem? What we know about the ancient city of Hebron was that it was part of Canaan when Abraham arrived, purchased property there and settled around 1921 B.C.. His wife, Sarah, later died and was buried there, as were his son Isaac, daughter-in-law Rebekah and Jacob’s wife, Leah. The word “Palestine” – in any form – had not yet been used at the time. In fact, it would not be used for more than 1,000 years.
In fact, the first clear use of the term to refer to Israel was by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus in the 5th century B.C. Nevertheless, even under the Greeks, the land was not populated by Arabs but by Jews, who were later conquered by the Romans. Officially, the Romans changed the name of the land of Israel to Syria Palaestina in 135 A.D. after the crushing of the Jewish Bar Kokhba revolt. It is thought to have been chosen to sever the connection between the land and the Jewish people by naming it after Israel’s long-since-vanquished enemies – the Philistines.
Probably the most distinctive thing about Hebron, a city located in the Judean hills just south of Jerusalem, is that it is the site of the oldest Jewish community in the world. No mention of that in Dictionary.com’s definition.
The Hebron definition is not only inaccurate, it is completely misleading and, some argue, deliberately so.
“This definition says Hebron was an ancient city of Palestine,” says Joseph Farah, author of “The Restitution of All Things: Israel, Christians and the End of the Age,” and a former Middle East correspondent. “What this definition does, intentionally or ignorantly, is suggest so-called ‘Palestinians’ have been living there since the time of Abraham – perhaps even before. That is simply untrue. Further, it jumps from ancient times to modern times, ignoring the fact that the name ‘Palestine’ was used by Greek and Roman conquerors of Israel, not a nation called ‘Palestine.’ In fact, there has never been a nation in the history of the world called ‘Palestine’ – ever.”
Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum, says Dictionary.com’s definition of Hebron “is jaw-droppingly inaccurate, ahistorical, distorted, and biased. To top it off, the entry provides only an Arabic equivalence for it.
“In fact, Hebron is an even more ancient Jewish city than is Jerusalem, being associated with Abraham. That Dictionary.com choses to ignore this reality points both to the fantasy world that Palestinians live in as well as their increasing ability to spread their lies throughout the West.”
But it gets worse.
Look up the term “Palestine” in Dictionary.com and here’s what you will find:
“1. Also called Holy Land. Biblical name Canaan. an ancient country in SW Asia, on the E coast of the Mediterranean.”
“2. a former British mandate (1923–48) comprising part of this country, divided between Israel, Jordan, and Egypt in 1948: the Jordanian and Egyptian parts were occupied by Israel in 1967.”
Again, Palestine was never an “ancient country,” except in the imaginations of foreign conquerors from Greece, Rome and, later, Muslims and British. At most, it was a region of ill-defined territory. And notice, there is no reference to the one and only country, Israel, associated with the land since the time of the ancient Canaanites. Israel is not even mentioned until 1967, when the Jews captured this ancient Jewish city since the time of Joshua.
“The Dictionary.com definitions are as inaccurate as they are unconscionable,” author and activist Pamela Geller told WND. “Palestine is not ‘an ancient country in SW Asia,’ it was never a country at all. Hebron is not an ancient city of Palestine, it is an ancient Jewish city. Dictionary.com is rewriting history in accord with contemporary political considerations. These definitions are an outrage to truth and history.”
Michael Brown, a Ph.D. Hebrew Bible scholar and nationally syndicated radio host, author and WND columnist, had this to say: “With definitions like these, this site should be called ‘PalestinianPropaganda.com.’ These definitions are both anachronistic and misleading. Shouldn’t a Dictionary website provide actual definitions rather than polemical definitions?”
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Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Danny Ayalon was shocked after reviewing the definitions in Dictionary.com at the request of WND.com.
“I looked at this site and was horrified, such bias, ignorance and blatant lies!” he said. “This must be called up.” Ayalon has founded an organization called The Truth About Israel to educate and train the public about the facts regarding Israel in today’s world.
“First fake news, now fake definitions,” said Farah. “Dictionary.com is offering both. A recent development on the most popular online dictionary in the world is the addition of what the company calls ‘Examples from the Web’ to supplement its word definitions. They come from one and only source, as best I can see – the Daily Beast, a decidedly left-wing, pseudo-news site with a remarkable anti-Israel bias. What a combination for what has become a ubiquitous dictionary for the entire world – fake news and fake definitions to confuse the entire English-speaking world.”
Dictionary.com boasts billions of visits per year and more than 100 million app downloads.