the power of words

I’ve been in the West Bank for less than 24 hours but am already bowled over by the warmth and generosity of the people I’ve met.
I’m not going to post at length at this point. Something that has struck me today though, after conversations with a few different local people, is the power of words.
Despite what I have chosen to do as job, this isn’t something I generally give much thought to. But for the Palestinians it seems to matter.
A European I was with today got pulled up after calling the area we are in “The Palestinian Territories” – the phrase that European politicians seem to favour. This is just a way devised by the Israelis to avoid the phrase “Occupied Territories”, he was told – and in any case this place is and always has been called Palestine.
The second word that came up for discussion was “settlement”. Does this inoffensive little word not mask what is really happening here – in their view colonisation – the Palestinians asked. They believe that by calling these fortified Jewish communities being built in their land “settlements”, we are making them sound acceptable.
Later, and during a chat I had with an eminent Palestinian academic, the phrase “Arab Israeli” came under fire. By calling Palestinians living within Israel’s green line borders by this name, aren’t the Israeli’s cleverly denying the very existence of a Palestinan nation or identity, he wanted to know.
Words that always seemed innocuous now feel loaded with hidden meaning…these people clearly seem to feel that their use is chipping away at their identity. My eyes are opening to a perspective very different to my own.