Zionist entity (Arabic: الكيان الصهيوني, al-kayan al-Sahyūnī/Suhyūnī) is a phrase used by some Arabs and Muslims as a pejorative for the State of Israel. Some commentators, including Getzel M. Cohen, have noted that many Arab and Palestinian spokespeople have stopped calling the State of Israel by its name and have reverted to the expression 'the Zionist entity'.
Meaning and intent
The term is described as a means of expressing hostility towards Israel, refusing to acknowledge its existence, and denying its legitimacy or right to exist. Virginia Q. Tilley argues that the term implies condemnation of the idea of a Jewish state, but not necessarily of a Jewish presence. Matthew Gray writes that the term denies Israel the status of a "state", and emphasizes Israel's Zionist philosophy. Its use by Arab state media and leaders, even though other terms are equally "politically useful", "reinforces the state's anti-Israel posture and the perception of Israel as a sinister threat". Describing it as "derogatory, indirect language", Darrell Jodock states its intent is to "deny Israel any place in the family of nations". Referring to it as a "common epithet", Eric Sundquist indicates that it "echoed the Arab view, repeated in the core doctrine of the PLO, that Israel was no state at all but an illegal colonialist excrescence".
In the media
Before 1967, "Zionist entity" was the standard term used by Arabs and the Arab media to refer to Israel, and was particularly popular in official broadcasts of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan during the 1960s and '70s. The use of this term has persisted since then in Egyptian newspapers, the state-controlled press of Syria, Lebanon's Al-Manar, and the Jordanian media. It is also the only term for Israel used on Radio Méditerranée, a French radio station with a daily audience of around 600,000 "mainly French people of Arab descent".
The phrase "Zionist entity" is used by some Arab states, and by "politicians and intellectuals throughout the Arab world". Edzard Lutz describes it as "the traditional Arabic political term for Israel", stating it is used in Arabic (particularly Iraqi) international documents. Describing its use in Jordan, Joseph Nevo includes it as part of "Arab rhetoric and its traditional reluctance to use the term 'Israel'". Middle East journalist Barbara Victor writes that when she went to Tripoli in 1986 to interview Muammar Gaddafi, it was illegal to use any term except "Zionist entity" to refer to Israel. It has been used regularly at the United Nations, by (among others) Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. It is also used by Iran, and by groups such as Hezbollah, al-Quds Brigades, Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Use by the latter became "less prominent" in the late 1980s after the Camp David Accords and PLO recognition of Israel, but has since become common again.
In his book After the Last Sky: Palestinian Lives, Edward Said writes that the one of the differentiators between Arab citizens of Israel and other Palestinians was that the former referred to Israel "as a real country, rather than 'the Zionist entity'". In a later essay he described the phrase's use by Arabs as "a foolish and wasteful policy".
- Kirkpatrick, Jeane (1988). Legitimacy and Force: Natural and International Dimensions, Transaction Publishers, p. 6. ISBN 978-0-88738-647-3. "In this Arab world where faith and politics are linked, traditionalists and radicals, Saudis and Libyans, can unite in hostility against the state of Israel – whose right to exist they deny, whose very existence they refuse to acknowledge, whose name they refuse to utter, calling Israel instead 'the Zionist entity' or 'the deformed Zionist entity'."
- Cohen, Getzel M. (2006). The Hellenistic Settlements in Syria, the Red Sea Basin, and North Africa. University of California Press. p. 420 (footnote 44). ISBN 978-0-520-24148-0. "Many Arab and Palestinian spokespeople have stopped calling the State of Israel by its name and have reverted to the expression 'the Zionist entity'. This can be understood as a return to questioning the very legitimacy of the existence of the state Israel."
- Israeli, Raphael (2002). Poison: Modern Manifestations of a Blood Libel. Lexington Books. p. 224. ISBN 978-0-7391-0208-4. "This is evident... in their [the Arabs] favorite reference to Israel as the 'Zionist entity'".
- Karsh, Efraim (2000). Fabricating Israeli History: The "New Historians". Routledge. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-7146-5011-1. "...echoing not only the long-standing Arab castigation of Israel as 'the Zionist entity'..."
- Beker, Avi (1988). The United Nations and Israel: From Recognition to Reprehension, Lexington Books. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-669-16652-1. "It is interesting to note that a number of Arab speakers (Syria, Libya, Iraq, South Yemen, and others) never refer to Israel as a state, but rather to the 'Zionist entity' or sometimes even to the 'Zionist nonentity'."
- Muravchik, Joshua (2009). The Next Founders: Voices of Democracy in the Middle East. Encounter Books. pp. 179–180. ISBN 978-1-59403-232-5. "[In Almasry Alyoum] he saw Israel referred to as 'the Zionist entity,' standard practice in the Arab word."
- Khalidi, Rashid (2009). Chapter 8, "The 'Disappearance' and Reemergence of Palestinian Identity", in Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-15075-0. "... the stubborn Arab denial of legitimacy to Israel, and the absolute refusal to recognize its existence, or even its name (“the Zionist entity” was the favorite term for Israel in the Arab world in those days) ..."
- Gray, Matthew (2010). Conspiracy Theories in the Arab World. Taylor & Francis. p. 132. ISBN 978-0-415-57518-8. "[Language] can define a state's position and encourage a certain type of thinking through terminology; a reason perhaps why Israel has often been referred to in state media or leaders' speeches by terms such as 'the Zionist entity', even in lieu of terms that could be just as politically useful to the state such as 'the illegitimate state of Israel' or such like. In this example, denying the term 'state' to Israel and reminding the listener of its Zionist philosophy reinforces the state's anti-Israel posture and the perception of Israel as a sinister threat."
- Said, Edward, "Barenboim and the Wagner Taboo", in Barenboim, Daniel; Said, Edward; Gizelimian, Ara. Parallels and Paradoxes: Explorations in Music and Society". Random House. ISBN 978-1-4000-7515-7. "... just as for Arabs, it is has been a foolish and wasteful policy for so many years to use phrases like 'the Zionist entity' and completely refuse to understand and analyze Israel and Israelis on the grounds that their existence must be denied ..."
- Selbourne, David (2005). The Losing Battle with Islam. Prometheus Books. p. 202. ISBN 978-1-59102-362-3. "...the Israelis have suffered from repeated invasion, subjection to suicide-attacks, and the view that Israel was not a state like others. The various non-state names given to Israel in the Muslim world have been tokens of it. Of these the commonest—used by Iran, the Saddam Hussein regime, by Hamas, by the Lebanese Shi'ite movement, and many others—has been the term 'Zionist entity', or non-state. In 1991, during the Gulf War, the Iraqi army newspaper described Israel — avoiding its very name — as the 'bastard entity of the Zionists', to which it vowed 'complete annihilation'. The same term, 'Zionist entity', was used by both the Syrian and Iraqi ambassadors to the United Nations in the Security Council debates in February and March 2003, which preceded the invasion of Iraq."
- Nüsse, Andrea (1993). "The ideology of Hamas: Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist thought on Jews, Israel, and Islam", in Nettler, Ronald L. (ed.). Studies in Muslim–Jewish Relations, Volume 1. Harwood Academic Publishers. p. 105. ISBN 978-3-7186-5283-9. "When referring to Israel the Islamists mainly use the phrase "Zionist entity"; using the term "Israel" would probably be considered an implicit recognition of the state."
- Suleiman, Yasir (2011). Arabic, Self and Identity: A Study in Conflict and Displacement. Oxford University Press. p. 131. ISBN 978-0-19-974701-6. "In the Arab media, Israel was always belittled as the 'Zionist entity' (al-kiyān al-ṣuhyūnī)..."
- Liskofsky, Sidney; Donna E. Artz (1988). "Incitement to National, Racial, and Religious Hatred in United Nations Fora", in Yoram Dinstein; Mala Tabory (eds.). Israel Yearbook on Human Rights, Volume 17. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. p. 51. ISBN 978-90-247-3646-1. "The Organization of Islamic States, with 45 members, suffers from minimal inhibition in attacking Israel, to which its resolutions and reports invariably refer as 'Zionist entity' and/or 'Zionist enemy'."
- Lassner, Jacob; Troen, S. Ilan (2007). Jews and Muslims in the Arab World: Haunted by Pasts Real and Imagined. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 129. ISBN 978-0-7425-5842-7. "Does their approach to the Zionist entity, the pejorative metonym by which they refer to Israel, differ from mainstream Palestinian nationalists..."
- Karsh, Efraim (Spring 2004). "Arafat's Grand Strategy", Middle East Forum. Volume XI, Number 2. "This pervasive denigration of Jews has been accompanied by a systematic denial of the Jewish state's legitimacy by both the PA and the PLO. Israel is often referred to by the pejorative phrase, 'the Zionist entity.' Israel is glaringly absent from Palestinian maps, which portray its territory as part of a 'Greater Palestine,' from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean."
- Sundquist, Eric J. (2005). Strangers in the Land: Blacks, Jews, post-Holocaust America. Harvard University Press. p. 333. ISBN 978-0-674-01942-3. "[Stokely Carmichael] unerringly echoed the Arab view, repeated in the core doctrine of the PLO, that Israel was not state at all but an illegal colonialist excrescence—hence the common epithet 'Zionist entity'—imposed on a long-resident Palestinian people by the imperialist West".
- Kadhim, Hussein N. The poetics of anti-colonialism in the Arabic qaṣīdah. Brill Publishers. p. viii. ISBN 978-90-04-13030-2. "A variant though less common term is Isti'màr Istì†ànì, which denotes “settler colonialism.” This term has been largely associated with French colonization of North Africa as well as Jewish settlement activity in Palestine. With respect to the latter, however, the term never gained a wide currency; the more derisive al-kiyàn al-ßuhyùnì (the Zionist entity) is most often used in reference to the 'state of Israel.'"
- Marlin, Randal (2002). Propaganda and the Ethics of Persuasion. Broadview Press. p. 161. ISBN 978-1-55111-376-0. "Nations can be ignored by not recognizing their existence. Some Arabs would prefer not to speak of 'Israel', but of the 'Zionist entity'."
- Bengio, Ofra (2002). Saddam's Word: Political Discourse in Iraq, Oxford University Press US, pp. 134–135. ISBN 978-0-19-515185-5. "...we find a much greater variety of derogatory terms employed to deny the legitimacy of Israel's existence and to express contempt—mixed with fear—for Zionism... The most frequent way of denying Israel's statehood is al-kiyan al-Sahyuni (the Zionist entity)..."
- Sank, Diane & Caplan, David I. (1991). To Be a Victim: Encounters with Crime and Injustice. Plenum Press. p. 289. ISBN 978-0-306-43962-9. "The very phrase 'Zionist entity' reveals the ultimate intention of those who use it. The State of Israel cannot be dignified by being called by its proper name. To refer to it as 'Israel' is to acknowledge its existence as a legal entity."
- Terrill, W. Andrew (2010). Global Security Watch—Jordan. ABC-CLIO. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-313-36619-2. "The use of the words 'Zionist entity' for Israel seem to be permitted even though this phrase is meant to cast doubt on Israel as a legitimate state."
- Waines, David (2004). An Introduction to Islam. Cambridge University Press. p. 288. ISBN 978-0-521-53906-7. "... Hizbullah views Israel's very existence as illegitimate and so, jihad must continue against the 'Zionist entity.' This phrase is used rather than any mention of the term 'Israel.' It refers to the socio-political ethos of Israel founded upon a supposed unchanging, monolithic Zionist ideology."
- Wistrich, Robert S. (2010). A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad. Random House. ISBN 978-1-4000-6097-9. "A more commercially oriented, if no less virulent form of prejudice is represented by Tawfik Mathlouthu, the owner of Radio Méditerranée—a station that broadcasts to about six hundred thousand listeners a day, mainly French people of Arab descent. On Radio Méditerranée, the word 'Israel' is never pronounced, only deligimitizing references to 'the Zionist entity.' According to Mathlouthi, the term 'Israel' historically represents divine prophecy and is therefore inappropriate for 'Zionist people who are terrorists and criminals,' and have 'no legal right to exist.'"
- Tilley, Virginia Q. (2005). The One-state Solution. University of Michigan Press. p. 202. ISBN 978-0-472-11513-6. "The 'Zionist entity' later denounced in Arab rhetoric was the Jewish state, not the Jewish presence."
- Jodock, Darrell (2008). Covenantal conversations: Christians in dialogue with Jews and Judaism. Fortress Press. p. 154. ISBN 978-0-8006-6275-2. "More widely, the continuing use of derogatory, indirect language such as 'the Zionist entity' as a substitute for 'Israel" indicates that several Palestinian factions would deny Israel any place in the family of nations."
- Mitchell, Thomas G. (2000). Native Vs. Settler: Ethnic Conflict in Israel/Palestine, Northern Ireland, and South Africa. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 48. ISBN 978-0-313-31357-8. "Before 1967 it was standard for Arabs to refer to the "Zionist entity" rather than to Israel by name."
- Mahoney, Rosemary (2007). "A Boat of My Own". Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 978-0-316-01901-9. "'The Zionist Entity' was the way Egyptian newspapers referred to the state of Israel, for to use the word Israel was to honor the existence of that state, something the Egyptians could not abide."
- Oz, Amos (1995). Under this Blazing Light. Cambridge University Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-521-44367-8. "...the transmissions of Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. Whenever they referred to Israel, they used the term 'the Zionist entity'. The announcer would say, 'the so-called government of the so-called state', but would stop short of pronouncing the word Israel, as if it were a four letter word."
- Lindquist, Torkel (2003). A War of Words, from Lod to Twin Towers: Defining Terrorism in Arab and Israeli Newspapers 1972-1996 (2001), A Study in Propaganda, Semantics and Pragmatics. Uppsala Universitet. p. 116. ISBN 978-91-554-5591-0. "Terms like Zionists, the Zionist entity, the fascists, the military rule, the criminals are relatively frequent when describing Israel or Israeli in Al-Baath. The Egyptian paper Al-Ahram seems to use these kinds of terms even after president El-Sadat began peace-talks with Israel. A clear change in the terminology of this paper happens first after the 'Declaration of Principles'. With some exceptions, the Jordanian paper, Al-Ray, uses this kind of terminology up to the same time as Al-Ahram."
- Miller, Judith (1997). God Has Ninety-Nine Names: Reporting from a Militant Middle East. Simon & Schuster. p. 315. ISBN 978-0-684-83228-9. "Even after Madrid, the state-controlled Syrian press had avoided printing the name Israel, referring instead to 'the Zionist entity,'..."
- Victor, Barbara (2003). Army of Roses: Inside the World of Palestinian Women Suicide Bombers. Rodale, Inc.. p. 119. ISBN 978-1-57954-830-8. "In all of Manar's broadcasts, the word "Israel" is never mentioned; instead it is referred to as 'the Zionist entity.' (When I was in Tripoli in 1986 after the American raid there to interview Moammar Ghadaffi for U.S. News and World Report, it was not only against the law to refer to Israel as anything except the 'Zionist entity,' but the Libyans prominently displayed a map of the Middle East in Green Square in which Israel was simply blacked out."
- Patai, Raphael; Patai, Jennifer (1989). The Myth of a Jewish Race. Wayne State University Press. p. 179. ISBN 978-0-8143-1948-2. "For some thirty years after the establishment of Israel, the Arab states, most of which gained independence about the same time as Israel, did not acquiesce in the existence of the small "Zionist entity" (as they referred to it) in their midst."
- Humphreys, R. Stephen (2005). Between Memory and Desire: The Middle East in a Troubled Age. University of California Press. p. 51. ISBN 978-0-520-24691-1. "But even so, for politicians and intellectuals throughout the Arab world, Israel (or as they usually called it, "the Zionist entity") was only the reflection of larger and more sinister forces."
- Lutz, Edzard (1998). Language as a Medium of Legal Norms: Implications of the use of Arabic as a Language in the United Nations system. Duncker & Humblot. pp. 79–80. ISBN 978-3-428-09307-6. "One of the most notorious examples of a congruent extension and a different intension is the traditional Arabic political term for Israel, al-kyan as-sahyuni 'the Zionist element/entity', as is found frequently in letters and recorded statements in United Nations context. The use of the term sahyuni in (mainly Iraqi) Arabic international documents is indeed noteworthy... Hence, Israel as a whole is often referred to as al-kiyan as-sahyuni 'the Zionist entity' or even as al-kiyan as-sahyuni al-unsuri 'the racist Zionist entity'."
- Nevo, Joseph (2006). King Hussein and the Evolution of Jordan's Perception of a Political Settlement with Israel, 1967-1988. Sussex Academic Press. p. 101. "These expressions seemed like lip service to the old Arab rhetoric and its traditional reluctance to use the term 'Israel' instead of the less antagonizing substitutes, 'the Jewish state' and 'the Zionist entity'."
- Bookmiller, Kristen Nakjavani; Bookmiller, Robert J. (Summer 1990). "Palestinian Radio and the Uprising", Journal of Palestine studies, Volume 19, Number 4. "Not unexpectedly, al-Quds rejects the possibility of coexistence with Israel (the word 'Israel' is never used, but rather 'Zionist entity,' 'Zionist enemy,' and so on)..."
- Jesse, Neal G.; Williams, Kristen P. (2010). Ethnic Conflict: A Systematic Approach to Cases of Conflict. CQ Press. ISBN 978-0-87289-492-1. "The Palestinians did not refer to Israel as Israel, but 'as the Zionist entity or occupied Palestine.' In the late 1980s the use of 'Zionist entity' or 'Occupied Palestine' became less prominent as the peace process moved forward and the PLO recognized Israel."
- Said, Edward; Mohr, Jean (1986) (this edition 1999). After the Last Sky: Palestinian Lives. Columbia University Press. p. 51. ISBN 978-0-231-11449-3. "We always felt that Israel's stamp on these people (their passports, their knowledge of Hebrew, their comparative lack of self-consciousness about living with Israeli Jews, their references to Israel as a real country, rather than 'the Zionist entity') had changed them."