News agencies rarely comment on their editorial practices. However, sometimes, commentary is necessary.
There has been a rather odd etymological notion creeping into some circles, concerning the use of the term "ISIL" (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant"), the English-language acronym for the so-called "Islamic State", and how it is some kind of insidious, left-handed insult to the State of Israel. While only prevalent among a small group, that group is vocal enough, that MilitaryGazette decided to look into the question.
Definition- and translation-wise, the issue is open and shut: The English word "Levant" derives from a form of the Latin word "levatio", meaning "lifting up". This entered Medieval Italian, Portuguese and Spanish as the noun "Levante", meaning "where the Sun rises", i.e., "the East". This lead to the Venetian word, "Levanter", which describes the strong easterly winds that often sweep across the Eastern Mediterranean, running the entire arc from roughly Egypt to Turkey.
Thirteenth and Fourteenth Century European merchants began using the term to describe what we think of as "the Middle East", because "Levante" is broadly equivalent to the Arabic word for the region, "Al Mashriq".
"Mashriq" is a poetic term in Arabic used for the phrase "place of sunrise", deriving from the verb "sharaqa", which means both "to shine", and "to rise". This refers specifically to the land "where the Sun rises" - i.e., what are now the nations we think of as "the Middle East".
So -- where did this odd notion about the word "Levant" meaning a "land bridge that trods Israel underfoot" (that quote coming from a private conversation on the subject) come from?
As far as we at MilitaryGazette have been able to determine, the...confusion...dates from approximately mid- to late-2014, with an article from the Left-wing news and comment organ, The Daily Kos. The relevant portion is worth quoting in full:
"...The Levant was the landbridge between the Southern empire of Egypt and the northern Mesopotamia. If that was not open, travel would mean the difficult passage across the Arabian Desert. It was important to control the Levant for easier passage and trade between these two empires. It also was important to control it for sea trade on the Mediterranean. This land bridge was fought over for many centuries and still is in dispute in parts today. The Levant had many resources and the Jezreel Valley which was the breadbasket of the Levant. It was important financially and militarily for the larger empires. The battles for control of the Levant shaped much of Israel's history. These disputes are referred to in the Merneptah Stella from Thebes (1200 BCE) and the Amarna Letters (1400 BCE). These disputes were also referred to in the Execration Texts as far back as 1900 BCE where there is a reference to the conquering of Canaan..."
This is not a bad summary of what the "Levant" is. As well, it gels with ISIL's repeated calls to eviscerate the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which drew the modern borders of the Middle East; this is ground that MilitaryGazette has trod in the past. The only supposition we can make is that someone with, perhaps, a somewhat less than erudite education read the Daily Kos' "landbridge" passage, and went through a rather confused set of mental gymnastics to get to the idea that using the term "Levant" is somehow an insult to Israel, implying that it means to "trod Israel underfoot", since one has to walk over a landbridge.
In a word...No. Stop it.
Using the term "ISIL" is more specific and more correct than "ISIS" - it is how the group thinks of itself, and accurately describes their desired area of authority. ISIL has made absolutely no secret of their intention of destroying the State of Israel. They do not need to use obtuse terminology to describe themselves..."ISIS", however, is easier to say out loud than "ISIL". Maybe that has something to do with it.
So no -- using the term "ISIL" is not an insult to Israel. In fact, it could be argued that using "ISIS" actually aids the terror group.
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