Word of the Month: Intifada
The word of the month is: Intifada, n.; uprising, revolt, specifically the Palestinian uprisings in the West Bank and Gaza from 1987-93 and again from 2001-present; from the Arabic meaning jumping up, to be shaken, to shake off (1985).
The original intifada began on 9 December 1987 and lasted until late 1993. The proximate cause of the revolt was an 8 December incident where an Israeli Army truck ran into a group of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, killing four and injuring seven. Many Palestinians believed that it was deliberate, done in retaliation for the death of a Jewish salesman in Gaza two days earlier. The revolt ended with the signing of the Oslo accords and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1993.
The second, or al-Aqsa, intifada began in September 2000 when Ariel Sharon, the new Israeli prime minister, visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, also the location of the al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.
The current crisis and its predecessors have introduced or popularized several terms into and in English. Among these are:
al-Aqsa, prop. n. and adj.; from the Arabic Masjid Al-Aqsa, literally the farthest mosque; the current “al-Aqsa intifada” began with Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount and al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem in September 2000; also the name of an armed Palestinian group loosely affiliated with Yasser Arafat’s al-Fatah organization.
Commando, n.; orig. a raiding party, a member of such a party, and later a soldier specifically trained to engage in raids behind enemy lines; from the Portuguese (1791); used in South Africa to refer to parties of Portuguese and Boer settlers who engaged in raids against the natives; in the Boer War (1899-1902) a Boer militia unit; adopted by the British in 1940 to refer to highly trained soldiers used to raid German positions on the continent.
Envoy, n.; a diplomat sent on a special or temporary mission, also a narrower sense of diplomat ranking below an ambassador but above a chargés d’affaires (1660s).
al-Fatah, prop. n.; dominant faction within the Palestine Liberation Organization, headed by Yasser Arafat, founded 1957; reverse acronym for harakat tahrīr Filasīn or movement for the liberation of Palestine; the reversed acronym is vocalized as fath, or the Arabic word for victory, as opposed to the straight acronym which is vocalized as the Arabic word for death.
Fatwa, n.; religious edict; from the Arabic; English use dates to 1947, but popularized in 1989 when the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for the death of writer Salman Rushdie.
Gunship, n.; originally referred to a naval vessel (1841); the name was applied in 1964 to the US Air Force and Army programs to develop, respectively, the AC-47 “Spooky” fixed-wing attack aircraft and the AH-1 HueyCobra armed helicopter; subsequently used to refer to armed, attack helicopters.
Hamas, prop. n.; name of a Palestinian resistance group; from Arabic acronym Harakat al-Muqāwama al-Islāmiyya or Islamic Resistance Network and from hamās meaning valor, zealotry; founded 1987, appearance in English texts from 1988.
Hezbollah, prop. n.; name of various revolutionary groups operating in the Muslim world since 1960, especially a Shiite Muslim political/military group, founded in Lebanon in 1982 to resist the Israeli invasion of that country; from the Persian hezbollāh and Arabic hizbullāh meaning party of God.
Islam, n.; religion founded by Muhammad in the 7th century; from Arabic meaning resignation, surrender; English use as a noun meaning an adherent to that religion from the 17th century; English use as the proper name of the religion from 1818.
Israel, n.; the Jewish people; also the State of Israel founded in 1948; English usage is from the Latin and Greek and ultimately from the Hebrew yisrāēl, meaning he that strives with God, the name given to Jacob; found in English back to c. 1000.
Jihad, n.; struggle, specifically a religious war for the propagation of Islam, figuratively a crusade or struggle to the death; from the Arabic jihād.
Middle East, n.; a vaguely defined term in use since 1902; it usually refers the region from Egypt to Iran, inclusive. Compare to Near East and Far East.
Palestine, n.; territory on the eastern Mediterranean coast; from the Latin Palaestina, the Roman name for the province; the name was officially revived in 1920 as the name of the British mandated territory that eventually became the State of Israel and the West Bank. Cognate with Philistine.
al-Qaeda, prop. n.; name of Osama bin-Laden’s terrorist network; from Arabic for the base.
Shuttle Diplomacy, n.; diplomatic activity involving a mediator traveling between various locations; originally referring to Henry Kissinger’s attempts to resolve the Middle East crisis in 1973-74.
Suicide Bomber, n.; the term dates to the 1983 bombings of the US Embassy (April) and Marine barracks (October) in Beirut Lebanon; coined by Associated Press correspondent Terry Anderson on 23 October 1983.
Tank, n.; an armored, tracked military vehicle with a gun mount; name coined in December 1915 as a secrecy measure to disguise what was being manufactured.
Terrorism, n.; the use of force to achieve political intimidation; from the French terrorisme referring to the 1793-94 “Reign of Terror;” English use dates to 1795 in reference to revolutionary France, from 1798 generally. The form terrorist also dates to 1795 in reference to the Jacobins, but only from 1866 generally.
Copyright 1997-2013, by David Wilton