Tel Aviv and AFP’s Lousy ‘Synecdoche’

KnessetSynecdoche is a figure of speech where a part is substituted for its whole. Common examples include:

  • "All hands on deck" ("all people on deck")
  • "Boots on the ground" ("soldiers on the ground")
  • "100 head of cattle" ("100 cows")
  • "The White House said . . ." ("The Executive Branch of the United States said . . .")

One common synecdoche journalists and bloggers use is to refer to the capital city as the government of that country. You'd think the usage would be straightforward enough. Except when the city's not the capital.

Which brings us to AFP, providing today's example of deliberately lousy usage:

The deterioration of diplomatic relations between Britain and Israel comes as historically strong US-Israeli ties are under strain over Tel Aviv's plans to build new settlements.

You won't convince me that AFP was actually talking about the Ministry of Defense, whose headquarters happen to be in Tel Aviv. The overall political decisions and diplomatic activity take place in Jerusalem. Is AFP unaware that The Knesset moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 1949?

Using "Tel Aviv" as an alternative noun for "Israel's government" can only be an example of media activism delegitimizing Israel's connection to Jerusalem. How else should I understand this?

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