Definition as a Matter of Life and Death

The term "murdered" must be reserved solely for unarmed and uninvolved civilians, whom both of the warring sides are pushing into the no-man's-land of the crossfire. Fighters are not murdered; little boys and girls in Sderot and in Rafah are murdered.

The Israel Radio weekly news magazine Yoman Hashavua opened last week with a report on nine people who were "murdered" - five soldiers and four civilians. And once again, one has to object strenuously to the use of the term "murdered" in relation to soldiers. Why do an injustice to the fallen soldiers and their families by representing them as sheep to the slaughter?

Israel will justly not allow its attacks on terrorists to be defined as "murder." The terrorists decided to carry out hostile acts, to fight against us, and in so doing, they also assumed the risks of war, and in war people kill and are killed. The terrorists cannot be allowed to carry out an act of war and then demand to be treated like innocent civilians.

Our soldiers are also participating in this war, they are injured in the line of duty, and we can assume that even they make a distinction between themselves and two little children in the town of Sderot (who were killed by a Qassam rocket), for whose security they are responsible.

The term "murdered" must therefore be reserved solely for unarmed and uninvolved civilians, whom both of the warring sides are pushing into the no-man's-land of the crossfire. Fighters are not murdered; little boys and girls in Sderot and in Rafah are murdered.

It's not merely a question of semantics, but one of substance. Anyone who is not careful about the definition will not be careful of the harm he causes - soldiers and civilians will be in the same boat, will be seen as part of the same fighting force, both groups legitimate targets of indiscriminate fire.

These definitions by politicians and the media are usually not random and innocent. U.S. President George Bush presents terror as an international phenomenon, all cut from the same cloth, and it is of course no coincidence that the president of Russia and the Israeli prime minister are adopting the same position.

They are being deliberately misleading. It's true that malicious terror and its murderous expressions are identical everywhere - in Iraq, in Chechnya, in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, in Egypt and in Israel. The rotten fruit of terror looks like the same fruit, but the roots of terror are not necessarily the same roots. Terrorists blow up both here and there, and ostensibly there is no difference between them. But there is a difference nevertheless, and if we don't definite it precisely, the struggle against terror will miss its real mark.

Osama bin Laden and his organization have launched a kulturkampf against the entire Western world, a war that is one of the most evil in the history of mankind. They are determined to destroy anything that is not Islamic according to their fanatic definition. They are not waging a struggle for territory; all the world is their stage for murder, and the end defiles all the means.

That is not the situation in Chechnya, nor is it the situation here. In Chechnya they are fighting for self-determination. The terror being enlisted in this war is also intolerable and unforgivable, because harming civilians is always wrong, but a different approach to the Chechen problem on the part of President Putin might change the terrible situation. Nor does the Palestinian problem dictate a bin Laden version of Armageddon, and a different approach on the part of Prime Minister Sharon is likely to change our life here for the better.

It is no coincidence that Bush, Sharon and Putin are lumping all the terror together into one package. It's easier and simpler for them to handle a "package" than for each of them to make an effort to handle the difficult and unique problem with which he is faced: Bush in Iraq, Putin in Chechnya and Sharon in the occupied territories. Helpless leaders will always prefer a "world war" in order to evade their responsibility for locating the flame, containing it, and eventually even extinguishing it.

The use of correct, precise and unlaundered words is a matter of life and death. For example, a nation is now being murdered in western Sudan, only because the enlightened, humane democracies fled for too long a period from the definition that perfectly suits the situation there - genocide - so that they wouldn't, God forbid, have to provide urgent assistance to black Africa in order to save tens of thousands of people. Gaza and Chechnya and Iraq are more attractive to the saviors of mankind, because in those places nobody is still expecting these saviors.