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One of the challenges in recent weeks has of course been the way the situation has been reported.  I have found that certain terms come up over and over and we can get so used to hearing them that we begin to either forget their meaning, not appreciate their complexity or are lulled into not noticing that this is not the correct term to use.  Since #wordsmatter enormously, I plan to write a series of posts to remind myself what these terms mean and how they should be used correctly.  None of these are intended to be controversial.  If you find them helpful, feel free to like and/or share.


Words Matter #1 – Retaliation vs. defence

“Israel’s retaliation” is a term that has been used at some point by many media outlets, including the BBC (no surprises there!), Sky News, Reuters, The Economist and more.  Let us be clear – the current war is NOT Israeli retaliation.  Anyone living with multiple young children knows what retaliation is – one child gets hit and therefore kicks the first one back.  The first then breaks his toy so the other throws his teddy out the window.  So it continues in a never-ending “cycle of violence” (we’ll come to that term in the future!) until a sensible party intervenes to cool things down.

Israel is not hitting back at Hamas for what they did to Israel, they are defending their citizens (and benefitting the world) by trying to eradicate Hamas to prevent further innocent bloodshed.  Every military action is carried out with that purpose in mind and the intention is to make peace the moment that objective is accomplished.  We stand by Israel’s right to defend itself.


Words Matter #2 – Ceasefire

When we hear/read this term, let us actually think about what it means.  To cease fire means to lay down arms in favour of negotiations which in this case effectively means that Hamas will be rewarded enormously for the murder of thousands and the kidnapping of hundreds.  To me that means that people calling for a simple “ceasefire” in Israel at the moment are either not thinking things all the way through or are happy with the regular murder of Israelis.

Anyone who uses this term in the current situation must recognise that it is equivalent to asking police who have been shot at to come out with their hands up whilst the criminal considers their next move.  What will happen after Israel stops its military action?  The hostages will be willingly handed over?  Hamas will rethink their hatred of Israel?  Perhaps they might even rewrite their charter which explicitly calls for Israel’s destruction?

We all pray that the fighting ends soon but simply throwing around the term “ceasefire” does not take the reality into consideration and does a disservice to those trying to secure Israel’s safety.


Words Matter #3 – Hostages vs. prisoners

On the whole, the media seem to have got this one right but it is important to continually remind ourselves.  Israel are currently welcoming back hostages – that means people taken from their home by force, having done nothing wrong.  They have been kidnapped for the purpose of torturing Israel and for use as a bargaining chip.

In exchange, Israel is releasing prisoners – people who were arrested for committing crimes, many for serious crimes like attempted murder.

Aside from the skewed numbers this is clearly not a fair exchange – Israel is simply doing the best possible to return people home.  We pray that all the hostages return home safely soon.


Words matter #4 – Civilians

I just left Kibbutz Be’eri (more on that later) and heard the long story of a survivor (the correct word to use).  It is clear that after the initial waves of terrorists came in with weapons, many Palestinians came in with whatever they could carry – hammers, bats and bare hands to cause harm and destruction. Clearly they would not fall into a journalist’s definition of a “terrorist” or “combatant”.

In Israel, every soldier I have met is really someone with a regular job who is having to spend time away from their family and their regular life defending their people.  The men and boys fighting in Gaza and in the north are desperate to put down their weapons and return to a normal existence.

We don’t want any loss of life.  But let’s just stop and think a little before swallowing stories about “civilian” casualties.

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