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June 30, 2005

Unabashed Moral Equivalency

A recent post pointed out the Chicago Tribune's use of the word "militant" to describe both peaceful demonstrators and murderous gunmen. This freewheeling usage of "militant" erodes the word's meaning, but worse, it corrodes our understanding of the difference between murderers and protesters in the Middle East conflict.

Now, the Associated Press' Gavin Rabinowitz strikes another blow at this difference. Writing today about an Israeli operation to remove Jewish anti-disengagement activists sqatting in an abandoned hotel, Rabinovitz stated:

The showdown was an early test of Israel's ability to rein in its own militants after pressuring the Palestinians to do the same.

With this rhetoric, Rabinowitz unabashedly pushes the idea that there is an equivalence between Israeli protesters — whom he describes as "settlers repeatedly arrested for harassing Palestinians and soldiers" — and Palestinian members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, et al who have murdered hundreds of Israeli civilians with bombs, rockets, mortars, and gunfire.

Because there is a very real difference between "harassers" and murderers, there must be a difference in the words used to describe the two categories of people.

Posted by at June 30, 2005 08:05 PM


I'm not sure you can justify calling the settlers peaceful. Some of them nearly killed a Palestinian boy yesterday. They are throwing nails and rocks into roadways. While I wouldn't call them militants, they certainly aren't peaceful nor "harassers".

I think an appropriate term would be dissadent or protestor. THey leave out value judgement and yet do not make assumptions about the level of violance in their protest.

Posted by: Lisa at June 30, 2005 09:33 PM

Thanks for your comments, Lisa. Though most Israelis who protest the disengagement do so peacefully, there are those who have reportedly resorted to stone throwing, etc. I agree that stone throwers are not "peaceful."

But my reference above to peaceful protesters related specifically to those described in the Chicago Tribune as "militants" only for having "threatened to block roads this week."

Blocking roads is a form of peaceful civil disobedience.

Either way, the point remains that the media should not blur the differences between very different groups by using the same word to describe them, especially when, as you noted, there are more precise words that could be used.

Posted by: gi at June 30, 2005 10:51 PM

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