There are ‘civilians,’ and then there are ‘civilians’

Jay Tea comments on the language used in the Israel-Paletinian conflict. One word he looks at is “civilian”:

To most people, this means folks who are not part of a military and not part of a particular conflict. However, this word has some different connotations in this context.

Israel has pretty much universal conscription. This means that nearly every Israeli has to serve in the military. Therefore, all Israelis of any age or sex is a combatant — either past, present, or future. There are no Israeli “civilians,” so therefore they are all targets.

Palestine is not a recognized state. It has no official military. Therefore, all Palestinians are civilians. Even — and especially — those who carry automatic weapons, fire rockets, and set bombs.

Reminds me of something I posted a while back:


Certainly, the Israelis aren’t entirely blameless. But the amount of finger-pointing in their direction never ceases to amaze me. It’s almost as if some folks were prejudiced, or something.


  1. Jay Tea makes an interesting observation. Just the tip of the iceberg though. Dig Bernard Lewis’ ‘Political Language of Islam’ or the first piece of chapter 2 from ‘Islam and the West’ on the difficulty of translating from or to Arabic and Turkish during the Islamic heyday. And interestingly enough, Jay’s point is equally applicable to Allied strategic bombing of Axis industrial targets. The factories make war materiel, so are targets. The people who work in them are arguably assets of the war effort, so may be targets. The bridges, track, and rolling stock that moves all that sh*t around, all targets. I don’t think the Geneva Conventions see it quite that way though. Well, again, unless we’re talking about Israel.

  2. I just this morning finished listening to Lewis’ ‘The Crisis of Islam’ on audiobook. I’ve had it on my player forever but just found it dumped in a wrong folder last week. Good stuff.

  3. Some of you might remember I worked in the W. Bank for nearly two years on a Diplomatic Project. Our Force Protection was PA Police and Military (that they don’t have), and we lived in Jerusalem, commuting to the work site near the Jordanian border. Needless to say, I have friends on both sides of things, and all of us (on our mission) mission got an ear full of both sides of the ‘issue’ (take my word for it………….there’s more than one issue over there!). I’ve figured right along since the latest thaw between the PA and the Israelis, that HAMAS would screw off the rapproachment. Ramp up the rocket attacks, Israel hits back, ramp up the rockets some more…………..big Israeli incursion………….peace talks on the rocks…………….again. It’s like a broken record over there. There are far too many extremists on both sides; unwilling to let the majority in a rather wide ‘center’ to compromise with each other and settle things down. I certainly feel bad for both sides, as many are bone tired of all the $&%$#. Actually, the Israelis do not have universal consciption, at least for the military. They have a National Service Program. You do two years at something. Obviously, many, if not most, serve in the IDF, Magav, or police, but many others perform alternative national service (some on the basis of religious objections to serving in the IDF/security services. If orget al the ins and outs of this, if I remember, I’ll ask one of my Israeli friends the next time we’re kickin’ it.