by 'Azmi Bishara
Journalist: How will the deaths of Israeli soldiers today affect your plans?
Israeli Army Spokesman: You saw that massacre of 12 Israelis .. it will ...
Journalist: Massacre you said? But those were soldiers and this is war.
Spokesman: No, it was a massacre because the people who fired the missiles weren't targeting soldiers. They were targeting Israeli civilians but killed the soldiers by accident.
Journalist: But you also committed massacres in Qana and elsewhere.
Spokesman: No, there was no massacre in Qana. Hizbullah fighters were the targets of the bombardment but civilians were hit by accident.
This nightmarish gibberish, which would make any journalist quit his job, a spectator smash his TV screen and a dialogue participant abandon his faith in dialogue, is not from Alice in Wonderland. It is an excerpt taken verbatim from an interview on an Arab satellite station with a young spokesman for the Israeli Defence Forces.
Now, when Israeli soldiers die it's a massacre, whereas the wiping out of entire families in the course of the aerial bombardment of their homes and villages doesn't rate the term. That's not a massacre but an "accident" or, in the euphemistic jargon of the science of the war against terrorism, collateral damage.
Much has been written about this term, which explains so little but hides so much -- which, after all, is the function of much political jargon: to keep people from understanding what is really going on. "Collateral damage" is used to refer to the civilian casualties in the war against terrorism, or the war against those who target civilians. Generally the victims of collateral damage far outnumber the victims of actual terrorist attacks.