- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 4, 2002

Words matter. That's why Arabs endlessly chant the made-up moniker, "Palestinians" reinforcing the fiction that there really once was a country called Palestine that they are entitled to return to.
It's why supporters of Israel should be alarmed when President George W. Bush clumsily parrots the Arab descriptors "occupied territories" and "West Bank," terms that call out for and reaffirm his treacherous commitment to the re-creation of a state that never was.
It's why Jews and others ought to take profound offense when much of the world's press downgrades terrorists, mass murderers and baby killers to the less-judgmental "militants" when their crimes against humanity have Israeli victims.
It's why we should all be deeply concerned when Mr. Bush says he's "deeply concerned" in reaction to Arab terrorism and Israeli counter-terrorism equally.
Even the White House, imprecise with words though it may be, senses their importance. That's why, earlier this year, the administration toyed with the idea of replacing the term "suicide bombing" in its own communications with "homicide bombing" to emphasize the victims.
Now there's a semantic issue worth some extended consideration.
Let it be noted that something significant is conveyed by the detail of suicide that a person reduces himself to a mere instrument of death, giving up his humanity along with his life, is part of the horror. Still, though we've all come to know too well what the words mean in the real world, "suicide bombing" doesn't literally make reference to the victims of the crime.
But "homicide bombing" doesn't quite work either. Using American law as a point of reference, "homicide" simply means "the act of a human being in taking away the life of another human being." It does not necessarily describe a crime or wrongdoing. Homicide includes such lawful acts as the execution of a judicial sentence, self-defense, and killing an escaping felon when there's no other way for a police officer to make an arrest, along with such unlawful acts as murder, manslaughter and negligent homicide. As Black's Law Dictionary points out, "the term 'homicide' is neutral; while it describes the act, it pronounces no judgment on its moral or legal quality."
Perhaps to rectify that shortcoming, White House aides once suggested the term "murder bombing." Better, but still imprecise, as there are degrees of murder. Murder in the first degree the sort that's perpetrated by poison, lying in wait or other acts of premeditation is worse than, say, murder in the heat of passion. And even first-degree murder doesn't express the full moral turpitude of suicide bombing.
The law does recognize a sort of homicide called "depraved heart murder," which Black's defines as the "killing of a human being accomplished by extreme atrocity." That gets closer to the true nature of intentionally killing babies in their buggies with nail bombs or shooting cowering infants point blank. But "depraved heart murder bombing" is a mouthful, and it also looks more at the perpetrator than at his victims.
So where does that leave us? The problem, ultimately, is that the act of suicide bombing is so foul that one can only struggle to capture its essence with language. But we have to try; we need to do justice to the pure evil of it, so as not to lose sight.
I suggest that the answer may lie in the true purpose of those who would carry out such an act. Suicide bombing is more than a particularly vicious method of killing. It is more than the murder of others while simultaneously killing yourself. Suicide bombing is a best effort to produce a Final Solution. The suicide bombers of September 11, emulating their Nazi role models, even created a makeshift oven to incinerate 3,000 people. If they could have killed 100,000 or a 1 million, they would have done so gladly.
The same is true of all suicide bombers, particularly those who daily attack Israelis. A typical sermon on Palestinian Authority TV expresses well the sentiments of the bombers who target Jews: "Who will set the Muslim to rule over the Jew? Allah … Until the Jew hides behind the rock and the tree. But the rock and tree will say: 'Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, a Jew hides behind me, come and kill him.' "
Suicide bombers kill and maim dozens at a time, with but one regret: that their victims are so few. What they truly strive to bring about is a Holocaust. They come as close to that end as their means will allow. My nomination for an appropriately descriptive term, then, is this: "genocide bombing."
That may be as close as we can come to describing such human depravity in mere words.

Steven Zak is a lawyer and writer in California.

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