Those following the news carefully might have noticed something interesting during the recent Gaza operation – a change in the IDF’s customary method of referring to terrorists killed by the IDF. Whereas in the past the IDF spokesperson would announce the “elimination” of a terrorist or terrorist cell, during Operation Guardian of the Walls the language of the official announcement was changed to “thwarting” of Arab terrorists.
One such example, posted on the IDF spokesperson’s official Twitter account, announced that, “Fighter planes have thwarted five terrorist operatives who were in the process of preparing rockets to fire into Israel.”
One sharp-eyed Twitter follower named Rahamim decided to pose the question to the Academy of the Hebrew Language, protesting the use of the word “thwart” instead of the customary “eliminate” that had been used for years when referring to the killing of Islamic terrorists by IDF fighters.
The Academy confirmed the point raised by Rahamim, responding that the word “thwart” was used in modern Hebrew to refer to what has become known as “targeted assassination,” but to write that a terrorist was “thwarted” is incorrect, as only the act of terrorism can be thwarted, not the person himself.
Also making note of the change in official language was the Torat Halehima organization, which has been warning against such conscious attempts of the IDF to “sanitize” its language. “Here we have the Academy of the Hebrew Language opposing the IDF’s political correctness. There is no such thing as ‘thwarting’ a terrorist – a terrorist is eliminated, not thwarted. The IDF spokesperson should stop trying to sanitize its language in such a manner.”
Torat Lehima added that it was not merely being pedantic, as the change in terminology has a practical impact.
“Why is the defense establishment being constrained by political correctness even when the issue is one of an actual danger to the State?” it asked. “One of the ideas underpinning political correctness is that the feelings of ‘downtrodden’ people are accorded prime importance, such that their sensibilities should never be offended, even if adopting this approach costs human lives. This is why we don’t refer to Arab terrorism as such, in order to avoid offending the Arabs – and therefore we don’t deal with it either, which of course damages our security.”
“And the language we use also influences the way we think, which is why the Progressive Left is bullying us into adopting their manner of speech. Furthermore, when one talks of a terrorist as having been ‘thwarted,’ we have no way of knowing if he was actually killed or not.”
The organization added that, “The word ‘kill’ has become something offensive, to the extent that it has disappeared from the official opening fire regulations, under pressure from the Military Prosecutor’s Office – at the expense of the soldiers themselves, who suffer from this political correctness, as does the security of the State.”
Responding to the criticism, the IDF spokesperson stated: “Using appropriate language is one of the principles upon which IDF announcements are based. There are also other considerations that influence our choice of words for official announcements, both routinely and in emergency circumstances.”