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Semantics - execution and assassination

Reader comment on item: [Beslan Atrocity:] They're Terrorists - Not Activists

Submitted by Peter Samuel (United States), Sep 7, 2004 at 17:19

Another common media distortion is the use of the term "execute" to describe the killing of prisoners or hostages by terrorists, and the use of the term "assassinate" for the targeted killing of terrorist leaders by Israel's armed forces.

Execute surely means capital punishment after an indictment, trial and conviction by legally constituted authorities. Similarly assassination is the murder of a recognized governmental leader by outlaws.

Israel is at war with Hamas, Al Aska Brigades and Islamic Jihad so the killing of one of its leaders is an act of war, not an assassination. If some Israeli settler group were to kill Palestinian terrorist leaders it might be fair to term this an assassination since they are not a governmental authority acting within the law.

The misuse of the term execution for terrorist killing of prisoners serves to give legitimacy to terrorists. Similarly the labeling of targeted killings as assassinations detracts from the legitimacy of the government of Israel.

I notice that Ha'aretz often calls targeted killings assassinations, so it isn't just the international media. I suggest that reporters should make more use of the simple term "killing" in place of assassination and execution. It is free of most implications of legitimacy or illegimacy, of right or wrong. It is a less loaded term.
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