Martyrs and homicide bombers

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During the propaganda war between Israel and the Palestinians, each side has developed its own doublespeak for referring to what is also referenced as suicide bombers. The Palestinians refer to suicide bombers as martyrs, while supporters of Israel use the term homicide bombers.

A suicide bomber is a type of terrorist - specifically, a terrorist who is willing to sacrifice his or her own life in order to kill other people.

By referring to suicide bombers as "martyrs", Palestinian jihadists focus attention on the bomber's "heroic" willingness to die for their cause, while avoiding mention of the innocent people whom the bomber kills. The term also evokes a sense of religious devotion and moral purity.

The term "homicide bomber", on the other hand, specifically avoids mention of the humanity and self-sacrifice of the bomber. It is actually a redundant term (since everyone already knows that a "bomber" commits murder). People who advocate using this language have sometimes said explicitly that the bomber's death is not even worth noticing, because someone who would murder other people is subhuman and undeserving of anyone's concern.

The use of these two terms by opposing parties to a violent conflict demonstrates the way that propaganda contributes to social polarization. Rather than sharing a common language, the people who use these terms have invented language which enables them to deepen their estrangement and even to erase awareness of their mutual humanity.

It should be noted that Palestinians do not use the term "martyr" exclusively with reference to suicide bombers. The term might also be used in reference to a child who dies of tear-gas inhalation, a person killed during a demonstration against Israel, a person shot by a settler, a prisoner who dies while in Israeli jails, or other victims of violence at the hands of Israeli authority. It is not doublespeak to describe these innocent victims of violence as martyrs. Ironically, Palestinians who use this term indiscriminately in reference to innocent victims and suicide bombers alike probably harm their own cause by making it easier for their political adversaries to equate all "martyrs" with terrorists.