10 October 2009

Interesting Oxymoron

Odd. I've always found the things a bit silly. Either they're clever ways to describe something absurd (like 'living dead' or 'best worst movie'), silly puns ('same difference' and 'civil war'), or they're complete nonsense. I've found very few that anyone would actually use in a normal sentence without either a heavy dose of irony or a zombie apocalypse. There are some, like 'old boy', which probably started off as pithily ironic descriptions but carved themselves such a rut in the language we no longer think of them as such. But I could never think of one that had come up organically, with no attempt at contradiction.

Then I found one. It's pretty nasty. "Enemy civilian". I mean, if someone's doing something that makes them your enemy, they're not really a civilian and if someone's not actually fighting, then they can't be your enemy. Yet you see this phrase all the time. Especially from pro-Israeli types around Christmas last year.

I searched for it a bit and found this nasty piece of work:
Israel has often endagered its own soldiers in war for the fear that using superior firepower may cause civilian deaths among those who indiscriminately kill our civilians without batting an eyelid.
Now I have fairly strong opinions on this. I also didn’t like this dubious caveat:
I have no pleasure when truly innocent enemy civilians are killed
implying that just being a civilian isn’t enough to make a Palestinian innocent (I doubt he'd say the same for the long-suffering people of Sderot). But I'm not really interested in any of that. I'm interested in what he means by "among those". Who are "those who indiscriminately kill our civilians"? Are they Hamas or Al-Aqsa fighters? Clearly not, there are no civilians among fighters, by definition. So this "group" is quite clearly Palestinians. Cosmic X holds Palestinian civilians responsible for the actions of Palestinian combatants, and therefore reckons they are less deserving of life than Israeli civilians.

And this seems to be fairly typical of the kind of people who use this oxymoron regularly. The very idea that whether a civilian “belongs to” your side or theirs should affect the moral or strategic value of murdering them in cold blood is utterly revolting. The idea that their lives may be worth less, the idea that Palestinian civilians dying instead of Israelis should be slightly better because it might annoy Hamas are not ones you should be able to hold without getting regularly kicked in the groin, yet both seem to permeate these kinds of debates, and both are horrible, horrible attitudes that people get away with expressing on a daily basis. It astounds me how such a murderous, racist, not to mention nonsensical phrase slots so neatly into our language, and it says a lot about our attitudes.

1 comment:

  1. There's "military intelligence" as well, of course.