The Abuse of a Word

People who write have tremendous power. With a single word, they can change meanings, directions, slants. It’s a power that can be used…and abused.

Ynet reported that mortars had again fallen in Israel yesterday, noting it was the 17th such incident in a week. What was disturbing was the headlines, and the use of single word. Please don’t misunderstand. The fact that Ynet is reporting the mortar fire is, in and of itself, significant and praiseworthy. After all, a quick check of CNN’s front page today indicates that an elephant escaping into a suburb in Wisconsin is more important; and BBC appears to think that bears, dogs, and snakes are more newsworthy than rocket fired at Israel.

According to Ynet, two “projectiles” from Israel “fall inside” Israel. What exactly is a projectile? Well, elsewhere in the article, Ynet┬árefers to Israel attacking the mortars that fired the projectiles. The “fall inside” is also a rather innocuous way of describing explosive devices fired at our land.

I don’t like the use of “projectiles” that were fired at (rather than fell in) Israel, but the most insidious word used in the story is the word “errant”. An intrinsic part of the word errant is that it is an error; something that “strayed” from the proper or intended course.

Meaning that they didn’t mean to fire at Israel…eighteen times last week. I can’t honestly say where the line between “accidental” or “unintended” turns into intentional but, at a guess, I’d say it would be significantly less than 18 times in 7 days.

In August, 2014, the UN had peacekeepers in the area where mortars “fell” into Israel today but then, Syrian rebels kidnapped 40 United Nations┬áDisengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) troops from Fiji and held them for two weeks. Another 75 troops (from the Philippines), abandoned their stations and ran off when they came under attack. The United Nations response to the attacks against their forces was, as expected, less than impressive. They pulled them out of the area for two years.

UNDOF returned troops to the area in November 2016 and one can only wonder if the UN will pull them out again, given the mortar fire. Meanwhile, no…the UN has not bothered to condemn the firing of mortars into Israel. Given that CNN and BBC and other news outlets haven’t bothered to report the incidents, perhaps the UN hasn’t noticed them.

There isn’t much we can do about how the world covers Israel but there should be something about we here in Israel report these attacks. While the Syrians may or may not be intentionally targeting Israel, so long as we consider them “errant,” we are excusing the danger. It doesn’t really matter whether the Syrians intend to fire at Israel or not. The fact is, each country is responsible and answerable to what happens within their borders. The Syrians must be held accountable and failure to stop these “projectiles” must be answered immediately and firmly. The government of Israel and the IDF understand this and respond accordingly; the media in Israel should do no less.

Stop using absurd words such as “projectile” and “errant” and “fell”. These were missiles that were fired into Israel and when 18 fall in one week, “errant” is not the proper word.


Paula R. Stern

Paula R. Stern is the CEO of WritePoint Ltd, a leading technical writing company in Israel. She is also a popular blogger with her work appearing on her own sites, A Soldier's Mother and PaulaSays, as well as IsraellyCool and a number of other Jewish and Israeli sites.