Almost universally in the U.S. media, including on National Public Radio, the captured Israeli soldier is being referred to as a hostage and his capture is referred to as a "kidnapping."
Note that Israeli jails are brimming with captured Palestinian fighters, but this is not called kidnapping, nor are they called "hostages," though they often end up getting their freedom in in exchange for the return of captured Israeli soldiers who are referred to as "hostages," not prisoners.
Take this story in the June 27 issue the New York Times, which states:
"The Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, ordered his security services on Monday to find a kidnapped Israeli soldier in the Gaza Strip…
"…The groups holding him said that before any information would be disclosed, israel must release all Palestinian women in its jails and all Palestinian prisoners under the age of 18."
The same linguistic bias occurs with regularity in the coverage of the Iraq War and occupation, with resistance fighters in Iraq routinely referred to in the U.S. media as "terrorists." On the rare occasions when those "terrorists" have managed to capture a U.S. soldier, those incidents are referred to as "kidnappings," too.
Meanwhile, captured Iraqi fighters are often referred to as criminals when caught, not as prisoners of war.
It is no accident that this perversion of language is occurring. The Pentagon and the Israeli government both use this biased language in their briefings to reporters, and the U.S. media lap it up and recite it uncritically.
The problem with this is that the average American then has a warped perspective on two important conflicts that are profoundly affecting the political and economic situation here at home in the United States. These readers and viewers, by uncritically accepting the abased terminology that is presented to them, end up assuming that the U.S. and Israel are fighting crime and terror in Palestine and Iraq, when in fact both nations are fighting wars against people who, far from being criminals, are for the most part committed fighters who believe they are fighting in defense of their own nations. That is why they fight so hard and so courageously against such overwhelming odds.
How are Americans going to understand the depth and passion of the resistance to U.S. aggression in Iraq, if they are led by the media’s misuse of language to believe that our troops are simply fighting bandits and criminals? How are we to understand the interminable horrors of the Israel/Palestine conflict if we are told that it is simply a battle between the good guys (the Israeli Defense Force), and the bad guys (a bunch of Palestinian hoodlums)?
The media should at least be forced to be even-handed. If Palestinians are "kidnapping" Israeli soldiers when they capture them, then the Israelis are "kidnapping" Palestinians when they do the same. Otherwise, let’s concede that both are capturing their opponents and holding them prisoner.
And while we’re at it, let’s start calling Iraqi fighters what they are: resistance fighters, not terrorists.