A Phrase to Ponder

by Jay Nordlinger

This is a perfectly innocuous AP report headed “Israel, Hamas accept Egyptian cease-fire proposal.” But a line in it made me arch an eyebrow (or the mental equivalent): “The announcement marked the second time in less than a week that the bitter enemies had agreed to Egyptian mediation.”

“Bitter enemies.” Yes, I suppose Hamas and Israel are. But is that the right phrase? Hamas is sworn to the destruction of Israel. It works every day to that end. Israel would like very much to coexist with the Arabs. Hamas makes war on Israelis, and terrorizes them. I suppose this makes them bitter, yes.

But the Hatfields and McCoys were bitter enemies — I once read a book on them, and have the sense that neither family was more innocent or guilty than the other. In international relations, I think you can characterize the Greeks and the Turks as bitter enemies. The Yankees and the Red Sox, sure.

But Hamas and Israel? I don’t think “bitter enemies” is the right phrase. It smells (to me) of a false equivalence.