Six months ago, on May 8, Palestinian terrorists slaughtered our son Koby, 13, and his friend Yosef Ish-Ran, 14. The two boys, who played hooky from 8th grade to go hiking in a dry riverbed a half a kilometer from our home in Israel, were found with their heads crushed and bodies mutilated beyond recognition. The killers dipped their hands into the boys' blood and smeared it on the walls of the cave where the boys were found.

Koby was both an American and an Israeli citizen. He loved Cal Ripken, Michael Jordan, making chocolate milk shakes for the whole family and studying the logic of the Talmud. He was almost finished with 8th grade, and had just started to care about the way he looked. He was kind and athletic and funny, and he was smart, smart enough to understand the way that language affects perception. What we call or name an action often determines how we perceive it.

SOLDIERS IN WAR

In a stunning and painful development, many American newspapers, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, have bought the Palestinian propaganda line that murderers who kill innocent Israelis like Koby are not terrorists trying to instill fear and demoralize a civilian population, but rather "militants" who are engaged in a campaign of warfare against a repressive government.

According to this line of reasoning, our son and other children like him are killed not by terrorists -- but by Palestinian "militants." Militants are engaged in combat, in military action, ready to give up their lives to attack the enemy.

According to this line of reasoning, our son and other children like him were killed not by cowardly and immoral terrorists -- but by brave and honorable Palestinian militants.

Militants are soldiers engaged in war, even if the people they are fighting aren't old enough to shave.

Militants are soldiers engaged in war, even if the people they are fighting aren't old enough to shave.

Calling Palestinian terrorists militants justifies the actions of people like Sheikh Yassin of Hamas and Marwan Barghouti of the Tanzim who eagerly send Palestinians to die "nobly" for their cause, targeting Israeli children, like the 14- and 16-year-olds killed last week in Jerusalem. The two were on the way home from school. They were riding a public bus filled with other high school students when a terrorist opened fire with an M16. The shooter killed the two teenagers and wounded 50 others.

On the day of the shooting, the headlines in The New York Times and elsewhere reported that the attack had been perpetrated by Palestinian militants. In the morning, those militants had been transformed into gunmen -- an even more offensive term, with its old-fashioned atmosphere and vapid neutrality. The word is blameless, a description rather than a definition. A man with a gun, engaged in illegal activity. Illegal, but not necessarily immoral.

What has happened to the word terrorist -- inflicting terror, horror, pain to create overwhelming fear? Why are these men called by innocuous labels when their goal is to kill and maim as many innocent people as they can? And what about terrorism -- a system of inflicting terror on a particular population? Why has that word suddenly been excised from the political rhetoric about Palestinians?

Let us not excuse leaders who extol death by suicide bombing or who encourage their people to spray bullets into a crowd of innocent children on their way home from school. And let us not mistake terrorism as a random event rather than as a institutionalized system of intimidation.

BLOOD AND HATE

Palestinian leaders consciously inculcate the culture of terrorism in their society. That's one reason why polls indicate that more than 75% of the population favor suicide bombings. That's why on the evening of September 11, Palestinians were dancing in the street, celebrating because nearly 6,000 people had been struck down by a "militant" plot on American soil. That's why Palestinians accord rock star status to suicide bombers who die a "martyr's" death. It's a message that legitimizes terrorists like the one who blew up the Sbarro pizza parlor, killing our friend Frimet Roth's 15-year-old daughter, Malky, a flute player and poet.

Palestinians accord rock star status to suicide bombers who die a 'martyr's' death.

The Palestinians celebrated the Sbarro bombing by opening an exhibition at an Islamic university, where there was a cardboard cutout of the Sbarro storefront, and fake blood spilled onto the ground. This is how the Palestinian students learn to glorify the systematized "martyrdom" of good "militants."

Make no mistake about it. Our son Koby was killed by terrorists. We beg you, do not whitewash that fact. Do not justify our son's murder.

And do not jeopardize America's moral fight against terrorism by calling the Palestinians who killed Koby, Yosef, and the others resistance fighters, instead of calling them what they are: cruel, callous, child-killing terrorists with blood on their hands and hate seared into their hearts.

This article originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post.