There is a pattern in the press of minimizing, or whitewashing, the motivations, actions and goals of anti-Israel terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
A May 26, 2005 story in the New York Times risks exacerbating this problem, as the influential newspaper used misleading language to describe Hamas.
Correspondent Steven Erlanger stated that, along with the Hamas' social services, the group "is also about attacks against Israel and its occupation." [emphasis added]
"Occupation" for most readers is taken to mean Israel's presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, Hamas publicly proclaims that it regards the very existence of Israel within any borders as an "occupation." Instead of alerting readers to this point, Erlanger suggested that Hamas merely seeks a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and even intimated that Israel is the rejectionist party:
Hamas officials say they can accept an independent Palestine on the 1967 boundaries with Jerusalem as its capital and a recognition of the right of return for refugees, positions that are unacceptable to Israel.
Though technically true, these comments are misleading. Hamas may have accepted an independent Palestine on 1967 lines for now, but the group has yet to acknowledge Israel's legitimacy on the rest of the land.
According to Hamas' 1988 charter, the group "strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine," and considers itself "one of the links in the chain of the struggle against the Zionist invaders."
The charter goes on to note:
The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to do that.
... the same goes for any land the Moslems have conquered by force, because during the times of (Islamic) conquests, the Moslems consecrated these lands to Moslem generations till the Day of Judgement.
... Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement.
More importantly, Hamas leaders continue to this day to abide by the charter's principles. On March 26, 2005, Hamas spokesman Sheikh Hasan Yusuf reaffirmed the group's call for "a Palestinian state from the (Mediterranean) Sea to the (Jordan) River." On March 27, Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar was paraphrased in the Palestinian Al-Quds newspaper saying that "all of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf land, and if the present generations cannot liberate it, this does not mean relinquishing it" (Translations by BBC Monitoring International Reports).
Palestinian observers acknowledge such declarations and their meaning. Muhannad Abid al-Hamid [sic], writing on May 3 in the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam, noted that Hamas "talks about an independent state as a door towards complete liberation ..." The New York Times owes it to its readers, who undoubtedly are less familiar with Hamas than are al-Hamid's Palestinian audience, to clearly present Hamas' declared long-term strategy of destroying Israel, even if the terrorist group's tactics have, for the time being, changed.