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Media Analyses





CAMERA ALERT: Goldsborough's Reckless Allegations


On December 3 and December 6, the San Diego Union-Tribune published columns by James Goldsborough that contained a number of inaccurate and/or flawed observations and allegations. His December 3 column, entitled “Overuse obscures the term ‘terrorism,’ ” is a jumble of reckless, illogical allegations.

Goldsborough appears to have no understanding that there is a clear definition for terrorism. He claims that murderers of Israeli children cannot be called terrorists because Israelis are “occupiers.”

The legal definition of terrorism adopted by the US State Department [from Title 22 of the US Code, Section 2656f(d) ] is:

...premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience. For the purposes of this definition, the term 'noncombatant' is interpreted to include, in addition to civilians, military personnel who at the time of the incident are unarmed and/or not on duty...We also include as acts of terrorism attacks on military installations or on armed military personnel when a state of military hostilities does not exist at the site, such as the bombings against US bases in Europe, the Philippines, or elsewhere.

*** Goldsborough writes:

President Bush's description of any nation that “harbors” terrorists as a terrorist nation is meaningless. Many nations, including this one, must deal with fanatical protesters. That does not make every nation terrorist.

There is a big difference between a country “harboring” a terrorist and merely having a terrorist living in one’s country. A nation that “harbors” terrorists does nothing to impede their violence and may often actively encourage them with funds, propaganda and protection. Contrast that with a country such as the US, which is actively seeking to stop the funding of terrorists and is doing everything possible to find and prosecute terrorists. In addition, the US is educating its population about the evils of such extremism, making it socially unacceptable to support terrorism.

*** Goldsborough writes:

In Israel, Palestinians who kill Israeli civilians are called terrorists. Israelis who kill Palestinian civilians are called soldiers.

This is a truly vile comparison. Intentionally blowing up teenagers and other civilians on a bus, whether it is in Israel or in Gaza, is clearly terrorism. Inadvertently killing a civilian while attempting to kill a terrorist is clearly not terrorism. The civilian was not the intended target. And the terrorist who was targeted became a combatant and ceased being a "civilian" the instant he engaged in terrorizing the public.

*** Goldsborough writes:

It is this relativism that led the Reuters news agency to tell reporters to stop using the word, that one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter.

Reuters is wrong to stop using the word terrorist. It is not “relative” except in the minds of people who do not understand the definition. The word has a specific meaning. Whether one agrees or disagrees with a terrorist's politics is meaningless. Even if someone is fighting for a “good cause,” if he intentionally kills civilians rather than on-duty/hostile soldiers or their infrastructure, he is a terrorist.

*** Goldsborough writes:

Are acts committed against an occupier acts of terrorism or of resistance?

See above State Dept. definition. If the act is against civilians or unarmed/off-duty/non-hostile military, it is terrorism.

Goldsborough mangles history by writing:

In 1947-48, Jews in Palestine blew up British civilians (the King David Hotel) and Palestinian civilians (Deir Yassin). For Jews, both peoples were occupiers, and Jewish bombers were freedom fighters, not terrorists.

They were not terrorists. The King David Hotel was then being used as British military headquarters and so was a military not a civilian target. And furthermore, a warning was phoned into the hotel, but was ignored by the British officer in charge who thought it was just a bluff.

As for Deir Yassin, this strategically located town was an Arab military outpost (that included foreign Arab soldiers from Iraq) from which Arabs fired on Jews in nearby villages and along the vital road to Jerusalem. The Jewish military effort to neutralize the threat posed by Deir Yassin began with forewarnings to civilian residents through a loudspeaker prompting some to evacuate. Jewish soldiers encountered intense gunfire from Arab soldiers sheltering in the town, and in the context of house-to-house combat, civilians were killed. The loss of lives occurred not as a calculated effort to terrorize but as part of a defensive action.

Arab survivors confirm the military nature of the attack and the absence of any massacre. According to survivor Ayish Zeidan:

The Arab radio talked of women being killed and raped, but this is not true…I believe that most of those who were killed were among the fighters and the women and children who helped the fighters. The Arab leaders committed a big mistake. By exaggerating the atrocities they thought they would encourage people to fight back harder. Instead, they created panic and people ran away. (The Daily Telegraph, April 8, 1998)

Hazem Nusseibeh, an editor of the Palestine Broadcasting Service's Arabic news in 1948, admits that he and Hussein Khalidi, the secretary of the Arab Higher Committee (the representative body of the Arabs of British Palestine), fabricated atrocities in reporting about the battle at Deir Yassin “so the Arab armies will come to liberate Palestine from the Jews.” Nusseibeh said in a BBC television series Israel and the Arabs: the 50 Year's War that, “This was our biggest mistake. We did not realize how our people would react. As soon as they heard that women had been raped [a fabrication] at Deir Yassin, Palestinians fled in terror.”

*** In the December 6 column “Everyone loses in Sharon's war against Palestinians” Goldsborough blames all the violence on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon — giving a free pass to Arafat and the terrorist groups he has coddled. Then he disparages Sharon's demand for proof that Arafat is both willing and able to control the violence against Israelis:

Sharon says he wants to negotiate, but requires seven days of nonviolence as a condition. If he is sincere, his condition is absurd, for it gives Hamas, the enemy of negotiations, a permanent veto over them.

Goldsborough ignores the argument that if Arafat cannot control Hamas, then there is no point in Israel negotiating with him.

(In the original alert, action items and contact information were listed here.)


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