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Media Analyses





WASHINGTON POST-WATCH: From "Militant" to "Military"


In recent months the Washington Post has moved from typically referring to Palestinian terrorist groups as "militants," perhaps due in part to exchanges on the subject with CAMERA. Unfortunately, the Post now typically refers to the "military leaders," "military wings," and "military" or "offensive operations" of these "armed groups" – Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades of Fatah.

Journalistically, the change is meaningless. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are terrorist organizations. Murdering Israelis, mostly non-combatants, is their primary tactic supporting their strategy of destroying the Jewish state. This does not just meet the general definition of terrorism, it epitomizes it.

Further, the United States lists Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades as terrorist organizations. Israel describes them as such. the Washington Post’s usage of "militant" in place of terrorist sanitized and perhaps implicitly legitimizes Palestinian outrages. "Military wings" and "offensive operations" in place of terrorists and terrorist attacks does the same.

Example:

Consider the article "Israel Kills 2 Palestinian Radical Leaders in Air Strike, by Jerusalem correspondent, Scott Wilson (Washington Post, November 2). The lead sentence reads "An Israeli air strike Tuesday in the Gaza Strip killed two military leaders [emphasis added] of radical Palestinian groups, including a senior member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades whose arrest Israel had demanded for months."

In covering the deaths of Hassan Madoun, of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and Fawzi Abu Qara of Hamas, the Post in its own words also refers to "the military wing of Hamas," a Hamas identification of Abu Qara "as a senior military leader," and to the February pledge by "armed Palestinian groups ... to stop offensive operations [emphases added]."

This even though the article itself highlights these "military leaders’" terrorism: Israeli officials are reported as describing Madoun "as a prolific recruiter of suicide bombers who have carried out at least three attacks, killing more than a dozen Israelis." Abu Qara "specialized in building the Qassam rockets that the group fires from Gaza into southern Israel." An Israeli official is quoted as saying the two were "on their way to prepare a suicide bombing" and that Jerusalem will pursue "terrorists."

So why confuse readers with "military wing," "military leaders" and "offensive operations"? As CAMERA pointed out in an October 28 letter to Post Foreign Editor Keith Richburg, criticizing similar usage by Wilson in reports on October 27, October 25, October 18, and October 17, the paper "studiously avoids using the word ‘terrorist’" in its own voice. Instead, it has now exchanged "militant" for "military."

But these are not "military" organizations. They do not adhere to internationally accepted rules of war. They have no legitimate chain of command, not even under the Palestinian Authority. They neither fight for nor represent a sovereign state. They do stage terrorist attacks in a sovereign state whose legitimacy they deny. There is nothing "military" about them. Yet The Post implicitly equates such groups, with their "military wings,"’ with the Israeli military and its counter-terrorist operations.

In its editorial "Signal to Damascus" (November 1), the Post referred to Syria’s backing of, among others, "Islamic terrorists," and its support of "extremist Palestinian groups." Among those Syrian-supported Islamic terrorists are the members of Islamic Jihad. Other "extremist Palestinian groups" include the Islamic terrorists of Hamas and the Arab nationalist terrorists of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. The partial clarity of the editorial is better than the turbidity of the next day’s "Israel Kills 2 Palestinian Radical Leaders in Air Strike." But not as good as the accuracy of an October 27 news brief, which referred to Islamic "terrorist suspects" and a "terrorist group" convicted of plotting to attack Jewish sites in Germany. Terrorists and terrorist attacks in Spain, Indonesia, the United Kingdom and the United States often are identified as such.

Action Item:

Write Post Ombudsman Deborah Howell at ombudsman@washpost.com. Ask why The Washington Post, in its own words, identifies planned anti-Jewish attacks in Germany as terrorism, but insists on labeling actual strikes against Israel as "offensive operations" carried out by Palestinian "military wings"? Remind her that several ombudsmen on major daily newspapers, including Kate Parry at the Minneapolis Star Tribune ("Be consistent in identifying ‘terrorists’", August 7) call for "the truth of plain language" when it comes to anti-Israel suicide bombers and other such terrorists.


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