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 Posts 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.
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
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
In its editorial "Signal to Damascus" (November 1), the
Post referred to Syrias 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 days "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.
Write Post Ombudsman Deborah Howell at email@example.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