Media Obscure Palestinian Terror & Culpability

Media Avoid Use of “Terrorist” to Describe Palestinians Who Attack Civilians

On August 5, 2002, reporting on a string of brutal Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israelis, most newspapers avoided the use of any form of the word “terrorist.”  In the headline and article (“16 Die as Violence Sweeps Mideast”) covering the terrorist attacks, the Los Angeles Times called the terrorists “suicide bombers” and “gunmen.”  The Washington Post labeled them “militants” and “suicide bombers.”  The Boston Globe favored the use of “militants,” and the New York Times called them “militants,” “gunmen” and “suicide bombers.”  Only when an Israeli was quoted (and sometimes when Israelis were paraphrased) was the term “terrorist” published. 

Media Obscure Palestinian Culpability

Additionally, many headlines obscured Palestinian culpability for the violence.  Not a single headline

in the NY Times, LA Times, Boston Globe or Washington Post

identified the attackers as Palestinians or Arabs. Only the Boston Globe identified the perpetrators in the subheadline, calling them “Arab militants.”

Double Standard

The Boston Globe was also notable for a classic application of a double standard. 

In another article in the August 5th Globe, “Police find explosives near Olympic stadium,” 

“terrorist” was used twice in an AP article about the November 17 terrorist group in Greece.  The article stated, “Antiterrorist police found a small quantity of explosives…The discovery is part of a relentless effort to topple the November 17 terrorist group…”

President Bush’s Firm Denunciation of Terrorists Obscured or Omitted

It was also telling to read how President Bush’s remarks about the terrorist attacks were featured.  President Bush said that he was “distressed to hear about the latest suicide bombers in Israel…There are a few killers who want to stop the peace process that we have started, and we must not let them…I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers…For those who yearn for peace in the Middle East, for those in the Arab lands, for those in Europe, for those all around the world who yearn for peace, we must do everything we possibly can to stop the terror.”

President Bush was clearly denouncing “terror” and the terrorists, whom he called “suicide bombers,” “killers,” and “terrorist killers.”  Yet, some headlines failed to mention the true focus of his remarks.  The Washington Post headline deceptively read, “Before Golf, Bush Decries Latest Deaths in MidEast.”  He wasn’t decrying the deaths of terrorists killed by Israel; he was decrying the terrorism the Palestinians perpetrated.  However, the Washington Post article did include most of his remarks, so the reader could eventually discover the focus of Bush’s comments. 

Remarkably, the NY Times article and headline (“Bush Makes Quick Work of Relaxing”

by Elisabeth Bumiller) focused on Bush’s golf game and the article included only two sentences of his remarks denouncing Palestinian terrorism.  However, Bumiller did accurately summarize the essence of his remarks.  It’s unfortunate, though, that readers had to wade through an article about Bush’s golf game to inadvertently discover this piece of hard news:

“Before starting his game yesterday, Mr. Bush, his driver in his left gloved hand, took time to condemn an overnight suicide bombing of a bus in Israel that killed at least nine. ‘I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers,’ Mr. Bush said on the first green of Cape Arundel, at 6:15 a.m. ”

The LA Times, at the very end of their article about the terrorist attacks, included a two sentence, somewhat ambiguous reference to Bush’s remarks:  “President Bush said he was ‘distressed’ over the latest Middle East bloodshed. ‘There are a few killers who want to stop the peace process that we have started. We must not let them,’ Bush told reporters in Kennebunkport, Maine, where he was vacationing.”

However, in a separate article by AP’s Sandra Sobieraj, the President’s remarks were clearly presented.  And the headline even used the word “terror.”  (“Bush Calls for Help Against Terror”)

The Boston Globe

reported on Bush’s remarks appropriately.  The headline, lead paragraph and article focused on Bush’s anti-terror remarks. 


[In original alert, there were several action items.]

Here are the relevant article headlines and URL’s:

**Los Angeles Times website, August 5, 2002

Headline:16 Die as Violence Sweeps Mideast Conflict

Among the dead are nine bus riders killed by a suicide bomber in northern Israel.  Gunmen attack in Jerusalem, West Bank.  By J. Michael Kennedy and Tracy Wilkinson

Bush Calls for Help Against Terror

by Sandra Sobieraj
Associated Press Writer 

Washington Post and website, August 5, 2002

Headline: 15 Killed in Day of Violence in Israel
(The above was the website headline,
which linked to the following article and second headline)
Headline: Suicide Bomber Attacks Bus in Israel, Killing 9 Subheadliine: Shooting in Jerusalem Leaves 3 Dead

by John Ward Anderson and Molly Moore
Page A1

Headline: Before Golf, Bush Decries Latest Deaths in Mideast
Subheadline: Upcoming Holiday to Be No Vacation from Strife
by Mike Allen, page A2< /FONT>

**Boston Globe, August 5, 2002

Headline: Wave of attacks rocks Israel
Subheadline: 13 dead, more than 80 hurt in strikes by Arab militants

Headline: Dismayed, Bush calls for an end to terror
by Anthony Shadid

NY Times, August 5, 2002

Headline: 3 Die in Gunfight at East Jerusalem Market
by John Kifner

Headline: Bush Makes Quick Work of Relaxing
by Elisabeth Bumiller

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