UPDATED: For Wall Street Journal, What’s “Terror” in Norway is “Militancy” in Israel

Aug. 19 update follows.

After an armed ideologue opened fire on civilians at a Norwegian summer camp, an online Wall Street Journal headline described the incident as “Savage Terror Attacks.”

After armed ideologues opened fire on civilians on an Israeli bus, an online Wall Street Journal headline proclaimed that “Militants Kill Civilians In Israel Near Egypt.”

Although the scale of the two bloody acts was different — the terrorists in Israel failed to cause as many casualties as might be expected from an attack on a packed bus, reportedly thanks to the calm decision-making of the Israeli bus driver — the nature of the two incidents were the same. If people who target civilians in Norway are “terrorists,” then by any consistent standard those who target civilians in Israel are “terrorists.” If one is a “militant,” objectivity and fairness would dictate that the other is also a “militant.”

In other words, the Wall Street Journal’s coverage of these two events reveals a double standard and lack of objectivity and fairness. Below are screen shots of the two online stories as the appeared in the late afternoon on Aug. 18.

norway attack wsj

israel bus attack eilat

This is hardly the first time news organizations reserved the emotive and judgement-laden term “terror” for terror attacks on civilians anywhere in the world but Israel. NPR has committed this journalistic sin. So have AP and New York Times news reporters, and New York Times editorial writers.

But as former New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief James Bennett once wrote to his colleagues about the newspaper’s policy (or lackthereof) about use of the T word, “The calculated bombing of students in a university cafeteria, or of families gathered in an ice cream parlor, cries out to be called what it is.” And whatever it is, it is the same when it targets Israeli Jews as when it targets Norwegian campers.

Aug. 19 Update: In a later version of the story, the newspaper added the word “terrorist” to the article’s body.

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