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August 19, 2011
Palestinian terrorists on deadly rampage, but Wash. Post, NY Times still call them 'militants'
On Aug. 18, a series of coordinated attacks by Palestinian terrorists in southern Israel killed eight people -- 6 civilians and 2 military personnel. The terrorists used an array of lethal weapons as they targeted a couple of buses and two civilian cars near the seaside resort of Eilat. It was the worst terrorist rampage perpetrated against the Jewish state in years.
Yet, both the Washington Post and the New York Times, in their Aug. 19 editions, carefully and deliberately erase "terrorism" and "terrorists" from their vocabulary in reporting the previous day's bloody events. Not once do their correspondents and headline writers use the "T" word.
Yes, when it comes time to quote Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak or to write about the White House response, the "T" word appears in quotation marks, attributed to someone else, but not assumed by the Washington Post or by the NY Times, which maintain their steadfast practice of acknowledging terrorism in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world, but not when Israel is the target.
Instead, they trot out their favorite euphemism -- "militants" -- to sanitize and perfume the lethal depredations of Palestinian terrorists.
The Post, for example, sprinkles its coverage with "militant" no fewer than six times, starting with its front-page teaser "Attacks in Israel -- Assaults blamed on Gaza militants...." Then turn to page A6, where it runs correspondent Joel Greenberg's dispatch. His article is supplemented by a map, with an arrow pointing to the deadly scenes, with a brief explanation "Militants launch multiple attacks."
Greenberg's piece itself is loaded with "militant" four times, such as when he reports that Israeli officials said there were prior indications that "militants" slipped out of Gaza into Sinai to stage their attacks.
The headline similarly strives to attenuate the atrocities perpetrated by the terrorists -- "Attacks kill eight in southern Israel -- Six Palestinians in Gaza slain in retaliatory strike; lawlessness in Sinai cited." Note there's not the slightest hint that most of the Israeli fatalities were civilians and that virtually all the Palestinian fatalities were the leader and members of the Palestinian terrorist group that Israel fingered as responsible for the attacks near Eilat. Instead, there's a baseless, moral equivalence drawn here -- Palestinians kill Israelis, Israelis kill Palestinians.
Greenberg, for his part, when apparently overwhelmed by "militant" fatigue, uses a few fall-back euphemisms ;like "assailants" sent by the "armed wing" of the Popular Resistance Committee," or "attackers". Anything to avoid the "T" word.
Over at the New York Times, the absence of the "T" word is similarly glaring in a dispatch by Isabel Kershner and David Kirkpatrick ("Attacks Near Israeli Resort Heighten Tensions With Egypt and Gaza -- Israel blames Palestinians for an assault from Sinai." Israel, of course, didn't blame "Palestinians;" it blamed Palestinian "terrorists."
The Times' lead paragraph opts for "armed attackers," definitely not tainted with the "T" word. Hamas, which rules Gaza, is described as a "militant" group. Ditto the Popular Resistance Committee -- described as a "shadow group that has worked with Hamas."
Does all this semantic twisting and turning to avoid the "T" word matter? You bet it does.
"Terrorist" is an adjective grounded in absolute morality that brooks no excuses, rationalizations or justifications. It's beyond the pale. It has a clear, objective definition -- deliberate use of violence against civilians in pursuit of a political, religious, or ideological agenda..
"Militant," on the other hand, is a rubbery, malleable adjective, a euphemism subject to varying impressions and interpretations. It opens the way to rationalize and even justify "terrorism."
By substituting "militant" for "terrorist," The Post and the Times attenuate the vile immorality of Palestinian terrorism. They allow readers to absorb terrorist events without revulsion. They provide Palestinians with semantic camouflage to do their worst.
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