Terrorist Bombings do not a Terrorist Make
The Washington Post has a lengthy record of avoidance of the "T"- for terrorism word when reporting terrorist threats and terrorist attacks by terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezb'allah. Post reporters have gone to great lengths to find mellow euphemisms for the "T" word -- with "militant" the favorite substitute.
It's not that the Post has applied a universal ban on the "T" word -- only when it comes to terrorist perpetrators targeting Israelis.
Now, in a bit of a semantic breakthrough, the Post finally has recognized that Israel indeed faces terrorist threats -- notably by Hezb'allah.
Reporter Joby Warrick, in a May 8 article, tells Post readers that, in response to Israeli airstrikes in Syria against Hezb'allah-bound advanced weapons, Hezb'allah may retaliate with "terrorist attacks on Israeli tourists." Not "militant" attacks, but "terrorist" attacks. ("Officials fear 'shadow war' after strikes on Syria," front page) And this is not the only use of the "T" word in Warrick's article. Readers also are told that Hezb'allah might opt for "a terrorist attack in preference to a direct assault against Israel" and that Hezb'allah has been linked "to assassinations and terrorist bombings on foreign soil."
So has the Post finally acknowledged that when terrorism -- deliberate use of violence against civilians in pursuit of a political agenda -- rears its vile head, the "T" word is not only permitted -- but required?
While acknowledging a long trail of terrorist attacks by Hezb'allah, the Post still shies from designating Hezb'allah itself as a terrorist organization -- as the United States, Israel, Canada, Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand have done.
So, Warrick writes that the advanced weapons caches in Syria that were attacked by Israel apparently were intended for Hezb'allah, "a Lebanese militant group closely allied" with the Syrian regime. Not a "terrorist" group, but a "militant" group. And readers are told that retaliation against Israel would probably come in "attempted attacks by Hezb'allah operatives." Not Hezb'allah "terrorists," but Hezb'allah "operatives."
Why, when it's finally OK to use the "T" word to describe Hezb'allah attacks and bombings, does Warrick flinch and spare Hezb'allah itself the "T" label? Who else but Hezb'allah commits these terrorist attacks? If it looks like a "T" duck, quacks like a "T" duck, and walks like a "T" duck, it's a "T" duck.
The Post still has to make that final, but essential, connection. Old habits die hard.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers