Cliff May

Inspire is a glossy, English-language, online magazine published by al-Qaeda. It was conceived by Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric and al-Qaeda leader, who also contributed editorials. In 2011, President Obama ordered a drone strike against al-Awlaki as he was riding in a car in Yemen along with Samir Khan, Inspire’s Pakistani-American editor and publisher. So why hasn’t the Newseum — the interactive Washington museum of news and journalism — honored al-Awlaki and Kahn in its Journalist Memorial?

If your answer is “because the Newseum would never honor terrorists,” you’re on shakier ground than you might think.

Last week, the Newseum announced that it was adding the names Mahmoud Al-Kumi and Hussam Salama to the engraved glass panels on which it features Daniel Pearl and other “reporters, photographers and broadcasters who have died reporting the news.” Just to be clear: Al-Kumi and Salama were not terrorists because I say they were terrorists. They were terrorists because the United States government says they were terrorists. Both men were employees of Al-Aqsa Television, designated a terrorist entity in 2010 by President Obama’s Treasury Department. Al-Aqsa is an arm of Hamas, also a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” organization which, according to the Treasury, “has intentionally killed hundreds of civilians, including U.S. citizens.” Palestinian media have reported that the two men were Hamas operatives as well.

The Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence has noted that Al-Aqsa “airs programs and music videos designed to recruit children to become Hamas armed fighters and suicide bombers upon reaching adulthood. . . . Treasury will not distinguish between a business financed and controlled by a terrorist group, such as Al-Aqsa Television, and the terrorist group itself.” Not untypical among the videos broadcast by Al-Aqsa is one calling for Allah to kill Jews, Christians, and Communists — “kill them to the last one, and don’t leave even one.”

Like al-Awlaki and Khan, Al-Kumi and Salama were targeted with a missile. That missile was fired by the Israeli military in the midst of last year’s conflict between Israel and Hamas. Unlike al-Awlaki and Khan, al-Kumi and Salama produced a miniscule journalistic oeuvre: To what news reports they contributed — if any — is unclear. Since, at the time they were killed, they were apparently traveling without a producer or reporter, might they have been simply gathering intelligence for their Hamas commanders? Did anyone at the Newseum attempt to gather such basic facts?


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.