Joel Mowbray

Intentionally killing civilians from America, Europe, or Asia (or almost anywhere else) makes you a terrorist—but intentionally killing innocent Jews in Israel merely makes you a “militant.”  At least in the eyes of the “mainstream” media.

  The vocabulary makeover is part of the moral equivalency that is rampant in media coverage of Israeli-Palestinian issues.

  The USA Today’s editorial page recently informed readers that “both Israeli and Palestinian leaders are captives of fanatical extremists,” as if a democratically-elected government seeking to protect its citizens from mass murderers is on a par with a self-appointed dictatorship aiding and abetting those same mass murderers in the intentional slaughter of innocent civilians.  But at least that’s the editorial page.

  Far more sinister is the subliminal marketing campaign waged on news pages to varnish the image of Palestinian terrorists.  In the same issue of the USA Today, the front page contained a story with the following lead sentence: “The Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad called off an 8-week truce with Israel Thursday and vowed to stage more suicide bombings.”  Notice that in the same sentence containing two groups’ joint promise to kill more innocent civilians is the label of the organizations as merely “militant”—in an ostensibly objective news story.

  The dictionary definition—and the usual connotation—for “militant” is: “Having a combative character; aggressive, especially in the service of a cause: a militant political activist.”  Groups that exist for the primary purpose of killing innocent civilians are not “combative” or “aggressive.”  Murderous, perhaps.  Terrorizing, certainly. 

  If anything, though, the definition for “terrorist”—those who employ “the systematic use of violence as a means to intimidate or coerce societies or governments”—does not fully capture the depths of the depravity.  The goal of groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad is not just to “intimidate” or “coerce”; it is actually to kill Jews.  And that’s in their own words.

  Earlier this summer, Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi declared, “By God, we will not leave one Jew in Palestine (meaning Israel as well as the territories),” justifying his pledge by claiming, “This is our land, not the Jews’.”  Last year, the leader of Hizbollah, Hassan Nassrallah, mused, “If they (Jews) all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.”  And Hizbollah’s protector, the Syrian government, is no less open about its desire to kill all Jews.  Syria’s Minister of Defense, Mustapha Tlass, opined in a television interview two years ago that if “every Arab killed a Jew, no Jews would remain,” and added that he personally wanted “to kill any Jew he faced.”

  Given that the terrorists openly—and proudly—call for the murder of innocent civilians, why does the media insist on calling them “militants?”  Even the Associated Press has hopped on the bandwagon.  The day after the recent bus bombing that killed 23—including six children—a search of the AP photo archive with the word “terrorist” yielded results from Asia and elsewhere in the Middle East, but none for the attack in Jerusalem.  To find those photos, the search required the word “militant.” 

  One must wonder what exactly about the intentional murder of 23 innocents on a bus packed with small children is “combative” or “aggressive.”

  When Israel responded by killing the Hamas terrorists responsible for planning and ordering the attack, the Middle East’s sole democracy was portrayed as the aggressor.  Typical is the following New York Times headline: “With Cease-Fire Crumbling, Israel Refuses to Suspend Raids.”

  But the worst offender—and the originator of the “militant” fad—is Reuters, the international news wire service.  Whereas some news outlets merely imply moral equivalency between Israel and the terrorists, Reuters is overt.  Reuters described Israel’s move against Hamas as a “relapse into the tit-for-tat bloodshed that doomed previous peacemaking.”

  “Tit-for-tat” is explicit equivalency; Reuters is informing the entire world that from an objective news perspective, there is absolutely no difference between the targeting of terrorist masterminds and the mass murder of innocent civilians.

  Although there is some temptation to pin the blame on latent—or maybe even cognizant—anti-Semitism, a more likely culprit is the innate belief most have that there exists similar legitimacy on opposite sides of almost any dispute.  But using terms such as “militant” and “spiral of violence” only serves to extend the “spiral of equivalency,” masking the true evil of the “militants.”


Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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