Thursday, August 12, 2004

When is a "Militant" not a "Terrorist"?

Here's a short letter I dashed off to the Public Editor
of the New York Times today:-

The following headline appeared over a story that appeared in the New York Times on August 13: "Militants' Blast Kills 2 Palestinians by Israel

As the story notes, a Palestinian bomber detonated explosives near a busy checkpoint, where scores of civilians gather to pass into Jerusalem, killing two Palestinian passers-by and wounding about 20 people, including 6 Israeli border police officers, 3 of them seriously.

In the past, the New York Times has deigned from replacing the term "militants" which it considers 'neutral' with a more value-content word such as 'terrorist'. The reasoning, I understand, is that the NYT does not want to define a national liberation movement either as 'freedom fighters' or 'terrorists' but to let the acts speak for themselves.

The implication, by perforce, is that when Palestinians kill Jews they are but militants, rarely, if at all, terrorists. But in this case, the bomber knew that his bomb was left in the midst of dozens of Palestinian civilians and that they would necessarily be injured and worse in the blast even if the bomber's main target was Israeli security forces.

That the NYT headline writer still selected to use the word 'militant' is beyond me.

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