Wednesday, November 24, 2004

So, When is a Terrorist Not A Militant?

I found this report on the NYT web site on November 21. (URL below).

Islamic Jihad is an officially recognized terror group.(*)
Why, then, does the NYT insist on using the term"militant" when the group itself acknowledges the person's organizational affiliation while on a mission of violence? Why not "terrorist"?

The report:
"In violence Sunday, Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian militant who tried to attack a Gaza road frequented by Jewish settlers, the Israeli army and Islamic Jihad said. The army confirmed it killed one militant during the incident, which occurred in an off-limits area not far from a crossing point into Israel. It said soldiers chased after another armed man, but Islamic Jihad said he escaped unarmed. The Islamic Jihad confirmed in a statement one of its men was killed in the incident.

(*) State Department Identifies 37 Foreign Terrorist Organizations
A listing of terrorist organizations and groups is included in "Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003", areport released by the Department of State on April 29. Designation of a group as a foreign terrorist organization results in the U.S. government blocking assets held in U.S. financial institutions, denying their members visas, and making it a criminal offense for U.S. citizens or persons within U.S. jurisdiction to provide them with material support or resources.

Following is the list of Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations, determined by the Secretary of State, plus a list of other terrorist organizations that the report identifies as active in the past year Patterns of Global Terrorism: 2003U.S. Department of StateWashington, D.C. April 29, 2004
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade
HAMAS (Islamic Resistance Movement)
Hizballah (Party of God)
Kahane Chai
Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ)
Palestine Liberation Front (PLF)
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)

To which, I received this reply:-

Dear Yisrael Medad,

Thanks for the message. Mr. Okrent briefly touched on this in a recent web journal post where he also said he would be revisiting this issue at some point during his tenure.

Personally, I was torn until a conversation I had last week with a reader from Germany. Absent any clear definition, I felt, it seemed reasonable to use "abuse" if it helped keep temperatures down, much as the use of "militant" instead of "terrorist" in the Palestine-Israel conflict suggests a sometimes misplaced wish neither to take sides nor to be inflammatory (many supporters of Israel feel very differently about this, and I expect to address the specific issue in a future column). I will keep the example you sent us on file for him.

Arthur Bovino
Office of the Public Editor
The New York Times

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