Monday, December 15, 2008

At The New York Times: Terrorism According To Hoyt

In Separating the Terror and the Terrorists, Clark Hoyt--The New York Times Public Editor--attempts to define terms by claiming that not everyone who commit acts of terror are terrorists.

Thus Hamas is not a terrorist organization, despite the fact that it commits acts of terror:
To the consternation of many, The Times does not call Hamas a terrorist organization, though it sponsors acts of terror against Israel. Hamas was elected to govern Gaza. It provides social services and operates charities, hospitals and clinics. [Deputy News Editor Phil] Corbett said: “You get to the question: Somebody works in a Hamas clinic — is that person a terrorist? We don’t want to go there.” I think that is right.
According to this dodge, terrorism is defined not purely on the basis of action but by association. A doctor in a Hamas clinic might be accused of being a terrorist--though Hoyt neglects to give an example of a news story where The Times would be faced by such a dilemma.

Then there is James Bennet, former Times’s Jerusalem bureau chief from 2001 through 2004, who described his own approach:
The memo said he settled on a rough rule: He would use the words, when they fit, to describe attacks within Israel’s 1948 borders but not in the occupied West Bank or Gaza, which Israel and the Palestinians have been contending over since Israel took them in 1967. When a gunman infiltrated a settlement and killed a 5-year-old girl in her bed, Bennet did not call it terrorism. “All I could do was default to my first approach and describe the attack and the victims as vividly as I could.”
It is unclear why Bennet arbitrarily draws the line at Israel's 1948 borders when Palestinian terrorists openly declare their aim to completely destroy Israel and not stop just at the 1967 borders. Unfortunately, Bennet seems unaware that writing 'vividly' does not necessarily go hand in hand with writing objectively and accurately.

CAMERA, in an alert, points out further muddling by Hoyt with defining terrorism:
Hoyt observes that: "Susan Chira, the foreign editor, said The Times may eventually put that label [terrorist] on Lashkar [perpetrators of the Mumbai slaughter], but reporters are still trying to learn more about it. 'Our instinct is to proceed with caution, not rushing to label any group with the word terrorist before we have a deeper understanding of its full dimensions,' she said."

The Times' practice of considering the terrorists' cause before attaching the terrorist label to the murder of innocents is not defensible. Targeting civilians for violence for political gain is terrorism. It doesn't matter where or against what kind of civilian.

Chira seem to confuse terrorism with method acting, worrying about divining the inner motivation that moves the terrorist.

In the end, Hoyt presents his own definition of terrorism--basing it on his own subjective standard:
My own broad guideline: If it looks as if it was intended to sow terror and it shocks the conscience, whether it is planes flying into the World Trade Center, gunmen shooting up Mumbai, or a political killer in a little girl’s bedroom, I’d call it terrorism — by terrorists.
Hoyt gives a killer in a little girl's bedroom 30 years ago as an example of a terrorist. Is it any wonder that the current continous, ongoing mindnumbing bombing of Sderot escapes mention?

CAMERA gives an objective standard:

The only questions a journalist should ask before labeling someone a terrorist is, "Did he intentionally target the civilians or were they inadvertently harmed? Was this a political or criminal act?"

So, for example, drug dealers killing rival dealers is not terrorism because its motivation is criminal not political. Israeli soldiers killing a terrorist firing a Qassam rocket, and unfortunately killing a bystander as well, is not terrorism, because the target is the combatant, and the civilian death was unavoidable. The death of the civilian was the fault of the terrorist, not the Israelis, since it is a war crime to launch fire amidst a civilian area (not to mention fire AT a civilian area). In contrast, seeking out and shooting to death civilians that jihadists consider to be their enemies (American, British, Indian, Israeli, and Jewish civilians) is clearly politically motivated and should be labeled terrorism.

Seems simple enought. Perhaps The New York Times should just come out and admit that such an objective standard would upset their agenda in how they choose to interpret the conflict for their readers.

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Anonymous said...

Very well written. Much more attention should be brought to the propaganda organizations such as CAMERA and CAMPUS WATCH which are nothing more than terrorist groups themselves hiding under the veil of a "human rights organization". They are literally brown shirt narc/rats who are singling out teachers and professors that dare speak of the Palestinian suffering without adding the Israeli propaganda to the discussion. Teachers and professors have actually been fired for this and the ADL and David Horowitz celebrate. It truly is a story that remains untold that should be common knowledge in the USA considering US taxpayers end up paying for these "organizations" with the billions Israel receives annually from the US.

Daled Amos said...

If you have any facts to back up any of the things you claim, feel free to post them.