Sunday, June 05, 2005

Romanticizing Terrorists at the Times

The New York Times and other media outlets routinely use the glamorous word "resistance"--with all its imagery of the French Maqui in berets--in describing terrorist groups, be they Iraqis who mass-murder other Iraqis or Palestinians whose hobby is murdering Jews through suicide bombings or by shooting rockets at civilians. This is not "resistance" but terrorism, and such acts are war crimes.

The use of Maqui terminology is no accident. It is part of an intentional policy of whitewashing and downplaying the viciousness of terrorist groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Lebanese Hezbollah.

The editors who run the Times et al would probably tell you that the word "resist" and "resistance" is neutral in the context of fighting occupation. What makes that excuse ring hollow is the incessant use of such language in articles on the Lebanese Hezbollah, a terrorist group whose aim is not "resistance" to occupation (Israeli having waltzed out in 2000) but rather the destruction of Israel and the wanton murder of Jews.

In an article on the Lebanese elections today, the Times said "At one campaign event last month, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's leader, led a celebration of the anniversary of Israel's pullout from Lebanon by boasting that his men had more than 12,000 rockets and warning that the resistance would never be squelched."

The Times went on to parrot Hezbollah and others repeatedly in their self-glamorizing use of that word, adopting and tacitly endorsing it. For example: "Nabih Berri, speaker of the Lebanese Parliament and Amal's leader, has described the election as a vote 'to choose the representatives of the nation who will protect the resistance.'" The reporter, Hassan Fattah, goes on in similar cheerleading vein, talking about "the patina of heroism that it [Hezbollah] earned in the 23 years of Israelis occupation of the south."

Yeah, I remember. Really heroic, murdering 241 Marines in their beds! Before September 11, Hezbollah had killed more Americans than any other terrorist group. To Hassan Fattah, and the New York Times, murder is heroic I guess--as long as its Americans or Israeli Jews. Hezbollah's goals are clear and often repeated. As Jeffrey Goldberg noted in a New Yorker piece in 2002 (see this online Q&A for the highlights), it "wants to create in Lebanon an Islamic republic in the style of Iran; it wants to destroy Israel; and it wants to unite the Islamic world under its banner." Gee, the Times forgot to mention any of that! Its correspondent was too busy doing PR for his fave terrorist group, and his editors were nodding off or nodding in agreement.

Similarly noxious Times language crept into an article today on the terrorism trial of a Florida academic, Sami Al-Arian. "He closed by urging members of the resistance to 'be cautious and alert,' the authorities said." Excuse me? This man is on trial for promoting acts of murder against Jews--the charges are terrorism and racketeering--not "resistance." The Times goes on describe Al-Arian in Jeffersonian terms as "An impassioned advocate for Palestinian independence," as opposed to an impassioned advocate of Israel's destruction.

This same romantic, inaccurate bull is routinely served up by Times reporters and editors, again and again, in stories that touch on terrorism and the Middle East. This is not journalism. This is serving as a mouthpiece for terrorists.

The Times has a new ombudsman, Barney Calame, a veteran journalist from the Wall Street Journal and a real straight-arrow, old-school guy. It will be interesting to see if Calame will tackle this issue or throw up his hands, as did Daniel Okrent. He certainly has a terrific background. So let's hope. But remember that even the best ombudsman has a heck of a time overcoming deep-seated biases such as we see at the Times every day.

UPDATE: Eureka! On June 7, the Times wrote about the Lebanese elections without serving as propagandists for Hezbollah. Will wonders never cease?