The Biden administration says that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) are terrorists. The European Union, Japan, Canada, Australia and many other countries say the same. It’s not a Republican vs. Democrat issue. It’s not a conservative vs. liberal controversy. It’s something on which all reasonable people agree.
So why won’t the media use the T-word?
It was the Clinton administration that composed the very first list of Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Dated Oct. 8, 1997, it began with 13 groups. Five of them were Palestinian, including Hamas and PIJ.
Over the years, a handful of terrorist groups have been removed from the list. But not Hamas or PIJ. To this day, they are officially regarded by the U.S. government—Democratic and Republican administrations alike—as terrorist groups.
The E.U. created its own list of terrorist groups in 2001. Seven of the 21 designees are Palestinian groups, including Hamas and PIJ. Hamas actually appealed its inclusion in 2010 and won briefly on a technicality, but then lost on appeal.
Despite this broad international consensus, many major media outlets still refuse to use the word “terrorists” when referring to Hamas or PIJ.
No matter how many buses they blow up, how many elderly people they machine-gun at Passover seders, how many bombs they plant in grocery stores and movie theaters, how many children they shoot, stab or stone—much of the media still will not use the word.
On Feb. 21, armed terrorists from Hamas and PIJ barricaded themselves in a house in Nablus (Shechem). As usual, the Palestinian Authority refused to take action. Despite having one of the largest per capita security forces in the world, despite years of American training and large quantities of American weapons, despite the fact that the Oslo Accords explicitly require the P.A. to arrest terrorists—it refused.
So, Israeli troops briefly entered the city to arrest the fugitives. From inside the house, the terrorists shot at the Israelis. Other armed Palestinian terrorists rushed to the scene and also opened fire on the Israelis. So, the Israelis fired back.
It was a clear case of armed terrorists using automatic weapons to try to murder those who had come to arrest them.
To the BBC and Reuters, however, these Hamas and PIJ gangsters were not terrorists—they were just “gunmen.”
According to the Associated Press, they were “militants.” Two AP correspondents, barely able to hide their bias, wrote in their “news” article that the Israeli police action was “brazen.”
The New York Times described the terrorists as “Palestinians,” “Palestinian gunmen” and “armed Palestinian groups.”
CNN, which likewise called them just “Palestinians,” at least acknowledged that the fatalities included “two Islamic Jihad commanders.” But then it called PIJ “a militant group.”
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines terrorism as “The calculated use of violence or threat of violence to inculcate fear.” It’s not hard to see why Hamas and PIJ fit that definition. Certainly, the U.S., the E.U. and many other governments have had no trouble recognizing it.
So, for the news media to use the word “terrorist” to describe Hamas and PIJ wouldn’t be taking a partisan position. They would be employing the dictionary definition of the word, as accepted by a broad international consensus.
Yet so many media outlets just won’t use the T-word. Why?
The obvious explanation is the simplest one: Many editors and journalists strongly sympathize with the Palestinian Arab cause. They don’t want to use language that makes the Palestinian cause look bad. Thus, they choose words that help soften the Palestinians’ image and legitimize their behavior.
Sadly, neither basic facts nor dictionary definitions seem to matter very much to journalists who have an agenda.
Stephen M. Flatow is an attorney and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror.”