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February 18, 2010

Covert wording clouds reports on stealth assassination

Washington Post coverage of the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh put the verbal equivalent of false beards on al-Mabhouh’s organization, Hamas, and the Lebanese Hezbollah movement. In “Pressure grows on Israel over Hamas official’s slaying; Fake British passports used by alleged assassins fuel speculation that Mossad spy agency killed operative in Dubai hotel” The Post refers to “militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah,” and to “Hamas militants in Gaza.” It also twice mentions “Hamas’ military wing.”

The dispatch, by Post Jerusalem bureau chief Howard Schneider, topped February 18's foreign coverage including two articles about the U.S. and allied offensive against the Taliban in Afghanistan, even though Schneider first reported the murder in “Death of Islamist Hamas commander in Dubai prompts hunt for killers” on January 30. The otherwise informative “Pressure grows on Israel over Hamas official’s slaying” fails to note that the United States has designated both Hamas (the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement) and Hezbollah (the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi’ite “Party of God”) as terrorist organizations.

References to “Hamas’ military wing” sanitize the group’s “Izeddine al-Qassam” component, which primarily conducts terrorist attacks against Israeli non-combatants. They also ignore statements by Hamas officials that theirs is a unitary organization; its separate functions — schools, recruitment, terrorism, aid to “martyrs” families, etc. — complement each other in pursuit of the destruction of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic fundamentalist theocracy. A May 27, 1998 Reuters dispatch quoted Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin as explaining that “We cannot separate the wing from the body. If we do so, the body will not be able to fly. Hamas is one body.”

The same “military wing” verbal disguise appeared in “Death of Islamist Hamas commander in Dubai prompts hunt for killers.” Schneider noted that “Mabhouh was among the founders of Hamas's military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, which is held responsible for hundreds of suicide and rocket attacks against Israel over the years. He was notorious for his involvement in the kidnapping and killing of two Israeli soldiers in 1989.” Though Hamas occasionally acts as a para-military guerrilla group, directly attacking Israeli combatants, the “hundreds of suicide and rocket attacks against Israel” The Post mentioned overwhelmingly targeted civilians.

“Death of Islamist Hamas commander” also sanitized Imad Mugniyeh, calling him a “militant commander” rather than terrorist leader. The notorious Mugniyeh was implicated in numerous Hezbollah attacks against Americans as well as Israelis and against Jews outside the Middle East.

Such inaccurate word choices, by slapping verbal disguises on terrorism and terrorists, politicize Post Arab-Israeli reporting.

Posted by ER at February 18, 2010 04:59 PM

Comments

well, calling Hamas terrorists is subjective especially if taken from a global public view rather than a US/Israeli centric perspective.

"Militants" probably strikes a better balance considering Hamas takes part in elections and has a complex internal political structure. Bearing in mind that the Jewish state was formed through the use of what some might call terrorist activity, would you then go onto say it is a terrorist state? Of course not. Your "extremist" perspective with regards to Hamas blurs the true state of affairs here.

I think the wider global community would side with WP on this one.

Posted by: Alex at February 19, 2010 04:45 AM

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