Tuesday, August 16, 2005

San Jose Mercury News equates settler supporters with terrorists

The magical words that have been used for years to downplay terrorists murdering people are now being used to describe Jews with no intent to hurt other Jews:
Police, militants clash in Gaza


Knight Ridder Newspapers

NEVE DEKALIM, Gaza Strip -- Clashes erupted Tuesday between Israeli authorities who stepped up the use of force and militant supporters of the Israeli settlers who faced a midnight to leave their homes in Gaza.

Hundreds of protesters were arrested or detained and several injuries were reported during a sporadic series of shoving matches. Extremists also torched several vehicles, tossed rocks at authorities and threw acid and other caustic agents at them.

So the same words that are used to describe Al Qaeda, Hamas and the British bombers now apply to Jewish demonstrators.

By the way, the "acid" incident seems to be close to fictional. In Israel they are reporting that the police claim that demostrators threw acid or ammonia on one policeman.

I wrote a letter to the Mercury News complaining about this:

I am outraged at the words you have chosen to describe the protests against disengagement in Gaza.

It is well known that many newspapers dislike the word "terrorist", with the specious claim that it is a loaded term. So for years we have seen terrorists described as "militants", or, in some cases, "extremists." So when we see a headline that says "Police, militants clash in Gaza" we have a good idea that it is referring to either Israeli or Palestinian policemen and members of Hamas or Islamic Jihad.

However, today I see not only a headline but the contents of an article referring to Jewish settler sympathizer-protesters as both "militants" and "extremists." The only violent act that is referred to is an alleged splash of acid on a policeman, which I have not been able to verify in any Israeli online news source outside of a single mention that "police claimed" that one policeman was splashed with either acid or ammonia.

So we possibly have a case where your report lacks veracity, as it didn't have any qualifiers on the "fact" that acid was thrown on multiple policemen.

But more troubling is the implicit moral equivalence of protesters who have stated numerous times that they have no intention of physically hurting anyone, and members of Al Qaeda and Hamas who explicitly state and act to kill hundreds of people.

This is a perversion of the English language, and it succeeds in doing exactly what you claim to want to avoid by not using the word "terrorist" - you are making an obscene moral judgment by using the exact same words to describe diametrically different sets of people.

There is a good definition of terror - it is the purposeful targeting of innocent civilians. It is not hard to call members of Hamas or Al Qaeda "terrorists." But to call them "militants" and "extremists" when you also give the same name to overwhelmingly peaceful protesters betrays a bias that is way beyond what a newspaper should exhibit. It is insulting, sickening and unacceptable.

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Update: The newspaper replied to me with a form letter saying they will not publish my letter without more personal information. Of course, I was not interested in being published: I wanted a reply.