The New York Times and the T-word

Peter King

The New York Times has a great story today on U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who is presiding over repugnant hearings into the loyalty of Muslim-Americans. Reporter Scott Shane reminds us that King made his reputation as a staunch supporter of the Irish Republican Army, which for years fought for independence from Britain in attacks that included the killing of hundreds of innocent civilians.

Yet I was struck by Shane’s lede, which frankly describes the IRA as “a terror group.” I don’t have any quarrel with that. But I was surprised, given the Times’ well-known squeamishness over using the T-word to describe Islamist organizations such as Hamas, which has engaged in suicide bombings against civilian targets in its war against Israel.

As the Times’ then-public editor, Clark Hoyt, wrote in 2008, “To the consternation of many, The Times does not call Hamas a terrorist organization, though it sponsors acts of terror against Israel.” It’s a policy that has put the Times in an awkward position previously, as in 2010, when the paper reported on criticism of Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam of the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero, for failing to label Hamas a terrorist group.

The United States, Canada, Israel, Japan and the European Union have all classified Hamas as a terrorist organization.

King’s response to being called out as a hypocrite is truly rancid, as he reveals that he couldn’t care less about the lives of British civilians who were killed in IRA attacks. “I understand why people who are misinformed might see a parallel,” he tells the Times. “The fact is, the IRA never attacked the United States. And my loyalty is to the United States.”

And in the 1980s, King had this to say: “If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the IRA for it.”

Shane attempts to make comparisons between the IRA and Al Qaeda, and concludes — correctly — that Al Qaeda is considerably worse. But the parallels between the IRA and Hamas seem pretty obvious.

The IRA engaged in terrorist attacks, but gradually moved toward a renunciation of such attacks as it uneasily groped its way toward a peace settlement with Britain and participation in government.

Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, may or may not be capable of moving toward a peace settlement with Israel. But certainly it was unclear at a similar stage as to whether the IRA was capable of making such a transition.

It’s pretty simple. Either the IRA and Hamas are/were terrorist organizations, or neither is. I hope public editor Arthur Brisbane will explain why it’s all right for the Times to call the IRA a “terror group” when it refuses to do the same with respect to Hamas.

4 thoughts on “The New York Times and the T-word

  1. Christian Avard

    *** But I was surprised, given the Times’ well-known squeamishness over using the T-word to describe Islamist organizations such as Hamas … ***

    I’ll try and add some perspective (and hopefully some respectful and constructive dialogue) on this. I believe the U.S. government will vilify anybody who takes up arms against the U.S. or its allies. Anyone that legitimately resists American foreign policy and its allies’ policies automatically gets the terrorist label. Hamas has made bad choices. I’ll agree with you on that. But Hamas is also viewed as a legitimate national liberation group, such as Columbian Marxist guerrillas (FARC), Hezbollah, and the PLO for that matter. All of them have taken up arms and the U.S. condemns them as terrorists. I don’t necessarily agree with their aims or philosophies (especially Hezbollah), but we need to take into consideration whether they are considered legitimate resistance groups within their own countries whether we want to or not.

    I don’t agree with Hamas at all. They are a right wing fundamentalist Muslim group. I wouldn’t support them per se, especially since the majority of Palestinians are secular. Palestinians are not interested in a fundamentalist government like Saudi Arabia or Iran. But Hamas is also not “mainly” killing civilians in order to seize power. When a population lives under oppression, and there is no other way out and people are being violated every day by violent means, then sometimes the only way out of that situation is through violence. I don’t agree with violence, but you have to understand the conditions and the circumstances that enable people to react violently. That doesn’t get discussed.

    It’s true the U.S., Canada, Israel, and others call Hamas a terrorist group (Is that all? Why haven’t the majority of other nations followed?). Fine. But love them or hate then, Palestinians (and other nations) consider Hamas as a national liberation group with a legitimately elected government, just like the IRA. So it does no good to simply vilify them as terrorists. You have to deal with them politically. That’s what rational state officials are supposed to do in the first place.

    *** Islamist organizations such as Hamas, which has engaged in suicide bombings against civilian targets in its war against Israel. ***

    I can come up with thousands of terrorist acts Israel and the U.S. has committed against civilians and they are hardly acts of defense. So let’s not let them off the hook. Shouldn’t they be considered terrorist states? If not, why? It’s not just political groups that commit terrorism. To me, I find it ironic that the general view in America is other countries commit acts of terrorism, but not ours.

    Terrorism to me is the use of violence against civilians for political ends. Governments, insurgent groups, and individuals can commit terrorism (include the U.S. and other countries we are allied with). They are all trying to impact political events by using violence against civilians. Terrorism should accurately reflect who commits them, not those who we may disagree with politically.

    *** Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, may or may not be capable of moving toward a peace settlement with Israel. ***

    Hamas is willing to negotiate a two-state solution. Hamas leader Khalid Meshal made that clear to former president Jimmy Carter and numerous other foreign leaders — contrary to all the propaganda we get in the U.S. Under certain circumstances Hamas would accept a two-state solution and agree to a long-term ceasefire with Israel. That’s a known fact.

  2. Nancy Mades

    I believe the “certain circumstances” under which Hamas would accept a two-state solution primarily consists of Israel agreeing to cease existing.

    The NYT panders to such moral relativism and the jaded concept of the “palestians” as cause celeb and it is a shameful thing.

  3. C.E. Stead

    @Christian – You say, “I can come up with thousands of terrorist acts Israel and the U.S. has committed against civilians and they are hardly acts of defense.”

    What made/makes the acts of the IRA and Hammas potent is that they are not in any uniform, blend in with the crowd, and deliberately target civilians. The purpose of their acts is to instill fear that the person walking next to you, the man who just put a newspaper in a trash can, all could be terrorists trying to blow you up.

    I’d like to hear about the citizens of the US in plain clothes committing suicide strikes and acts of terror utilizing this strategy. Not military, not on a field of battle, but in a subway or a shopping mall or a ball game.

    Out of thousands, you should be able to name a couple – beyond McVeigh and two boys at Columbine, both of which were recently characterized by Ezra Klein as ‘young Christian terrorists’.

  4. Christian Avard

    @ Nancy Meades: The Two-state solution cannot exist without Israel. So I’m pretty sure that Hamas doesn’t want Israel not to exist. They’ve made that clear time and time again. Here’s another example.

    *** the jaded concept of the “palestians” as cause celeb and it is a shameful thing. ***

    No one deserves to live under oppressive circumstances, including the Palestinians. The occupation is illegal and the Israeli apartheid system that exists today strips them of their dignity and denies them their right to share the land as equals. The creation of Israel came at the expense of the Palestinians. That’s unjust, not anti-Jewish.

    @ C.E. Stead: *** What made/makes the acts of the IRA and Hammas potent is that they are not in any uniform, blend in with the crowd, and deliberately target civilians. ***

    That is a tactic used by people who are poor, powerless, and do not have an organized militia to defend themselves. Suicide bombings are acts of terrorism, don’t get me wrong. Hamas has unjustly conducted attacks against civilians. I acknowledge that. But I’ll say it again, Hamas does not target “mainly” civilians in order to seize power. What twists up the realities from the ground is we only hear about the suicide bombings when they are against Israeli civilians. As much as we should hear about them, the American media needs to put Palestinian terrorist tactics into context, no matter how much we disagree with them.

    In the non-American coverage, such as the BBC and Al Jazeera, suicide bombings are generally put in the context of the occupation. That they are a response to conditions, which are very dehumanizing to Palestinians and against which they are defenseless. I don’t agree with the suicide bombings, but the bombings are not done out of “hatred” and not necessarily out to provoke Israeli aggression. They are done as a desperate response to an unjust and oppressive situation that Israel has implemented. Why can’t the U.S. media follow suit? I think Americans would get a more accurate portrayal of what the Mideast crisis is all about. It would be a tremendous benefit to everyone.

    Let’s keep in mind there were also Zionist terrorist groups who’ve done just the same horrible things as Hamas. Their actions compromised a just solution in 1948. So don’t let the Zionists off the hook.

    C.E., I also want to add that what makes Israel potent is they don’t distinguish between civilians and military target, especially when they drop 500-pound bombs on apartment buildings in Gaza. They know that a lot of civilians will be killed well in advance. They make up stories about phoning people in advance, do Robocalls, and drop leaflets. They know perfectly well that civilians are going to do die but they figure it is worth it. They think if they can get this one Hamas leader, so what if a bunch of Palestinians die? That’s terrorism too, so terrorism is a two-way street. Let’s not deny that.

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