- - Friday, October 24, 2014


Thank you for using the word “terror” in your headline to describe the recent Palestinian attack at a Jerusalem train station that killed a 3-month-old Israeli girl, Haya Zissel Braun (“Baby killed, 8 wounded in terror attack at Jerusalem train stop,” Web, Oct. 22).

The Times’ headline demonstrated courage because the media generally avoid using the “t-words” (terror, terrorist, etc.) to objectively describe Palestinian attacks on Israelis. For example, during a three-year period from Sept. 11, 2001, through Sept. 11, 2004, coinciding with the height of the Palestinian suicide-bombing campaign targeting Israeli civilians, The Washington Post did not use the “t-words” a single time in the objective voice of the reporter or headline writer in a news story about a specific Palestinian attack that killed Israeli civilians — even when the Israeli victims were children.

Although The Post occasionally used the “t-words” when quoting or paraphrasing Israeli officials, the Palestinian killers were merely “militants,” “activists” or “fighters” who were “carrying out attacks on Israeli targets” (Sept. 1, 2004) in The Post reporter’s objective words.

By contrast, during the first nine months of 2004 alone, The Post repeatedly referred in the objective language of the reporter to organizations that bombed civilians as “terrorist groups” and to killings as “terror” or “terrorist attacks” when the bombings took place in Russia, Spain, Uzbekistan, Scotland, Iraq and Indonesia.

In a March 6, 2005, column, then-New York Times Public Editor Daniel Okrent criticized his own newspaper’s reluctance to use the “t-words.” “[A]n act of political violence committed against purely civilian targets is terrorism,” he wrote, and attacks such as “bombing a market in Jerusalem are terrorism pure and simple.” He added: “[T]here’s something uncomfortably fearful, and inevitably self-defeating, about struggling so hard to avoid it.”

The Washington Times stands apart for having consistently objectively labeled such attacks as terrorism. It should be commended for its integrity.


San Francisco

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