Words matter. And exact words matter most of all. Especially in the Middle East, where Palestinian leaders -- whether Fatah or Hamas -- have twisted and denatured nomenclatures to disguise their radical aims and reliance on terrorism. Their semantic makeovers instead present a civilized and acceptable face to the world.
And they're getting away with it, as most Western mainstream media help them distort words and language to suit Palestinian propaganda agendas.
Here's how it's done, for example, in the Dec. 14 edition of the New York Times, in a dispatch from Nablus by Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren, who writes about Hamas flexing its muscles in the West Bank ("Hamas Rally in West Bank Calls for Palestinian Unity," page A11).
Hundreds of men and boys, Rudoren reports in her lead paragraph, were sporting the signature green of the "militant Hamas faction." Right off the bat, Rudoren trots out the familiar euphemism "militant" so as to prevent readers from getting the real scoop on Hamas -- that it's a terrorist organization, with a genocidal agenda against Jews and a declared intention to eliminate Israel. There's nothing shocking about "militant," and that's of course the point of why the Times uses it -- to sanitize and perfume this Palestinian terrorist outfit.
Rudoren compounds her efforts to veil the real Hamas at the end of the same lead paragraph by noting that this was "the first public demonstration by the "Islamist party" allowed in the West Bank in years. Again, substitution of "Islamist" -- hardly a conscience-shocking label -- for its real identity -- i.e., terrorist.
In similar vein, Rudoren writes that demonstrators chanted the name of the "armed wing of Hamas." This, of course, is exactly the Hamas group that has used suicide bombings and rocket attacks against Israeli civilians. To describe it as merely an "armed" group puts it on the same level as your local police department.
Moving on. Four paragraphs farther down, Rudoren refers to a recent speech in Gaza by Khaled Meshal, the supreme leader of Hamas, in which he said -- and these are her paraphrasing words -- that the "path to liberation was through resistance, not negotiations." "Resistance" as Hamas's prime tactic? Hardly. "Resistance" is a favored Palestinian euphemism for "terrorism." But Rudoren expunges any hint of violence. After all, Gandhi also was engaged in "resistance" to British colonialism, and his tactics were 100 percent non-violent. Putting Gandhi and Meshal in the same league is quite a feat -- and quite a semantic stretch. All in the service of "Palestine."
Rudoren is also determined to put a pretty, statesmanlike face on Meshal's rival, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Abbas, she writes, has "rejected violence" -- a huge leap from his record. Abbas also happens to be head of the Fatah party, which is just as zealous in keeping "resistance" as an option as Hamas is.
But Rudoren still is not quite done with her Abbas makeover. In a surreal sentence, she gives Abbas credit for "seeking negotiations" for a Palestinian state -- the same Abbas who has danced around and away from negotiations for the last several years. In another Abbas facelift, she writes that Abbas wants talks on a Palestinian state, "using the 1967 borders as a guideline." For starters, there are no 1967 "borders" -- only a 1949 armistice line which disappeared when half a dozen Arab armies attacked Israel in 1967 with the stated objective of destroying the Jewish state. And for still another thing, Abbas doesn't want to use the pre-1967 lines "as a guideline." He wants every inch beyond the 1967 lines for a Palestinian state.
Finally, to complete her bag of erroneous verbiage, Rudoren mentions that the Nablus demonstration also featured models of two recent types of Hamas rockets, "both of which are said to have reached Tel Aviv and Jerusalem last month."
Well, again, not exactly. Longer-range Hamas missiles reached the vicinity of the two Israeli cities, but they didn't reach the cities themselves. Why give Hamas's rocket arsenal greater credit than its performance justifies?
Readers of the Times and Rudoren badly need a translator to give them the real lowdown on Palestinian propaganda, tactics, and strategy to wipe Israel off the map.