The New York Times often contextualizes stories about overseas fighting by informing readers when one side is, or is regarded as, a terror group.

After the death of the ISIS leader in late October, for example, the paper’s coverage repeatedly noted, in its own words, that Abu Bakr al Baghdadi was a “terrorist” who led a “terrorist group” that committed “acts of terror” before losing his life during a U.S. “counterterrorism action.” Those are all accurate, precise terms to describe the head of an organization that’s clearly guilty of targeting civilians with violence for political aims.

Like al-Baghdadi, Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s Baha Abu al-Ata is a senior leader of an organization responsible for countless attacks targeting civilians, including mass casualty bombings of Israeli restaurants, markets, buses, and shopping malls. (In one of many such attacks, an Islamic Jihad suicide bomber walked into a crowded falafel stand in April 2006 and detonated his explosives, killing 11 people including an American teenager who succumbed to his wounds on Mother’s Day.)

So when Times reporters initially reported that Islamic Jihad is “listed as a terrorist organization by many countries,” that information not only helped explain why Israel might have targeted Abu al-Ata, but it was also consistent with how the newspaper covers other conflicts.

But sometime the same morning, an editorial decision was made to remove the passage explaining Islamic Jihad’s classification as a terrorist organization, and to replace this description with vague, watered-down language that mitigates the nature of the terrorist group, portraying it as one that merely takes “a harder line toward Israel” than Hamas. (final version of that story)

New York Times coverage that weekend didn't hesitate to note that “Turkey regards the Syrian Kurdish militia [SDF] as a terrorist organization”; that “Turkey also considers the Islamic State a terrorist organization,” that the Chinese government claims Hong Kong protesters are engaged in “brazen terrorism,” and that ISIS is a “terror group.” So why did it pull such language from its first piece on Islamic Jihad, and then avoid using the T-word again in its second piece on the fighting with Islamic Jihad?

Concealing the Facts

In his follow-up analysis – the third New York Times piece written about the fighting – Jerusalem bureau chief David Halbfinger went even further to sanitize Palestinian Islamic Jihad, concealing the following facts from readers:

  • PIJ is one of the most violent Islamist terrorist organizations in the world whose “Manifesto of the Islamic Jihad in Palestine” is to “destroy Israel and to end all Western influence in the region.”

  • PIJ’s enemies include the United States, labelled “the Great-Satan America.”

  • The terror group rejects “any peaceful solution to the Palestinian cause” insisting that “Jihad” and “martyrdom” – that is, terrorism – is the only way of achieving its goal of replacing the Westernized Jewish state with an Islamist one.

  • PIJ’s armed Al Quds Brigades has taken responsibility for dozens of large-scale bombings of civilian targets – on buses, restaurants, shopping malls, markets, that it has established terrorist training camps for youth, that it boasts having mortars, RPGs, machine guns, .50-caliber sniper rifles, and explosives in its arsenal, that it is involved in digging cross-border tunnels to kidnap Israelis, smuggle weapons and carry out large-scale terror attacks inside Israel.

  • PIJ is overtly anti-Semitic, as evidenced by its leaders’ Holocaust denial and threats of slaughter.

And while the analysis briefly acknowledged that both PIJ and Hamas are “viewed as terrorist organizations by Israel and the United States,” the implication is that those two countries – which PIJ singles out as enemies – are alone in sharing this perspective. The newspaper avoids, however, mentioning all the other countries, including Canada, the UK, the EU, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan that similarly count PIJ as a foreign terror group.

While Halbfinger cites “Israeli analysts” who accuse Islamic Jihad of being an Iranian proxy, he avoids elaborating that, since September 2000, Iran has paid PIJ millions of dollars in bonuses for each successful attack carried out by PIJ; that it has provided PIJ with sophisticated weaponry that includes the Fajr-5 long-range rockets used by PIJ to target civilians deep inside Israel; that it has been helping PIJ produce precision missiles known as "Ashkelon's hell" that can reach Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Netanya and "even further."

Instead, the New York Times reporter mitigates these Iran-sponsored war crimes in vague, soft language about Iran’s use of the PIJ “to send Israel messages through relatively low-risk acts of violence.”

The U.S. State Department has designated PIJ a foreign terrorist organization since October 1997, because of the group's commitment "to the destruction of Israel through attacks against Israeli military and civilian targets and to the creation of an Islamic state in historic Palestine, including present day Israel." Its actions, from its bombing attacks of civilian targets to its raining missiles down on Israeli civilians constitute war crimes.

Yet, the New York Times bureau chief loftily describes the terrorist organization as representing the “untrammeled id of the Palestinian resistance movement” – a movement that is elsewhere in the article described as “resistance to the Israeli occupation.” The Times would have its readers believe that the Palestinian terrorist group’s goal is to resist an Israeli presence in disputed territories, even while the terror group publicly and clearly declares that it is unwilling to accept Israel within any borders whatsoever and that its mission is to wipe the Jewish state off the map.

But if the attempt to annihilate the Jewish state can be distorted into mere “resistance” against Israeli actions, then the New York Times might succeed in convincing readers that there is no Palestinian terrorism, and that Palestinians bear no responsibility for the conflict. Israel, forever the New York Times’ scapegoat, can be blamed yet again.

Taking Action

Write to the New York Times:

Firmly but courteously make the following points:

  • Tell editors that readers deserve to know the unvarnished truth about Islamic Jihad and the terrorism that Israel faces.

  • Note that Palestinian Islamic Jihad is widely designated as a terror organization – not only by Israel and the United States, but by the European Union, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and others. The group opposes Israel’s existence in any borders, and wants to replace the country with a fundamentalist Islamist state. It is opposed to any peace negotiations with Israel, and seeks to eliminate Israel through terrorism.

  • Ask why the reference to Islamic Jihad being “listed as a terrorist organization by many countries” was pulled from the November 12 article.

  • Ask why the newspaper mitigates Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s brutal violence as “nettlesome,” and its crimes as coming in support of “resistance to the Israeli occupation” when they openly acknowledge that they are committed to eradicating all of Israel.

  • Ask why, when the newspaper routinely charges Israel with violating international law and frequently accuses Israeli politicians of being “extremists,” “racists,” and “anti-Arab,” do they avoid using any such pejoratives when it comes to the anti-Semitic, Holocaust denying, anti-Western and brutally violent Palestinian Islamic Jihad.