Media coverage/analysis of group
Media coverage of PIJ is much less subjective than with other groups. While pundits may find themselves sometimes split over Hamas and Hezbollah, which provide social services in addition to their terrorist activities, PIJ provides no such services and is solely dedicated to Israel’s destruction. Further, unlike Hamas and Hezbollah, PIJ is not entangled in any government and therefore there is no need to distinguish between its armed faction and any political leadership, although there are indications that the group might be looking to develop a political role.Asmaa al-Ghoul, “Exclusive: Islamic Jihad Rethinks Role in Palestinian Politics,” Al Monitor, May 9, 2013, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/05/islamic-jihad-palestine-political-civil-involvement.html. Though Western media largely still refers to PIJ as a militant and not a terrorist organization, PIJ’s single-mindedness has made it easier for the media to classify and condemn its activities.
Still, while pundits widely condemn PIJ’s tactics, there are some, even in Western media, who equate morally PIJ’s terrorism and Israel’s responses to terrorism. According to this line of thinking, as abhorrent as PIJ’s actions are, they are the actions of desperate people living under brutal occupation. One example of this justification is a 2002 New York Times op-ed by Muhammad Muslih, a professor of political science at Long Island University. Muslih penned the op-ed after overhearing a young Arab-American boy tell his father he wanted to become a suicide bomber and martyr in Palestine. Muslih expressed his dismay at hearing the boy’s words but went on to justify Palestinian terrorism as a response to the Israeli occupation.Muhammad Muslih, “‘They Took Our Land, so Why Shouldn’t I Kill Them?” New York Times, April 26, 2002, http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/26/opinion/26iht-edmus_ed3_.html. He cited a PIJ leader who told Muslih the Palestinians “don't have tanks or Apaches or F-16s, but we have the determination to be martyrs.”Muhammad Muslih, “‘They Took Our Land, so Why Shouldn’t I Kill Them?” New York Times, April 26, 2002, http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/26/opinion/26iht-edmus_ed3_.html. Muslih differentiated between Palestinian terrorism and that of Osama bin Laden, stating, “There are no bin Ladens in the Palestinian territories,” and declaring that “Palestinian violence is a reaction to the violence of occupation.Muhammad Muslih, “‘They Took Our Land, so Why Shouldn’t I Kill Them?” New York Times, April 26, 2002, http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/26/opinion/26iht-edmus_ed3_.html. And rather than clearly condemn Palestinian terrorism and call for dialogue, Muslih demanded acquiescence to PIJ’s goals: “The United States should get Israel to withdraw to its borders of June 4, 1967. Then the violence will stop.”Muhammad Muslih, “‘They Took Our Land, so Why Shouldn’t I Kill Them?” New York Times, April 26, 2002, http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/26/opinion/26iht-edmus_ed3_.html.
PIJ regularly made headlines during the early 2000s, when a University of South Florida professor, Sami al-Arian, was indicted for aiding the terrorist group. Despite the record of PIJ’s terrorist activities, some Western media reports glossed over PIJ’s record when reporting on the professor, failing to put PIJ and the charges into context. A 2006 Guardian article, for example, reports on al-Arian’s sentencing and lists the charges against the professor as well as the U.S. attorney general’s belief that al-Arian is involved in PIJ’s deadly activities, but the writer provides no background on PIJ itself.Suzanne Goldenberg, “Palestinian Professor Sentenced for Terrorism in US,” Guardian (London), May 1, 2006, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/may/02/usa.internationaleducationnews. By contrast, a 2006 New York Times article on al-Arian’s sentencing extensively cites the federal judge’s contempt for PIJ’s activities, describing what exactly al-Arian was charged with supporting.Jennifer Steinhauer, “Palestinian to Be Imprisoned Before Deportation,” New York Times, May 1, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/01/us/01cnd-islamic.html. In a 2003 article on the attempted U.S. extradition of a British national accused of aiding PIJ in connection with al-Arian, the British Telegraph lists PIJ’s recent terrorist activities and their death toll, while citing PIJ’s goal “to create ‘terror, instability and panic.’ Other aims include the destruction of the state of Israel and the rejection of any form of peaceful co-existence.”David Bamber and Alasdair Palmer, “US Furious as Britain Ignores Extradition Plea,” Telegraph, February 23, 2003, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/1422853/US-furious-as-Britain-ignores-extradition-plea.html. Further, another 2006 New York Times article on the assassination of a PIJ leader credits the group for carrying out multiple recent suicide bombings against Israel.“Blast Kills Islamic Jihad Leader in Gaza,” New York Times, March 1, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/01/world/africa/01iht-web.0301mideast.html.
PIJ’s singular devotion to violent jihad and destroying Israel makes it difficult for any pundit to write positively on the organization, but sympathies for the Palestinian cause still shade some coverage of PIJ, hiding the group’s terrorist activities behind a veil of nationalism.