New York Times news articles aren't exactly known for their colorful prose. But an analysis piece by Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren today took an interesting turn, describing the Palestinian militant faction Hamas as a "militant Islamic group widely seen in the West as the devil." They deleted it, but still — "the devil?"
It's not like Hamas are good people or anything. They're internationally recognized as a terrorist group, and for good reason: they were ghoulish pioneers in the use of suicide bombs and rocket attacks against Israeli civilians.
But "the devil" is very strange language to use in the paper of record. What's more, it's misleading: the West doesn't see Hamas as the devil.
Hamas and Fatah, the more mainstream Palestinian party, just inked a unity deal forming an interim Palestinian government and committing to holding national Palestinian elections. The US was initially skeptical of Hamas' inclusion, but has started to make optimistic noises. The EU is practically ecstatic about Hamas-Fatah rapprochement.
So unless you think the US and the EU are okay with making a deal with the devil, then the New York Times' language wasn't just weird: it was actively misleading.
Perhaps that's why they changed it. The newest version of the article instead describes Hamas as "widely reviled in the West." Here's what that looks like:
This isn't really a huge deal, but it does illustrate why using precise language in the Israeli-Palestinian debate is so important. Yes, the US and EU list Hamas as a terrorist group. No, that's not the same thing as thinking that they're Satan. These things are complicated.