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Newseum reverses plan to honor accused terrorists

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Washington's Newseum honors journalists, but is now being accused of recognizing two terrorists. (AP)

Washington’s Newseum reversed its plans to honor two accused members of a terrorist organization when it pays tribute to journalists who died in the line of duty last year, FoxNews.com has learned.

The museum dedicated to journalists had planned to include Mahmoud Al-Kumi and Hussam Salama, former members of the terrorist group Hamas and employees of a TV station known for anti-Israel propaganda at Monday’s annual Journalist Memorial dedication. But after FoxNews.com and other media outlets wrote about the controversy surrounding their inclusion, Newseum officials changed their minds.

“We take the concerns raised about these two men seriously and have decided to re-evaluate their inclusion as journalists on our memorial wall pending further investigation.”

- Newseum spokesman Jonathan Thompson.

“Serious questions have been raised as to whether two of the individuals included on our initial list of journalists who died covering the news this past year were truly journalists or whether they were engaged in terrorist activities,” said Newseum spokesman Jonathan Thompson. “We take the concerns raised about these two men seriously and have decided to re-evaluate their inclusion as journalists on our memorial wall pending further investigation.”

The dedication has recognized more than 2,000 reporters, photographers and broadcasters who have died in the line of duty from around the world, including Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped by Pakistani militants and murdered by Al Qaeda terrorists in 2002. Thompson's statement left open the door that their names could be inscribed on the memorial at a later date, though they are not being honored at today's ceremony.

This news comes an hour before today’s dedication ceremony that includes keynote speaker Richard Engel, an NBC foreign correspondent, who was on assignment in Syria last year when he and his crew were kidnapped by gunmen and held hostage for five days. 

Al-Kumi and Salama were described previously by the Newseum as “Al-Aqsa cameramen who were killed in an Israeli airstrike. They were covering fighting between Israel and the militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, when a missile hit their vehicle. Al-Aqsa said the journalists’ car was clearly marked ‘TV.’”

Al-Aqsa Television is funded by Hamas and has been designated by the U.S. Department of Treasury as a terror organization. Al-Aqsa Television was created as a propaganda arm of Hamas just after the organization moved into the Gaza Strip in 2005. Palestinian media also reported that the two men were Hamas operatives, according to a Weekly Standard report. 

As of Friday, the Newseum maintained that the Journalists Memorial selection committee conducted a “case-by-case review,” Thompson told FoxNews.com on Friday, defending the museum’s decision to include the men in this year’s dedication.

Al Aqsa doesn’t only encourage attacks on Israelis, according to Steve Stalinsky at the Middle East Media and Research Institute, who called Al Aqsa TV “the microphone for Hamas” and a “vehicle for spreading their propaganda.”  

“They are continually calling for the destruction of America. They are very active on social media and there’s a lot of Anti-American and Anti-West content,” Stalinsky said.

Clifford May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said the Newseum got it right in the end.

“I give great credit to the leadership of the Newseum for re-thinking this issue -- and to the Obama administration for designating Al Aqsa TV as a terrorist organization in 2010,” May said.

Lisa Daftari is a Fox News contributor specializing in Middle Eastern affairs.