Conservative lawmakers are calling out the country’s own state broadcaster, the BBC, for sticking to its legacy guidelines to not call attacks on Israel terrorism, despite recent developments.
The BBC has resisted calls to identify Hamas as a terrorist organisation in the wake of Saturday’s assault killed at least 1,000 Israelis and injured many more, sticking so far to its legacy terms like “militants”, “fighters” despite the major step-change in levels of Hamas violence. Individual BBC reports have featured the word “terrorist”, but apparently only where directly quoting the remarks of others.
A BBC article published on Tuesday titled “What is Hamas”, for instance, answers by calling them a “Palestinian militant group”.
Since the latest attacks, several figures from the UK’s governing Conservative Party have come forward to criticise the broadcaster for this bowdlerised language, accusing the BBC of skirting around reality.
The Prime Minister said at the weekend in the wake of Saturday’s slaughter that “This is not a time for equivocation, we should call it out for what it is”, and Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick addressed a demonstration by members of the Jewish community outside Downing Street on Monday, chastising the BBC for failing to “say it as it is”. The Daily Telegraph reports Jenrick told those gathering that: “Let us be clear what the world has witnessed. These weren’t as some in the media say militants or fighters. They were terrorists. They were murderers.”
He also called for those who “valorised” Hamas, which is a banned political organisation in the United Kingdom, to be prosecuted.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly bearded the BBC directly, confronting the broadcaster live on air and telling a presenter: “Hamas, which is a terrorist organisation – I just want to make sure you recognise that in your reporting, these are not militants, they are terrorists.” Tory Member of Parliament Alicia Kearns hit similar notes on Monday when she said: “The BBC must stop describing Hamas as a “militant group” or “gunmen” or acting surprised when we call them terrorists.”
In a letter to the British Board of Deputies — a top UK Jewish group — the government’s Secretary of State for Culture said that while the BBC is editorially independent of the government, she said she had brought the matter of language up with its Director General, pointing out that Hamas is classified as a terrorist organisation by law.
Criticism has not come from the Conservative Party alone. The Simon Wiesenthal Center said the over 1,000 murders on Saturday were “terrorism, straight and simple” and that the BBC should be upfront about that. Luciana Berger, a left-wing Labour Member of Parliament also spoke out, remarking per the Daily Mail that: “There’s a responsibility on all the media. These people are terrorists. Hamas is a terrorist organisation. Language matters. When you treat countries differently you exacerbate the problem.”