Former ministers have urged the BBC to “urgently reconsider” its decision to describe Hamas as “militants” and “fighters” rather than terrorists given the conflict with Israel.
In a letter to Tim Davie, director general of the BBC, seven former culture secretaries warned: “The BBC’s commitment is to impartiality, not indifference.” That distinction is now in danger of being blurred.
“What is worrying is that the inaccurate language of ‘fighters’ and ‘militants’ also serves to equate terrorists with the Palestinian people, who suffer more than anyone else from Hamas’ actions,” the letter continued.
“We therefore join in the growing concern about the language used by the BBC in relation to this terrorist group. ‘It is time to urgently reconsider your approach.’
The group, led by Sajid Javid, included Karen Bradley, Nadine Dorries, Matt Hancock, Maria Miller, Baroness Morgan and Sir Jeremy Wright.
Hamas, Gaza’s de facto governing body, has been designated a terrorist organization in the UK since March 2001, and the ban was extended in 2021.
In a letter to BBC Director General Tim Davie (pictured at Westminster Abbey on May 5, 2023), seven former culture secretaries warned: “The BBC’s commitment is to impartiality, not indifference.” That distinction is now in danger of being blurred .
Veteran BBC foreign correspondent John Simpson defended the reporting, claiming: “To call someone a terrorist is to take sides.”
Mr Simpson took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to defend his employer’s decision
The BBC has received criticism over its naming of the group in recent days.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis accused broadcasters of trying to “deliberately mislead” by omitting the word “terrorist,” saying: “Murdering babies where they sleep is not the act of a ‘ freedom fighters’.”
Who is Hamas?
Hamas is a Palestinian permanent authority in Gaza, an exclave on the Mediterranean coast.
The group has controlled the Gaza Strip since winning Gaza’s 2006 parliamentary election and toppling rival Fatah party in a power struggle during the bloody Battle for Gaza in 2007.
The conflict ended the “unity government” that administered Gaza and the West Bank while the Palestinian Authority independently monitored the eastern territories.
Hamas – meaning “Islamic Resistance Movement” – has both a social wing, Dawah, and a militant wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (IQB).
The IQB continues to carry out attacks against both combatants and civilians in Israel, drawing condemnation from world leaders and human rights groups.
Write In 1997, Professor Ilana Kass described the relationship between Hamas and its military brigades as similar to the relationship between Sinn Féin and the military wing of the IRA.
A senior Hamas leader told Kass that the IQB “is a separate armed military wing that has its own leaders from whom it does not take orders.” [Hamas] and don’t tell us about your plans in advance.
In 2015, Al Monitor warned that Hamas’s military branch “gradually assumed even greater control over the movement’s institutions” and dictated the movement’s policies.
In their letter, the seven signatory former ministers stated: “As our Chief Rabbi has said: “This is not a ‘resistance’ or a ‘struggle.’ It’s terrorism. Intentionally avoiding this word is misleading.”
British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps also said the BBC’s policy was “almost disgraceful.”
However, the BBC yesterday defended its decision not to label Hamas as “terrorists” amid continued coverage of recent attacks in Israel.
A BBC spokesman said it was a long-held position of reporters not to use the term unless they were attributing it to someone else.
“We always take our use of language very seriously.
“Anyone who sees or listens to our reporting will hear the word ‘terrorist’ often – we attribute it to those who use it, for example the British government.”
“This is an approach that has been used for decades and is consistent with that of other broadcasters.”
“The BBC is an editorially independent broadcaster whose mission is to explain exactly what is happening ‘on the ground’ so that our audiences can make their own judgement.”
The decision has seen a number of BBC stars rally behind their employer, including the corporation’s veteran foreign correspondent John Simpson, who defended the reporting by claiming: “To call someone a terrorist is to take sides. “
The United Kingdom has designated Hamas’s military wing as a terrorist organization since 2001extending the ban to the entire group by November 2021.
According to the government: “At the time, the British government considered that there was sufficient distinction between the so-called political and military wings of Hamas that they should be treated as separate organizations and that only the military wing was affected by terrorism.”
“The government now believes that the approach to distinguishing between the different parts of Hamas is artificial. “Hamas is a complex but unified terrorist organization.”
The property of the government Policy paper on banned terrorist groups establishes this “Hamas commits and participates in terrorism.” Hamas has used indiscriminate rocket and mortar attacks and raids against Israeli targets.”
It also describes Hamas as “a militant Islamist movement founded in 1987.”
On Tuesday, Spain’s acting foreign minister also urged that the Palestinians not be confused with Hamas.
Jose Manuel Albares urged more aid for Palestine after Israel’s devastating bombing of the Gaza Strip, saying: “This cooperation must continue; “We must not confuse Hamas, which is on the EU’s list of terrorist groups, with the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Authority or the United Nations organizations on the ground.”