Yes, Hamas is Legally, Morally, and Factually a Terrorist Organization

Below is my column in the New York Post on the Associated Press guideline for reporters to avoid calling Hamas a terrorist organization. Voice of America and other media outlets have made the same decision. This is not about supporting the Palestinian cause. It is about correctly describing a group that commits terrorist attacks as a terrorist organization.

Here is the column:

Confucius once said that “the beginning of wisdom is the ability to call things by their right names.”

That does not appear to be the approach of the Associated Press this week after the media organization told its reporters not to call Hamas fighters “terrorists” after they massacred civilians, raped women, and took a couple hundred hostages from Israel on Oct. 7.

The Voice of America issued its own instruction to avoid calling Hamas “terrorists.”

According to the AP, these fighters are to be called “militants” because the term “terrorist” has “become politicized.”

But there is nothing “politicized” in recognizing that Hamas intentionally targeted civilians, including mowing down unarmed participants at a peace concert.

They burned civilians alive in their homes and raped women.

They intentionally and systemically took civilian hostages, including children and the elderly.

The acts defined the actors. These were terrorist acts and those who committed them were by definition terrorists.

The International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism defines terrorism as “any … act intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to a civilian, or to any other person not taking an active part in the hostilities in a situation of armed conflict, when the purpose of such act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act.”

The United Nations Security Council specifically includes with this definition “criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages.”

Nevertheless, the Associated Press reportedly issued an “Israel-Hamas Topical Guide,” which noted that “terrorism and terrorist have become politicized, and often are applied inconsistently.” Thus “the AP is not using the terms for specific actions or groups, other than in direct quotations.”

This isn’t the first time the AP has made strikingly artificial language choices.

For example, AP reporters were told to avoid using the word “surge” to describe the record number of migrants crossing the border.

Likewise, when there was violence and looting in various cities after the George Floyd killing, AP told its reporters to use “milder terms” like “unrest” rather than “riots.”

Yet when it came to January 6, AP routinely referred to the riot as an “insurrection” (hereherehere).

Notably, in one article titled “Riot? Insurrection? Words Matter in Describing the Capitol Siege,” the AP noted that other mainstream media were using “riot” but also raised the possible terms “sedition” and “coup attempt.”

For the record, I criticized President Donald Trump’s Jan. 6 speech while he was still giving it and wrote that his theory on the election and the certification challenge was unfounded.

I denounced the riot as a desecration of our constitutional process. However, it was not an insurrection, in my view. It was a protest that became a riot.

AP and some other outlets do not want to call it a riot not because it isn’t accurate, but because it is not sufficiently vilifying.

Conversely, the media are often eager to avoid “riot” as too judgmental.

Reporters actually told a chief of police not to use the word “riot” in reference to violence by protesters against police.

Similarly, as billions in property damages were occurring in various cities, Craig Melvin, an MSNBC host and co-anchor of “Today,” tweeted a “guide” that the images “on the ground” were not to be described as rioting but rather “protests.”

He noted, “This will guide our reporting in MN. While the situation on the ground in Minneapolis is fluid, and there has been violence, it is most accurate at this time to describe what is happening there as ‘protests’ — not riots.”

Polls have shown that most of the public view January 6 as a riot.

CBS poll showed that 76% viewed it for what it was, a “protest gone too far.” The view that it was an actual “insurrection” was far less settled, with almost half rejecting the claim, a division breaking along partisan lines.

Obviously, people can disagree, but this would seem an obvious example where the AP would refrain from using the most loaded term of “insurrection” given the legal and factual contradictions in such usage.

The concern is that AP is showing bias in the use of such terms. Journalism schools now teach young reporters to follow an advocacy model in “leaving neutrality behind.”

Likewise, Stanford journalism professor Ted Glasser insisted that journalism needed to “free itself from this notion of objectivity to develop a sense of social justice.”

Recently, former executive editor for the Washington Post Leonard Downie Jr. and former CBS News president Andrew Heyward released their survey of leading journalists and outlets and also concluded that objectivity is now considered reactionary and even harmful.

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, editor-in-chief at the San Francisco Chronicle, said it plainly: “Objectivity has got to go.”

Downie explained that news organizations now “believe that pursuing objectivity can lead to false balance or misleading ‘bothsidesism’ in covering stories about race, the treatment of women, LGBTQ+ rights, income inequality, climate change and many other subjects.

“And, in today’s diversifying newsrooms, they feel it negates many of their own identities, life experiences and cultural contexts, keeping them from pursuing truth in their work.”

That view was echoed by Kathleen Carroll, former executive editor at the Associated Press, who declared, “It’s objective by whose standard? … That standard seems to be White, educated, and fairly wealthy.”

The response of the public has been consistent and clear: Trust in the media is at an all-time low.

Roughly 40% of the public has zero trust in the media. Likewise, 50% of Americans believe that the media lie to them to advance their own agendas.

Much of that distrust has occurred over what were viewed as false descriptions.

The best example was the “Let’s Go Brandon” incident.

In that case, NBC reporter Kelli Stavast was doing an interview with race car driver Brandon Brown after he won his first NASCAR Xfinity Series race.

During the interview, Stavast’s questions were drowned out by loud-and-clear chants of “F—k Joe Biden.” Stavast quickly declared, “You can hear the chants from the crowd, ‘Let’s go, Brandon!’ ”

“Let’s Go Brandon” has become a type of Yankee Doodling of the media by the public. It reflected an exasperation with framing and revisionism by the media in describing events.

There is no greater disconnect than describing an attack killing hundreds of unarmed civilians and taking hundreds of hostages as the acts of “militants.”

There is wisdom that comes from calling things by the right name. This was terrorism.

Jonathan Turley is an attorney and professor at George Washington University Law School.

268 thoughts on “Yes, Hamas is Legally, Morally, and Factually a Terrorist Organization”

  1. During the 90 days that began on April 6 in 1994, Rwanda experienced the most intensive slaughter in this blood-filled century

    Families murdered in their home, people hunted down as they fled by soldiers and militia, through farmland and woods as if they were animals.

    “All over the world there were people like me sitting in offices who did not fully appreciate the depth and speed with which you were being engulfed by this unimaginable terror.” clinton lies

    He had inadequately reacted to the genocide, he said, because he had not really known what had been happening in Rwanda.

    a. As the Archive notes, “beginning April 8th, the massacres in Rwanda were reported on the front pages of major newspapers and on radio and television broadcasts almost daily, including the major papers read by U.S. officials and policy elites.” And at that time human rights activists in Washington–who had close relationships with national security adviser Tony Lake and staff members of Clinton’s national security council–were pounding on the doors of the White House demanding action and suggesting options.
    David Corn

    And Trump is a lying bum?
    And Trump is a lying bum?
    MY G-D!
    Our radical Left-Wing communists remain utterly silent.
    We owe a real apology to those poor people. We were legally committed to help them, to intervene. My country is a disgrace. I am ashamed of America.

  2. All Recall how, after the Waukesha Christmas Parade Massacre, the MSM immediately labeled it a “Parade Crash” like it was a traffic accident!
    Since it was a blatant racist attack that didn’t fit The Narrative, the Media Coverage quickly evaporated!

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