On October 16, 2023, the National Jewish Assembly led an unprecedented rally outside the headquarters of the BBC. Our message was straightforward: cease the equivocation and refer to Hamas as what it is—a terrorist organisation. The BBC, known for its global reach and ostensibly unbiased reporting, has regrettably adopted a different standard when it comes to terrorism directed at Israel. Almost 1,500 people attended our rally, and we stand united in condemning the BBC’s failure to uphold not just journalistic ethics, but also its own moral standards.
The gathering included speeches from Gary Mond, Chairman of the NJA, followed by Gideon Falter of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, and Jonathan Turner from UK Lawyers for Israel. We were also privileged to hear from Asher Edreyi, a young Israeli and IDF veteran; Jonny Gould of the Jewish State podcast; Eyal Biton, a Reserve Captain in the IDF Special Forces; Andre Walker of Talk TV; Nizza Fluss, former Borough of Barnet councillor; Ellie Borhan from Stage of Freedom; Lance Forman, a former Conservative MEP; Hayley Guttman of Christians Against Anti-Semitism; and Rabbi Andrew Shaw from the Mizrachi Organisation. Each articulated in uniquely compelling ways the profound need for moral clarity in journalistic practices.
BBC has historically demonstrated no reluctance in labelling entities involved in heinous acts as “terrorists.” In fact, during our rally, BBC had no qualms reporting on the Brussels attack as a “terrorist” attack. Yet, when the lens shifts to Israel and Hamas, a group with a track record of intentionally targeting Israeli civilians, there seems to be semantic paralysis. The use of euphemistic terms like “militants” or “fighters” serves not just to undermine the BBC’s journalistic integrity but also to erode its moral foundations.
Our rally cut across religious, age, and national lines. It showcased unity among the religious and the secular, the young and the elderly, Diaspora Jews, Israelis, and the Iranian diaspora who vehemently oppose the totalitarian regime of the Ayatollahs and the IRGC, which serve as Hamas paymasters.
While UK Defence Minister Grant Shapps has highlighted the necessity for the BBC to abide by British law—which classified Hamas as a terrorist organisation in 2021—John Simpson, the BBC’s World Affairs Editor, counters this by suggesting that such classification equates to “taking sides.” This view is patently absurd. Journalism should serve the truth, not dilute it for the sake of a misguided sense of impartiality. If King Charles III, as well as many other media outlets, can unambiguously refer to Hamas as a terrorist organisation, why can’t the BBC?
The British Jewish community stands as a sturdy bulwark against the abhorrent terrorism perpetrated by Hamas. In this light, we call on the BBC to honour both its journalistic and moral commitments by explicitly referring to Hamas as a terrorist organisation. Any hesitancy to do so would not only betray its audiences, who begrudgingly fund it through compulsory licence fees, but also compromise the ethical standards that form the cornerstone of British society.
The BBC’s commitment to impartiality should not extend to providing a smokescreen for terrorist activities. Indeed, if one truly values Palestinian lives and aims for a just peace, then it is an ethical imperative to condemn the acts of terrorism perpetuated by Hamas – whose callous disregard for Gazan lives puts them in immediate danger.
As we stood before the iconic facade of the BBC, our collective voice encapsulated more than a mere momentary outcry; it epitomised the enduring values upon which British society is built. We do not just represent transient dissent, but embody a long-standing call for moral integrity. The time is ripe for the BBC to respond to this call, not just for its own sake, but for the sake of ethical journalism and the principles we all hold dear.
So, we continue our campaign with unwavering resolve. Those who attended the NJA’s rally are not a fleeting moment, but a constant reminder of the moral values that ground our society. We shall persist until the BBC joins us in the collective fight against terrorism, however, and wherever it manifests. Until then, our voices will not be silenced.
Steve Winston is the Managing Director of the National Jewish Assembly.