BBC Complaints: we strive to describe the ‘nuanced nature’ of Hamas

A reader recently shared with us a reply received from a representative at BBC Complaints which, beyond the issue of whether or not it is a satisfactory response to a complaint made by a licence-fee payer, provides some revealing insights into the prevailing accepted wisdom in the BBC Complaints department.

Below is one portion of the response: [all emphasis added]

“With regard to your additional point on describing Hamas as militants in our news coverage [….] we feel it is worth noting that Hamas has both a political wing and a military wing and while its charter calls for Israel’s ‘nullification’ it is at the same time the democratically elected government in Gaza. Hamas’s strategy is certainly to end the occupation through armed resistance while its 1988 charter also calls for Israel’s destruction. It has, however, modified its position over time. Hamas also enjoys considerable popular support among Palestinians, particularly in the Gaza Strip where it is particularly strong.

It is worth noting this is as much to do with its humanitarian wing, which provides schooling, health clinics and financial assistance, as its military wing which carries out attacks on Israelis. Our coverage follows the BBC editorial guidelines which state: “Terrorism is a difficult and emotive subject with significant political overtones and care is required in the use of language that carries value judgements. We try to avoid the use of the term “terrorist” without attribution. When we do use the term we should strive to do so with consistency in the stories we report across all our services and in a way that does not undermine our reputation for objectivity and accuracy.”

Our coverage strives to describe the nuanced nature of the organisation in an accurate and impartial manner, allowing our audience to make up their own minds.

We don’t agree with your suggestion of bias and this goes some way in addressing your concerns.”

Let’s take that one inaccurate statement at a time.

Hamas has both a political wing and a military wing“. Notably, the former later morphs into a “humanitarian wing”: an Orwellian description which only an organization like the BBC which pedantically ignores Hamas’ persecution of religious minorities, women and homosexuals could invent. But the important point here is that the fact that Hamas runs schools and clinics in no way mitigates the fact that it has consistently terrorised, attacked and killed Israeli (and other) civilians for over a quarter of a century. For that reason Hamas is designated in its entirety by Israel, the United States, the European Union, Canada and Japan, banned by Jordan and Egypt and its ‘military wing’ proscribed by Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.  As readers well know, all too often the BBC fails to inform audiences of that entire range of terrorist designation of Hamas.

“..it is […] the democratically elected government in Gaza“. Hamas’ democratically elected mandate expired over four years ago, with elections not having been held since January 2006 when it won 44.45% of the votes in the Palestinian Legislative Council. Hamas is thus no longer the “democratically elected” anything, but an armed group which violently ousted its political rivals from the Gaza Strip where has held onto power despite its mandate having long since come to an end.

Hamas’s strategy is […] to end the occupation“. The territory controlled by Hamas – the Gaza Strip – has not been occupied for nine years due to the fact that Israel disengaged from the area in 2005 – two years before Hamas’ violent takeover.

“…while its 1988 charter also calls for Israel’s destruction. It has, however, modified its position over time“. In other words, the BBC Complaints department apparently believes that Hamas no longer “calls for Israel’s destruction”. Hamas, however, says differently.

Here is Hamas’ Khaled Masha’al making a ‘nuanced’ speech in December 2012:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0DiQRO_49M

Here is Hamas’ former prime minister (from the ‘political’ or ‘humanitarian wing’) speaking in March 2014:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsZavjX0Uls

Here is a Hamas MP (again from Hamas’ ‘political wing’) also speaking in March 2014:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFDX_cdwbB0

Here is another Hamas MP (also from that same ‘political wing’) speaking in April 2014:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iy-heIQBQbw

And here is a Hamas-produced video from May 2014:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yho4nlzuudU

Perhaps the BBC Complaints department would care to enlighten its funding public as to how it arrived at the conclusion that Hamas has “modified its position” on the destruction of Israel and why it employs that and other such obviously inaccurate claims in response to complaints made by licence fee payers?  

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