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Israel President Herzog attacks BBC coverage of Gaza in rant

Israel President Herzog attacks BBC coverage of Gaza in rant at UK PM Rishi Sunak
3 min read
20 October, 2023
Israel’s Isaac Herzog appears to be strongarming PM Rishi Sunak to intervene in the BBC's coverage of the Gaza war
Israeli president Isaac Herzog said that there should be an ‘outcry’ over BBC's decision not to refer to Hamas as a 'terrorist group' [Getty]

Israel’s Isaac Herzog has blasted the BBC’s ongoing coverage of the Gaza-Israel conflict, calling on UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to help "raise [a] voice for correction". 

Herzog accused the news organisation of committing a "distortion of the facts" and attacked its "atrocious refusal to brand Hamas as a terrorist group".

The president has repeatedly criticised the BBC in multiple interviews and used Sunak's two-day visit to Israel as another opportunity to attack the UK public broadcaster.

“I feel the BBC's reporting is atrocious. The fact that it does not recognise Hamas as a terror organisation requires a complete legal battle and public battle. It's unbelievable,” Herzog said. 

“There has to be an outcry so that there will be a correction and Hamas is defined as a terrorist organisation. What else do they need to see to understand that this is an atrocious terrorist organisation?”

The BBC, a publicly-owned broadcaster funded by UK license payers, aims to be impartial when covering current affairs but has received criticism from both Palestinians and Israelis during the Gaza war.

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This has not stopped Herzog from accusing the BBC of bias.

"I understand that in modern democracies like ours and yours, you cannot interfere in their affairs (the BBC)," the Israeli president added.
"However, given that the British Broadcasting Corporation has a specific relationship, it is necessary to raise a voice for correction and to officially designate Hamas as a terrorist organisation."  

Sunak did not respond to Herzog's request but reiterated the UK's support for Israel.

Under BBC editorial guidelines, the word "terrorist" is not used to refer to the Hamas movement, which has ruled Gaza since 2007.

"We should convey to our audience the full consequences of the act by describing what happened," the BBC instructs its journalists. 

"We should use words which specifically describe the perpetrator such as 'bomber', 'attacker', 'gunman', 'kidnapper', 'insurgent' and 'militant'... [and] not adopt other people's language as our own."

The UK government refers to Hamas as a "terrorist organisation" and criminalises any show of support for the group. 

The BBC has been widely criticised for its coverage of the Gaza war, which has killed over 4,000 Palestinians, more than 1,500 Palestinians.

Many Arabs in the UK feel the BBC's coverage is too pro-Israel.Bassam Bounenni, the BBC's North Africa correspondent, resigned this week over the broadcaster's framing of the conflict.

On Monday, just a day before the bombing of the Baptist Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City, which killed nearly 500 people, the BBC aired a discussion on whether there are Hamas tunnels under hospitals and schools in the Gaza Strip. 

Israel has been widely blamed for the bombing and its "evidence" that a Palestinian rocket was responsible for the massacre has been widely discredited.