TURLEY: Yes, Hamas is Legally, Morally, Even Factually a 'Terrorist' Organization

“It’s objective by whose standard? …That standard seems to be White, educated, and fairly wealthy.”

By Jonathan Turley

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Texas Insider Report) — 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 after the media organization recently 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. 7th.

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.
  • They 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 6th, AP routinely referred to the riot as an “insurrection” (hereherehere).

Notably, in one article titledRiot? 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.”

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.

For the record, I criticized President Donald Trump’s Jan. 6th 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.

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.”

Journalism schools now teach young reporters to follow an advocacy model inleaving 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 100s of unarmed civilians, and taking 100s of hostages, as the acts of “militants.”

This is not about supporting the Palestinian cause. It is about correctly describing a group that commits terrorist attacks as a terrorist organization.

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

This was terrorism.

A professor at George Washington University Law SchoolJonathan Turley is a nationally recognized legal scholar who has written extensively in areas ranging from Constitutional Law to Legal Theory & Tort Law. He is often asked to testify in Congressional proceedings about complex Constitutional & Statutory Issues, including multiple impeachment hearings and removal trials such as the impeachment of Presidents Bill Clinton & Donald Trump. He appears regularly as a legal expert on all of the major television networks, as well as in national publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal.