Note to AP: Hamas is a terrorist organization

Many news outlets, blogs, and other publications rely on the Associated Press Stylebook or style guide. Just for the record, this blog is not one of them. 

Because it is so widely used, you may be noticing something missing from much of the coverage of the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel in the wake of the October 7 terror attacks. And that would be the word “terrorist.” 

As the Free Beacon discovered, the AP is discouraging anyone from using the word to describe the literal Hamas terrorists who murdered, raped, tortured, and kidnapped so many Israelis and people of other nationalities earlier this month. This kinder, gentler approach to Hamas terrorism is unlikely to induce much sympathy for the killers, but the Associated Press is clearly giving it the old college try.

The Associated Press instructs reporters and organizations that rely on its style guide to avoid referring to Hamas as a terrorist organization, a Washington Free Beacon review of the organization’s standards found.

The news outlet states in its “Israel-Hamas Topical Guide” that because “terrorism and terrorist have become politicized, and often are applied inconsistently … the AP is not using the terms for specific actions or groups, other than in direct quotations.” The guidance will affect how dozens of regional newspapers and national outlets like Politico report on the ongoing war in Gaza.

Hamas, an Islamist militant group dedicated to the annihilation of Israel and Jews around the world, is classified as a terrorist organization by dozens of countries, including the United States and the European Union. Hamas has undertaken hundreds of terrorist attacks against civilians since 1993, according to the Jewish Virtual Library.

The AP prefers that we refer to members of Hamas as “militants.” They will also allow the terms “Hamas fighters, attackers, or combatants.” I haven’t checked, but I assume the AP would also like us to refer to rabid dogs as “aggressive canines.”

So why make a choice like this? According to the Associated Press, it’s because the words terror and terrorist “have become politicized.” Really? defines a terrorist as a person or group “who uses or advocates terrorism” or “a person who terrorizes or frightens others.” That sounds pretty straightforward to me. Does the AP need someone to look up the definitions of “terrorize” or “frighten” also?

How can a word like that be politicized unless it’s being intentionally used in an incorrect fashion? People either engage in civilized behavior or they don’t. Members of an organized military unit who engage in battle with the military of another nation they are at war with are not terrorists. They are soldiers engaged in war, no matter how awful that can be at times. And sometimes a nation’s military will need too confront and destroy legitimate terrorists.

How anyone can look upon the countless videos and still images from October 7 in Israel and not clearly identify those horrors as terrorism is a mystery. Of course, in the case of the Associated Press, it might not be that much of a mystery after all. The organization is run by left-wing idealogues who are almost entirely predictable in their choices. Anyone viewed as a politically favored “victim” class will be given more favorable coverage no matter what they do.

This is also hardly the first time these issues have cropped up with the AP. The Free Beacon reminds us that other examples abound. When the Biden border crisis kicked into full gear, the AP told its writers to refrain from using the word “surge” while covering the army of migrants streaming across the border. During the BLM riots in the summer of 2020, the AP forbid the use of the word “riot,” instructing people to say “unrest” instead.

One last interesting factoid from the linked report is that in the Gaza Strip, the Associated press shared an office in a building with Hamas for fifteen years until it was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in 2021. They reportedly were fully aware that Hamas was in the building and their workers reportedly observed the terrorists firing rockets into Israel from the parking lot next to the building. They never reported on those activities and the President and CEO of AP said he was “shocked and horrified” that Israel would destroy a building housing a news agency. I wonder how many of them were “shocked and horrified” by the events of October 7. Not many, apparently.

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