Thousands of demonstrators gathered outside the BBC‘s London headquarters on Monday evening to protest the broadcaster’s coverage of the terrorist attacks that took place in Israel last week.
The BBC has found itself mired in controversy after refusing to describe Palestinian group Hamas, who organized the butchering and abduction of almost 2,000 citizens, including grandmothers and children, on Oct. 7, as terrorists. They have instead referred to them as “militants.” Hamas has officially been designated a proscribed terrorist organization by the U.K. government since 2021.
On Monday evening protestors, many of them carrying Israel flags, gathered outside New Broadcasting House chanting “Shame on you,” “justice” and “Hamas are terrorists” at the corporation. Some BBC employees could be seen peering out through the windows at the gathering.
Among the speakers at the event were former BBC anchor Jonny Gould and Talk TV host Andre Walker. Gould, who hosts the Jewish State podcast, told the crowd that Hamas are a group that “beheads babies, burns people alive, executes people at the bus stop, at a peace festival: terrorists? No, that’s ‘taking sides,’ isn’t it John Simpson?” referencing the longtime BBC broadcaster. Last week Simpson tweeted “Calling someone a terrorist means you’re taking sides and ceasing to treat the situation with due impartiality.”
Gould continued during his speech: “Sadly [the BBC] have the effect of sanitizing it. It’s more than that, isn’t it John, because the BBC are excusing it. Because Simpson fetishizes due impartiality like Switzerland hides behind so-called neutrality.”
Walker also took to the makeshift stage outside the BBC’s offices, telling the crowd: “Why does it feel different this time? We’ve seen terrorism before, we’ve seen hatred before, we’ve seen evil before. The reason is because they committed a pogrom in Israel and that is the first time that has taken place, and all of us have to reflect on that.”
“It’s time we said to the BBC there is no hedging bets when it comes to beheading babies, there is no hedging bets when it comes to burning people alive, there is no hedging bets when it comes to murdering innocent civilians, that will never be tolerated,” Walker continued.
Other speakers at the event included an Israeli whose friends had been murdered during the attacks last week, an Iranian woman who compared the struggle against Hamas to that of ordinary Iranians against their authoritarian leaders and a rabbi, who ended the evening with prayer.
While the corporation claims its use of “militants” rather than “terrorists” is in line with editorial policy to provide impartial coverage of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, critics point to the numerous other times the BBC has used the word “terrorist” to describe atrocities where the victims have been European, including the 2015 Paris Bataclan attacks, a 2020 shooting in Vienna, Austria that killed four people and a stabbing in London the same year.
Last week BBC Derby sports reporter Noah Abrahams resigned from the broadcaster over its position. It has also been criticized by government ministers including foreign secretary James Cleverly and immigration minister Robert Jenrick.