The historical long view may be helpful in tempering the public’s and press’s understanding of Hamas. The Palestinian Liberation Organization was once considered a terrorist group by most governments, but is now treated as a legitimate governing body in Palestine by the press, despite the fact that, in 2004, the U.S. Congress again declared PLO to be a terror organization. One day, Hamas, too, may be recognized by the international community as a legitimate government.

But the press shouldn’t wait for that day. Journalists are already hampered by distance in reporting the Gazan point of view, given that they are physically excluded from covering the fighting. Incomplete descriptions of Hamas make it harder still for readers to make sense of it all—and create the additional distance of misunderstanding. Journalism’s task is to elucidate, not obscure the truth, and, in the case of Hamas, a short label hardly tells the whole story.

Katia Bachko is on staff at The New Yorker.