Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has come under pressure to denounce Hamas as a terrorist organisation, after refusing to name them as such in an interview.

It comes after Sarit Michaeli, a senior B’Tselem spokesperson, spoke to Alan Mendoza, director of the Henry Jackson Society, a think-tank, in an interview on J-TV, a new Jewish-interest YouTube channel.

Michaeli said B’Tselem “denounces in very strong categorical terms Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians, however, as an Israeli organisation the bulk of our research, work and effort goes at self-criticism, so looking at our own government”.

Asked whether Hamas was a terrorist organisation, she said: “Hamas engages in clear terrorist acts when it bombs Israeli civilians, we’ve denounced these actions.”

Mendoza repeated the question several times, and Michaeli repeated that B’Tselem “denounced terrorist acts perpetrated by Hamas,” before accusing Mendoza of “trying to smear us as terrorist-sympathisers, which is unacceptable”.

Paul Charney, chairman of the Zionist Federation, said: “It is concerning to see a senior representative quibbling over whether Hamas is a terrorist organisation, or merely an organisation that happens to sometimes engage in terrorism.”

Of Michaeli’s responses, he added: “Her inability to simply denounce this evil group will put her at odds with the majority of ordinary Israelis – the very demographic she purportedly aims to reach.”

There is no universal definition of terrorism however Israel, several Gulf States, the United States and the European Union all consider Hamas to be a terrorist group.