British Home Secretary Priti Patel has declared her intention to proscribe the whole of Hamas – the Islamic resistance movement that rules the Gaza Strip – as a terrorist organisation.
The military wing of the group was proscribed in the UK back in March 2001. Twenty years on, the home secretary proposes to extend this ban to the political wing by arguing that the distinction between the two wings is no longer tenable. The truth of the matter is that the distinction was tenable in 2001 and it is still tenable today. What is more, it is a crucial distinction.
Patel’s announcement came soon after Benny Gantz, Israel’s defence minister, designated six Palestinian civil society NGO groups as terrorist organisations. This designation came close on the heels of the decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to launch a full-scale investigation of alleged war crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Gantz was the Israel Defense Forces’ chief of staff during its assault on Gaza in July 2014, in which at least 2,256 Palestinians were killed, of whom 1,462 were civilians, including 551 children. This makes Gantz a prime suspect in the ICC’s war crimes probe. Hamas agreed to cooperate with the ICC investigation; Israel refused.
Some of the Palestinian organisations placed on Israel’s terrorist list are cooperating with the ICC investigation. Although the evidence produced by Israel was judged inadequate by the European Union and the US government, the terrorism label achieved its goal of stigmatising the NGOs, curbing their ability to raise funds and disrupting their operations. The Israeli move was widely condemned as an attack on human rights. The British home secretary was not among the protesters.
Patel shares with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson a Manichean view of the Middle East struggle in which Israel represents the forces of light and Palestinian Hamas the forces of darkness. The reality is slightly more complicated. [Continue reading…]