Britain’s designation of Hamas as a ‘terrorist’ organization is a mistake

Adnan Abu Amer

Middle East Monitor  /  November 26, 2021

It was a surprise when British Home Secretary Priti Patel announced last week that she planned to designate the political wing of Hamas as a “terrorist organization”. The resistance movement’s armed wing has been thus designated for twenty years. The announcement was rejected by Palestinians and their supporters, but they could not stop parliament agreeing to an amendment to the Terrorist Act 2000 to this effect.

The move should not have been a surprise, given that Britain effectively gave life to the Zionist project and remains a staunch supporter of the colonial-occupation state of Israel. It appears that Patel’s decision was made at the request of far-right Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who met his British counterpart in Glasgow during the climate summit.

Patel is one of Israel’s loudest cheerleaders. In 2017, she was forced to resign from the government of Theresa May after holding secret meetings with Israeli officials while on “holiday”. On the agenda was the idea of giving British development aid funds to the Israel Defence Forces. When Boris Johnson succeeded May as Prime Minister, he appointed Patel as Home Secretary and she is now one of the cabinet members closest to him.

It is ironic that the British government backs Israel so much, given that the Zionist state was born in large part thanks to “Jewish terrorism” against the British Mandate authorities in Palestine. The terrorists of the Haganah, Stern Gang and Irgun carried out a campaign of murder and destruction during the 1940s. In 1946, these terrorists blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, killing 91 people and wounding 46 others. The hotel was the headquarters of the British administration at the time.

Britain’s designation of Hamas in its entirety will not affect the legitimacy of the Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupation, because that legitimacy stems from international law. The British — and others, to their shame — ignore that simple fact, and make sure that Israeli terrorism by soldiers and settlers alike goes unpunished by the international community. This will not intimidate the Palestinians, though.

Patel’s open gesture of goodwill towards the occupation comes at a time when efforts are being made by influential European parties to remove Hamas from the terrorist lists. They want to open channels of dialogue with the movement.

Meanwhile, the same Israeli government that has pushed Johnson and Patel to drive this measure through parliament is in indirect talks with Hamas through mediators over a possible truce and a prisoner exchange deal. The Israelis know for sure that Hamas is the decision-maker on the ground in the Gaza Strip, and that it is able to hurt Israel and its interests. This perhaps explains why Israel feels the need to harm the movement elsewhere; by the British designation, for example.

The designation of European organizations which support the Palestinians is nothing new, of course. All that Israel has to do is allege that they have links with Hamas and compliant governments and media generally do the rest. Funds have been seized and officials have faced prosecution. However, even when asked to do so, Israel rarely, if ever, provides evidence of such links, with the result that a number of designations have been overturned in courts across Europe. It’s hardly surprising, really, given that the groups involved have often been working with the EU, UNRWA and other official bodies to deliver humanitarian aid as well as to build links with the Arab world and find a just solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict.

I believe that Israel is “Hamasophobic”, and regards any activity that is pro-Palestine to be hostile to the apartheid state and so linked with the movement by default. Hence the need to disrupt any pro-Palestine activity in Europe, even entirely peaceful activism like the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS). Britain’s designation should be viewed in that context. Nevertheless, we know that meetings between European officials and Hamas are taking place behind the scenes.

British and European decisions to ban Hamas aside, we must not forget that the movement enjoys wide public support in occupied Palestine with a strong political presence. If European countries really believe in democracy as they claim, then this should not be overlooked.

For the British government to take such a step against Hamas is thus really shameful. It was a knee-jerk response to try to please the pro-Israel lobby based on false information obtained from media sources, the Internet and incitement from Israel itself. As a fellow MEMO columnist said earlier this week, the decision is “absurd” in every sense, if peace in the Middle East is, as often claimed, a genuine objective.

That is because Priti Patel’s designation of the Hamas political wing flies in the face of international law, and oppresses people who have every right to resist Israel’s brutal military occupation of their land. That is the reality. The Home Secretary has now made it even easier for the Palestinians to blame Britain for the predicament that they have been in ever since 1948.

Nevertheless, they will continue to make every effort to build bridges with European politicians who actually care for peace and justice so that one day a just peace will come about. That day will signal a victory for the Palestinian cause, and a defeat for Zionism and the Zionist state.

Adnan Abu Amer is the head of the Political Science Department at the University of the Ummah in Gaza