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The Media Line: UK Decision to Ban Hamas Outrages Palestinians

UK Decision to Ban Hamas Outrages Palestinians

The UK has recognized only the Hamas military wing, known as the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, as a terrorist organization for the last two decades.

By Mohammad Al-Kassim/The Media Line

A decision on Friday by the UK Home Secretary Priti Patel outlawing support to the Palestinian movement Hamas and labeling its political wing a terrorist organization drew widespread condemnation among Palestinians.

Showing support to the Islamist group could carry with it a punishment of up to 14 years in prison if the is government able to convince the British Parliament to vote in agreement on the proposals next week.

If successful, the law could become effective starting next Friday.

For the last two decades, the UK has only recognized the Hamas military wing that governs the Gaza Strip, known as the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, as a terrorist organization. The announcement on Friday will extend that designation to the group’s political wing.

Patel argued that an outright ban under the Terrorism Act of 2000 is necessary because it is not possible to distinguish between Hamas’ political and military wings.

She says the move is intended to bring Britain into line with the United States, which designated the entire Hamas organization a terror group in 1995, as have the European Union and Israel.

Basem Naim, a Hamas member in Gaza, told The Media Line that this is a “dangerous step from Britain.”

“Britain renews its aggression against our people, a hundred years after the fateful Balfour Declaration,” he said.

Naim says that Hamas is an elected national movement that represents a broad segment of the Palestinian people.

“Hamas condemns this decision, rejects it outright, and considers it a blatant aggression against our people,” he also said.

He accuses Britain of violating international conventions.

“This is a flagrant violation of international law, which guarantees people the right to resist occupation with all available tools, including the use of weapons,” he said.

Dr. Mohammed Mosheer Amer, director of the Centre for Political and Development Studies, and associate professor of Linguistics at the Islamic University of Gaza, told The Media Line that the UK decision is nothing more than “blaming and defaming the victim” in exchange for “strengthening relations with the occupying state.”

“This decision is a complete bias in favor of the Israeli occupying state and an exaggerated prejudice against the Palestinian people who live under occupation and siege,” he said.

Amer says that there is condemnation and disapproval from all Palestinian factions, even from the Palestinian Authority, at this “sudden” and “unjustified” decision by the British government toward classifying Hamas as a terrorist movement.

He insists that banning Hamas is not the correct policy for anyone because the Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip is an “essential component of Palestinian society and the Palestinian political movement.”

“It would have been better for the British government to preserve the principles of international law and to criminalize occupation,” Amer said.

Yaakov Lappin, a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, told The Media Line that the decision “is a reflection of reality.”

“The separation between the two wings is artificial. In reality, the two wings are interconnected. The head of Hamas’ Political Bureau in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, has a long history of operational action, and of killing suspected Palestinian collaborators. Hamas’ delegations that visit Cairo for talks bring both political and military wing representatives,” he explained.

Lappin says these two branches are not separate, but rather, “part of a single organization.”

The Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the British announcement calling the decision an “unjustified attack on the Palestinian people.”

“The PA will not shed tears over this decision. Hamas views the PA’s rule in the West Bank as a target for taking over in the long term, and therefore, Abu Mazen and Fatah view Hamas as an adversary. Abu Mazen is likely comfortable with London’s decision,” Lappin said.

Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett applauded the news, calling Hamas “a radical Islamic group that targets innocent Israelis and seeks Israel’s destruction.”

“I welcome the UK’s intention to declare Hamas a terrorist organization in its entirety – because that’s exactly what it is,” he tweeted.

Hamas has political and military wings. Founded in 1987, it opposes the existence of the state of Israel and peace talks, instead advocating “armed resistance” against Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Moshe Marzook, an Israeli political analyst, and researcher at Reichman University in Herzliya, told The Media Line that the Islamic movement has cultivated ties in Europe that has raised concerns.

“They have had a great influence on the local Islamic movements, which have strengthened in recent years in all of Europe, especially in Germany, France and England,” he said.

He says the British government’s decision is similar to the one Europe and US took against Hizbullah, adding that Hamas will be affected politically and financially as well.

“Of course, this decision will have an impact on the Hamas movement, which until now has been exposed, but now it will be forced to disappear,” Marzook said.

Esmat Mansour, a Ramallah-based political analyst, told The Media Line that Palestinians should be offended by the decision.

“Every Palestinian, resistance fighter and freedom fighter in the entire world finds himself against Britain’s decision to consider Hamas a terrorist movement,” he said.

Mansour accused Britain of unfair treatment of the Palestinians while giving Israel absolute support.

“Criminalizing the struggle of peoples in their quest to gain their freedom and restore their rights is an identification with the real criminal and a complicity in his crimes,” he also said.

He urged the PA to “confront” the decision.

A member of the Political Bureau of the Islamic Jihad movement, Khaled Al-Batsh, told The Media Line that his group stands in solidarity with Hamas.

“The British decision comes in the context of covering up the crimes of the occupation against our people in Gaza and against Hamas, and it also comes in the context of political blackmail of the Palestinian resistance movements,” he said.

Batsh accused the British interior minister of bias.

“It is clear that the British government is infiltrated by the Zionists, and the Minister of the Interior supports and adopts the Bennett and Lapid project in order to keep the Palestinian people under occupation,” he said, referring to Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

He called on the British House of Commons “not to ratify the decision.”

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