The UK Banning of Hamas – Reasons and Implications

25 Nov 2021 09:47am
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The British government is reportedly planning to introduce a law that will ban Hamas and classify it a terrorist organisation. Its Home Secretary, Priti Patel, plans to push for the ban in Parliament next week, arguing that it was not possible to distinguish between Hamas’s political and military wings. She also called Hamas “fundamentally and rabidly anti-Semitic” and that by banning the group, the Jewish community will be more protected.

According to legal experts, this move may result in any person being sent to prison for 14 years for expressing support for Hamas.

The question that needs to be asked is this: is the move justified? Is Hamas really a terrorist organisation? The answer depends on how one understands the history of Israel. If one sees Israel to be a state that was established by a truly democratic process whereby most of the people in that territory decided to form it, then any move by any party to challenge its existence will be unjustified. Moreover, if the challenge is via armed struggle, then organisations that are involved should be called terrorist organisations.

However, according to many experts on the history of the region, that version is simply untrue. For example, according to Prof Ilan Pappe, a Jewish Israeli historian who formerly served at the University of Haifa in Israel and now Professor of History and Director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at Exeter University in the United Kingdom, Israel is simply a settler-colonial project by European Zionists. What happened was that towards the end of the 19th century, European Jews who could no longer bear the anti-Semitism that was directed towards them in Europe decided to establish a new state in Palestine, which was supposed to be exclusively Jewish.

Moreover, according to Professor Pappe, in their attempts to rid the land of Palestinians and to make way for immigrant Jews from Europe, the Zionists engaged in ethnic cleansing crimes that involved the killing of thousands of innocent Palestinians and the driving of hundreds of thousands of others out of their homes and villages. Many of these Palestinians and their descendants are now languishing in refugee camps in Lebanon and Gaza. Others are forced to flee to other Middle East countries such as Jordan and Syria.

But the process of getting rid of Palestinians and confiscation of their lands is still ongoing as can be seen in the atrocities being committed in the West Bank which is under illegal Israeli occupation. Those who are living in Gaza are being subjected to a cruel blockade, depriving them of economic and social freedom.

The terrible conditions that Palestinians are living in, whether in historic Palestine (now called Israel) or in the West Bank and Gaza, have prompted reputable human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem, and even a United Nations agency called the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), to issue reports that describe Israel as an apartheid state.

Hamas is simply one of many Palestinian groups that refuse to be subjugated by a foreign colonial power engaged in a settler-colonial project. Moreover, under international law, populations under foreign occupation have the right to resist, and this includes the right to engage in armed resistance and that is exactly what Hamas has chosen to do.

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From the above perspective, Hamas and other organisations that are engaged in a struggle to liberate their lands deserve to be called `Freedom fighters’, which was the label given by the international community to the African National Congress (ANC) when it engaged in armed resistance against the unjust policies of the previous apartheid South African government. The question is why is Priti Patel and other Zionists and their supporters so adamant to label Hamas a terrorist organisation? The answer is probably their realisation that many sections of the British society are increasingly supportive of the Palestinian cause due to a greater awareness of the truth of what has happened and is happening now in Palestine. This support is getting stronger by the day and this is making Zionists and their supporters very worried, hence this move to intimidate pro-Palestinian groups and individuals.

The outcome of this move, if approved by the British Parliament, will ultimately depend on how pro-Palestinian groups and individuals will react to it. If they are indeed going to be intimidated, then the voices in support for the cause of justice in Palestine will be reduced and probably completely silenced. However, based on the history of the struggle for independence in other parts of the world, attempts to silence and intimidate the supporters for the cause of freedom and justice will very likely only spur them to be more vocal and motivated. In other words, the move to ban Hamas is likely to result in the group becoming more popular, not only among Palestinians but also among their supporters in Britain and internationally.

Prof Mohd Nazari Ismail Chairman BDS Malaysia