a conservative love letter to the Israeli occupation in Palestine
The decision of the British Conservative-led government to ban Hamas has nothing to do with combating anti-Semitism, but simply seeks to benefit a colonial enterprise, writes Emad Moussa.
A man walks past a mural depicting the late spiritual leader of the Palestinian Islamist movement Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza on November 19, 2021. [Getty]
A week after UK Home Secretary Priti Patel called The LSE student protest against Israeli Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely anti-Semitic and threatening to British Jews, the British government decided to declare Hamas a terrorist group.
The move follows Patel’s announcement to the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC that a ban on the entire movement was in order. “We felt that we can no longer disaggregate the kind of military and political side,” she told reporters.
Correlating the decision with Hamas’ “fundamental and rabid anti-Semitism”, Patel said the movement would be banned under the Terrorism Act, thereby making it illegal to express support for the movement and carry a possible penalty. go up to 14 years in prison.
The military wing of Hamas has been on the British terrorist list since 2001. But it has not had much effect on Hamas’s strength or support.
“Here, neither the colonial dimension of the conflict nor the fact that many pro-Palestinian activists are Jews seems to matter.”
Even though the movement operates across the world, it has never targeted Jewish-Israeli interests outside the conflict zone. Its 1988 Charter – which Western governments use as a basis for attributing anti-Semitism to the movement – limits the struggle against Zionism within the geographic borders of historic Palestine.
But the limits set by the movement are not always immune to the extremist views of some of its leaders. In 2019, Hamas Political Bureau member Fathi Hammad, while participating in the Great March to Return from Gaza, called on Hamas to extend the fight against Zionism beyond the borders of historic Palestine. Hammad went so far as to incite Palestinians against Jews abroad “if the blockade of Gaza is not lifted”.
The statement sparked a wave of criticism from Palestinians who described Hammad as impulsive and thoughtless and he was accused of violating Hamas principles which distinguish Jews as a religious group and as part of the “people of the world.” book â, and Zionism as an aggressive political ideology responsible for the dispossession of the Palestinian people.
In the new definition of anti-Semitism which has been popularized by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and adopted by most European governments, Hammad’s comments are interpreted in strictly anti-Semitic terms and are without no doubt. But, like others, they allow the IHRA to pinch the instances in the conflict to amalgamate Judaism with Zionism and vice versa; thus framing critical views of Israel – perceived as the âcollective Jewâ – as anti-Semitic.
Here, neither the colonial dimension of the conflict nor the fact that many pro-Palestinian activists are Jewish seem to matter.
Tainting Hamas with an anti-Semitic organization ignores the fact that the ban or lack of movement has absolutely no effect on British or European Jews. What’s more, forcing Hamas to engage in a Eurocentric debate on anti-Semitism is not contextual and devious.
For the British government, one can speculate, the issue goes beyond the protection of British Jews. The criminalization of Hamas has short-term goals that serve the current conservative government, and long-term goals that will ultimately strengthen Israel’s strategic position in Europe.
In the short term, the ban helps the government discredit the opposition, primarily the Labor Party, by appearing as the sole guardian of Jewish welfare in the UK – a sensitive issue for many Britons. This despite the evidence suggesting that anti-Semitism within the Conservative Party is widespread and often ignored or downplayed.
Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg in 2019 described two other Jewish Tory MPs, Oliver Letwin and John Bercow, as “Illuminati taking power”, echoing a trope of “Jewish crime” used by the Nazis and their supporters.
Rees-Mogg did not apologize and when asked to condemn him Boris Johnson and other high-ranking Tories remained silent.
Moreover, criminalizing Hamas is crucial to furthering a range of political and economic interests with Israel. Spy technology and the âfight against Islamic fundamentalismâ are among them.
There is also the psychological satisfaction – the racist gratification – in blaming an Islamic movement representing a worldview seen as antagonistic or inferior to Western values.
Minister of the Interior @pritipatel is taking action to ban Hamas in its entirety in the UK.
Thus, anyone found guilty of joining or supporting the terrorist group risks up to 14 years in prison.
Read more https://t.co/usQVCPmHgI pic.twitter.com/wAQ4BhefUS
– Home office (@ukhomeoffice) November 19, 2021
However, none of the above is likely to inflict significant harm on Hamas. Examples in Canada and the United States show that a total ban on Hamas has proved ineffective in weakening the operational capacity of the movement. Why would the UK be any different?
Hamas does not operate within the British legal or financial system and does not have diplomatic relations with the British government, although quiet contacts have been made between Hamas and European and British officials. Hamas is a non-state actor that does not function fully within the framework of standardized norms of international relations and, therefore, cannot be “disciplined” in traditional state-centered methods.
As for the long-term impact, the Hamas ban is not focused on the British, but mostly Israeli.
The Israeli army has killed at least 77 Palestinian children in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since the start of 2021, a non-governmental organization reported on Sunday … https: //t.co/n8G3HbE3Z0
– The New Arabic (@The_NewArab) 22 November 2021
According to Haaretz, the inclusion of Hamas on the terrorist list was operationalized after Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett asked Boris Johnson to take the plunge at the climate summit in Glasgow.
Israel is aware that calling Hamas a terrorist organization may not resolve Israel’s dilemma in Gaza, but criminalizing any form of support in Europe may lead to limiting the impact of the Palestinian solidarity movement in its together.
The essential key lies in Patel’s phrase âexpressing support for Hamasâ. The expression is generic and subject to interpretation. What is support for Hamas?
An unscrupulous interpretation of “support”, especially in Eurocentric conceptualizations of anti-Semitism, is likely to be politically biased and will have dire consequences for the Palestinian cause and the scope of its advocacy.
The Palestinian mission in London was quick to voice these concerns by condemning the UK decision, saying the UK government’s decision was backward and unnecessary to the two-state solution. The Palestinian Foreign Ministry described it as unwarranted aggression against Palestinians, especially from the country that issued the Balfour Declaration.
The fact remains that there is a drastic difference between anti-Semitism in the European context, a situation where Jews are distinguished and oppressed as a minority, and the situation in Palestine where Jewish self-determination has been put. implemented by terrorism, ethnic cleansing and expansionism, and is currently maintained by military occupation and denial of Palestinian human rights. This is compounded by the criminalization of the Palestinian right to resist itself.
“The right to resist and to be free is morally legitimate and protected by international law, and this transcends the religion or ethnicity of the colonialist.”
Many Palestinians and their supporters sharply criticized Hamas’ methods and ideological worldview, but somehow Hamas emerged against the complicated backdrop of the struggle for human rights and justice. in Palestine, a context shaped by Israel’s atrocities. Does that make all of us anti-Semites? Does this criminalize us all under UK law? The smear campaigns waged against many of us, Palestinian and pro-Palestinian activists, Jewish or not, including myself, by Zionist and pro-Israel apologists certainly frame it this way.
But it has always been so, stories and counter-narratives. Because at the end of the day, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, and in the Palestinian-Israeli context, what has been defined without qualification or specificity as anti-Semitic implies a legitimate anti-colonial struggle. according to universal definitions.
It would have made no difference to the Palestinians if the occupiers of their land were Christians, Muslims or even Hindus. The right to resist and to be free is morally legitimate and protected by international law, and this transcends the religion or ethnicity of the colonialist.
Dr Emad Moussa is a researcher and writer specializing in the politics and political psychology of Palestine / Israel.
Follow him on Twitter: @emadmoussa
Do you have any questions or comments ? Email us at: [email protected]
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board, or its team.