Hamas members at an anti-Israel rally in Rafah in southern Gaza, November 13, 2014. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Jewish communities throughout Europe and across the world condemned a decision by a European Union court on Wednesday to remove Hamas from a list of terrorist organizations.
In its decision, the General Court of the European Union, the bloc’s second-highest tribunal, said member states could maintain their freeze on Hamas’s assets for three months to give time for further review or for the launch of an appeal, while the EU ’s foreign policy arm said the bloc continued to view Hamas as a terrorist group.
The EU described the ruling as being based on procedural grounds that did not constitute a judgment on the morality of Hamas’s activities.
Such arguments, however, held little water for European Jews who are feeling increasingly insecure due to rising anti-Semitism, much of it attributed to tensions with local Muslim communities angry over the Arab-Israeli conflict.
“Thanks to this decision, we as European Jews, who Hamas openly declares as targets for annihilation, feel less secure,” European Jewish Congress president Moshe Kantor said in a statement following the verdict.
“We have reached a new low in moral relativity if an organization explicitly dedicated to the destruction of a nation and people, which actively target and commit terrorist acts against civilians, is no longer considered a terrorist organization,” he said, citing the Hamas charter.
Kantor added that it was “ridiculous” to say there was insufficient evidence to place Hamas on the terrorism roll.
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, went even further, telling The Jerusalem Post that he believed the security of Europe’s citizens was at stake. He called on the EU not to relent in fighting Islamic terrorism, “especially after the terror attacks in Toulouse and in Brussels.”
Following the decision, Roger Cukierman, president of the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France (CRIF) – an umbrella organization representing French Jewry – turned to French President François Hollande to express his shock, he said.
“It is an insult to all the victims” of Hamas terror, he said, adding that such a decision was “an invitation for further murders and acts of violence.”
The Jewish community of Vienna agreed, emailing the Post that “the de-listing of Hamas in an encouragement to continue terror.”
Jewish leaders in Poland referred to the decision as “detachment from reality,” while England’s Board of Deputies condemned it as “unacceptable and an affront to the values of Europe.”
The Central Council of Jews in Germany stated its intent to “appeal to the representatives of the EU-governments to reject this decision of the court.”
Jewish groups outside of Europe also condemned the decision, with South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein calling it “modern-day European appeasement.”
“In the same way the European powers sold out Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany in the vain hope to save themselves, their modern-day successors are trying to do the same to Israel, to placate jihadi anger,” he said.
Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said the decision was “an open invitation to the Hamas terrorists to continue their attempts to murder Jews with impunity and is basically a prize for their rocket campaign against Israeli civilians.”
In a rare show of agreement, both the Zionist Organization of America and the left-leaning J Street lobby issued condemnations.
“As EU institutions sink to depths unimagined, I suspect we will soon see the EU court find [Islamic State] a philo-Islamic liberation movement interested solely in promoting Islamic pride,” the ZOA ’s Jeff Daube told the Post.
However, not every community and organization took as combative a tone, with many saying they felt certain that the EU would move fast to reinstate Hamas on the terror list.
“We appreciate the EU clarifying that this ruling does not represent a substantive change in their policy toward Hamas, and urge them to immediately take all due steps to ensure that Hamas remains designated as a terrorist organization,” said J Street’s Dylan Williams.
The Anti-Defamation League echoed this sentiment, saying, “We expect the EU will resolve the bureaucratic issue underlying the court decision, and Hamas will not derive any tangible benefits from the ruling. European governments have recently intensified their efforts to deal more effectively with Islamic extremists. Hamas should be no exception.”Reuters contributed to this report.