Swiss parliament welcomes Hamas spokesman

Israeli ambassador, Swiss Jews slam Mushir al-Masri's visit, call it ‘big mistake.’

By JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
February 23, 2012 02:24
2 minute read.
Hamas spokesperson MUSHIR AL-MASRI

Hamas spokesperson MUSHIR AL-MASRI R 390. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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BERLIN – The National Palace (Bundeshaus), which houses the Swiss parliament, hosted Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri, prompting stinging criticism on Wednesday from Israel’s interim ambassador in Bern.

Speaking from Bern with The Jerusalem Post via telephone, Ambassador ad interim (chargé d’affaires) Shalom Cohen said, “We were not happy with this development.

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We shared our view with the local authorities. It was a big mistake to invite a member of Hamas, which calls for destruction of Israel.”

He added that Hamas is a “terrorist organization” and is recognized as such by the Middle East Quartet and the international community.

“It is counterproductive and gave them [Hamas] legitimacy to continue their terrorist activities, to continue to work on their basic ideology: the destruction of Israel,” Cohen said.

Masri’s visit took place late last month but was first reported in the German-language Swiss press this week, according to Cohen.

The Geneva-based Inter- Parliamentary Union invited Masri to the Swiss Parliament, where he presented a pro-Hamas deputy, Geri Müller of the Green Party, with a gift.

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In response to a Post query about the Hamas visit, George Farago, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, wrote: “Switzerland is obligated to allow an invited guest of the Inter-Parliamentary Union of human rights because the organization is located in Switzerland. For Switzerland only UN sanctions are binding.”

Though the EU recognizes Hamas as a terrorist group, the Swiss government is not a member of the EU and largely ignores EU sanctions. Critics say the Swiss have overly relaxed policies toward Islamic terrorists and Iran’s government.

When asked if Bern views Hamas as a terrorist group, Farago wrote that “Switzerland does not maintain a comparable EU terror list in which groups are designated as terrorists.”

Questioned if his government finds the Hamas Charter to be anti-Semitic, Farago wrote: “Switzerland condemns all statements that question Israel’s right to exist or call for violence.” He added that it does not agree with many of the formulations and demands in the charter, but that “if one is interested in a solution, one must speak with all involved parties. That includes Hamas.”

The charter calls for the elimination of the State of Israel and is an anti-Semitic document.

Asked why the Swiss authorities allowed a designated terrorist to travel to Europe, Farago stressed that “in a democratic system it is naturally understood that a separation of powers allows a member of parliament to act independently.”

The Swiss Jewish community has criticized Müller over the years for his extreme anti-Israel views and attendance at rallies where Israel is compared to Nazi Germany.

Müller has refused to condemn Hamas rocket attacks on Israel.

In an email to the Post on Wednesday, Dr. Herbert Winter, head of the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities, wrote that community members are “not surprised” about Müller’s activities. “From Geri Müller it is nothing other than to be expected.”

However, Winter said the Hamas spokesman’s visit was unexpected: “To invite Masri in the Bundeshaus is still out of place.”

Cohen said it is “very problematic for us” that the Swiss are meeting with Hamas here and in the Middle East. “This is not the way to do this.”

He said that before nations talk to Hamas, the radical Islamic group has to first meet international demands, which include stopping all terrorist activities and recognizing Israel’s right to exist.

The international community also demands that Hamas adhere to all previous PLO-Israel agreements.

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