UK to label entirety of Hamas a terrorist organization

Since 2001 the UK has solely recognized Hamas's military wing as a terrorist organization. Now the entire apparatus will be designated as such.

Palestinian Hamas militants take part in an anti-Israel rally in Gaza City May 22, 2021 (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)
Palestinian Hamas militants take part in an anti-Israel rally in Gaza City May 22, 2021

The United Kingdom plans to label the whole of Hamas as a terrorist organization in a move that was welcomed by Israel but condemned by the Palestinians.

“Today I have taken action to proscribe Hamas in its entirety,” British Home Secretary Priti Patel announced Friday on Twitter. “This government is committed to tackling extremism and terrorism wherever it occurs.”

In 2001, the UK recognized Hamas' military wing as a terrorist organization. Now it hopes to apply that label to Hamas' political wing, which forcibly rules the Gaza Strip.

The British Parliament is expected to pass the terrorist designation of Hamas’s political wing into law this month.

“The proscription order laid before Parliament on 19 November will now be debated and, subject to approval, will come into force on November 26,” the UK Home Office said.

British International Development Secretary Priti Patel attends a meeting with representatives from humanitarian aid agencies in Mogadishu, Somalia. (credit: REUTERS)British International Development Secretary Priti Patel attends a meeting with representatives from humanitarian aid agencies in Mogadishu, Somalia. (credit: REUTERS)

“Proscription makes it a criminal offense to be a member of, or invite support for the group, with those found guilty facing up to 14 years in prison,” it said.

“Hamas is one of 78 terrorist groups proscribed in the UK and the third proscription order laid by the Home Secretary within the last year,” the office explained.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett expressed his gratitude to Britain for the terror designation, which marks a diplomatic victory for his government.

“Hamas is a radical Islamic group that targets innocent Israelis & seeks Israel’s destruction,” Bennett tweeted.

“Thank you to my friend [British Prime Minister Boris Johnson] for your leadership,” Bennett wrote. The two leaders had met on the sidelines of the COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

Patel explained the move in a speech delivered Friday at The Heritage Foundation in Washington.

“Hamas has significant terrorist capability, including access to extensive and sophisticated weaponry, as well as terrorist training facilities. And it has long been involved in significant terrorist violence,” Patel said.

The legitimization of Hamas’s political wing “creates an artificial distinction between various parts of the organization – it is right that the listing is updated to reflect this,” she stated.

“If we tolerate extremism, it will erode the rock of security,” Patel said, adding that Britain’s Jewish community feels especially threatened by Hamas.

“This is an important step, especially for the Jewish community. Hamas is fundamentally and rabidly antisemitic. Antisemitism is an enduring evil which I will never tolerate. Jewish people routinely feel unsafe – at school, in the streets, when they worship, in their homes, and online,” Patel said.

“This step will strengthen the case against anyone who waves a Hamas flag in the United Kingdom, an act that is bound to make Jewish people feel unsafe,” the home secretary said. “Anyone who supports or invites support for a proscribed organization is breaking the law. That now includes Hamas in whatever form it takes.”

BRITAIN'S MINISTER for the Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly clarified that “this decision does not change our staunch support for those Gazans who suffer under Hamas’s misrule.”

The United States, Canada, the European Union and Israel have similarly designated Hamas in its entirety as a terrorist organization. Australia and New Zealand have only applied the terrorist label to Hamas’s military wing.

Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said Australia was deliberating whether to similarly outlaw Hamas’s political wing.

“This could tip the balance in Canberra,” Schanzer said.

In Jerusalem, Defense Ministry Benny Gantz tweeted, “This sends a strong message of zero tolerance toward terrorist activities aimed at harming the State of Israel and Jewish communities.”

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid added, "this is an important and significant decision that gives UK security forces additional tools to prevent the continued strengthening of the Hamas terrorist organization, including in Britain itself.

"There is no legitimate part of a terrorist organization, and any attempt to differentiate between parts of a terrorist organization is artificial," Lapid tweeted.

“Today’s announcement is the conclusion of an intimate [and] successful dialogue between Israel [and] the United Kingdom,” Lapid wrote. He credited Israel’s Foreign Ministry and its Ambassador to the UK Tzipi Hotovely for the move.

Israel’s Embassy in London said that the move was “further evidence of the deep, strong bond between Britain and Israel, and of our common interest in fighting against terrorism globally.”

The Board of Deputies of British Jews said the terrorist designation “ends the dangerous loophole via which Hamas can spread its extremist poison here and raise funds and support in the UK.”

Conservative Friends of Israel explained that Hamas posed “not only a threat to the State of Israel, but presents a threat to Jewish communities around the world, including at home in the UK. The Conservative government has again demonstrated its commitment to stamping out antisemitism, protecting the Jewish community and supporting Israel.”

Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority condemned the move.

“Britain must stop being dependent on the Zionist narrative,” Hamas said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, Britain continues in its old treachery, so instead of apologizing and correcting its historical sin against the Palestinian people, whether in the ominous Balfour Declaration, or the British Mandate that handed over Palestinian land to the Zionist movement, it supports the aggressors at the expense of the victims.”

The Palestinian Authority’s mission in London to the UK warned that the move makes it more difficult for Fatah and Hamas to bury their 14-year-old rift and to unite under a single government. The unification of Hamas and Fatah is considered a necessary step toward the realization of a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“With this move, the British government has complicated Palestinian unity efforts and undermined Palestinian democracy,” the mission said in a statement. “It is a retrograde and one-sided step that will do nothing for efforts to secure a peaceful two-state outcome, an outcome that is being undermined every day by Israeli war crimes, including its illegal colonial settlement project in occupied territory.”

Reuters and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.