Australia's move against Hamas is very welcome - editorial

Australia announced that it is designating the entirety of the Hamas movement as a terrorist organization.

 An Australian flag is seen hung in a tree burnt by bushfire on the property of farmer Jeff McCole in Buchan, Victoria, Australia (photo credit: REUTERS/ANDREW KELLY)
An Australian flag is seen hung in a tree burnt by bushfire on the property of farmer Jeff McCole in Buchan, Victoria, Australia
(photo credit: REUTERS/ANDREW KELLY)

We welcome Australia’s announcement yesterday that it will list the entire Hamas movement as a terrorist organization. Canberra had previously only designated Hamas’s military wing, the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades, as a terrorist group, but the new designation includes the whole organization – including the government of the Gaza Strip.

“The views of Hamas and the violent extremist groups listed today are deeply disturbing, and there is no place in Australia for their hateful ideologies,” said Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews. “It is vital that our laws target not only terrorist acts and terrorists, but also the organizations that plan, finance and carry out these acts.”

The designation will place restrictions on financing or providing support to Hamas, with violations carrying a prison sentence of up to 25 years. 

James Paterson, who chairs the Australian Parliament Intelligence and Security Committee, said “any Australian supporting Hamas could be committing a serious crime – a powerful deterrent to make Australia safer.” 

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett welcomed the Australian move, which he had discussed with his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, at the COP26 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference.  “Thank you to my friend Scott Morrison for following through on our dialogue on this important matter,” Bennett tweeted. “This is another important step in the global fight against terrorism.”

 Palestinian students supporting Hamas take part in a rally during an election campaign for the student council at the Birzeit University in the West Bank city of Ramallah April 26, 2016.  (credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS) Palestinian students supporting Hamas take part in a rally during an election campaign for the student council at the Birzeit University in the West Bank city of Ramallah April 26, 2016. (credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)

The Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) and the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) also hailed the Liberal-National Coalition government’s decision, which was also supported by the opposition Labour Party.

“By taking this decision, the minister has made clear Australia’s absolute rejection of hatred and terrorism,” ZFA President Jeremy Leibler said. “Not only is this decision the right one in terms of Australian law, but it also brings Australia into alignment with the UK, Canada, US and EU positions on Hamas.”

For many years, AIJAC has been arguing that Australia’s partial listing of Hamas was inadequate, said AIJAC Executive Director Dr. Colin Rubenstein.

“Hamas is a terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of a Jewish state in Israel,” Rubenstein said. “Hamas is active in our region, with long-standing operations in Malaysia and a recently foiled plot to kill Jews and Israelis in the Philippines.”

Australia is following in the footsteps of the United Kingdom, which made a similar designation in November 2021. It is still not considered a terrorist organization by a number of countries, including China, Egypt, Iran, Qatar, Syria, Turkey, Russia, Brazil and Norway. In December 2018, the UN General Assembly notably rejected a US resolution condemning Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Australia’s bold move is the latest in a worldwide trend to recognize Hamas for what it really is, despite its claims of political legitimacy since become the de facto governing authority of the Gaza Strip following its victory in the 2006 Palestinian elections and the 2007 Battle of Gaza.

Hamas, it should be recalled, was founded in 1987 just after the First Intifada began, as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas was founded to liberate all of Palestine, including modern-day Israel, in order to establish an Islamic state in the area that is now Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Hamas has engaged in several devastating wars against Israel in the past 35 years and launched countless terrorist assaults, from suicide bombings to rocket and incendiary balloon attacks. It is still holding two Israelis – Avera Mangistu and Hisham al-Sayed – who crossed separately from Israel into the Gaza Strip in 2014 and 2015, as well as the bodies of IDF soldiers, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, whom it captured during the 2014 Gaza war.

For Hamas to become an international pariah, the civilized world must now pressure Qatar, where Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Mashaal are based, to recognize that it is harboring and bankrolling a terrorist organization. Rather than distributing the millions of dollars it is given by Qatar to help pull people out of poverty in Gaza, the organization’s corrupt leaders channel the money for their own benefit and to build up their terrorist arsenal.

Qatar and the other countries who continue to aid and abet Hamas might learn a lesson from the moral stand taken this week by Australia.