If one needed any further evidence that the United Kingdom made the right choice to seek to ban Hamas and label it a terrorist group, one had only to pay attention to what took place in Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday morning.
Fadi Abu Shkhaydam, a 42-year-old resident of Shuafat camp in east Jerusalem and a known Hamas member, opened fire with a Beretta M12 inside Chain Gate near the Western Wall and shot five people, killing one of them.
Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev said on the scene that “the terrorist was affiliated with Hamas’s political wing.” He “prayed regularly in the Old City,” and “his wife escaped abroad three days ago. He used a standardized weapon that is uncommon in Israel.”
The incident proved the point of British Home Secretary Priti Patel, who announced on Friday that the UK had decided to label the whole of Hamas as a terrorist organization.
“Hamas has significant terrorist capability, including access to extensive and sophisticated weaponry, as well as terrorist training facilities,” Patel posted Friday on Twitter. “Today I have taken action to proscribe Hamas in its entirety.”
In 2001, the UK recognized Hamas’s “military wing” as a terrorist organization. Now it hopes to apply that label to Hamas’s “political wing.”
Of course, Hamas is unhappy with the terrorist label announced by the UK. “Resisting occupation by all available means, including armed resistance, is a right granted to people under occupation as stated by the international law,” it said in a separate statement.
The terrorist wing of Hamas is named the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades. Hamas has targeted Israeli civilians for decades, killing hundreds. Hamas targets children; it uses human shields; it has tunneled under schools; it has used schools to fire rockets.
Every aspect of Hamas is criminal and murderous. Over the years it tried to pretend it might change its ways, but in the recent war it fired 4,000 rockets at Israeli civilians. This isn’t change; this is more of the same.
Groups that use mass murder as a policy, whether trying to fire thousands of rockets against civilians or using bus bombings, are terrorist groups and should be banned entirely.
Hamas used the terrorist two-step for years, pretending it had an “armed” wing and a “political” wing. Many terrorist groups used this privileged stance in the 20th century, which enabled governments often to host the “political wing” while pretending not to work with the “armed wing.”
The illogic behind this policy is that it gave terrorist groups more privileges than countries or mafias. While a country can’t pretend that its “armed wing” commits crimes against humanity while its government has no connection to it, and a mafia can’t pretend its boss is not connected to the “criminal wing,” when it came to terrorist groups, they could always use this pretense.
Often this pretense of legality was used solely regarding Israel. That means terrorist groups that targeted the West, such as al-Qaeda or ISIS, didn’t have a fictional division under the law between the “armed wing” and the “political wing.” Only with groups that killed Jews and Israelis was this the case. Many of these groups, including Iranian-backed terrorists, have targeted Jews and Jewish institutions in Europe, the Middle East, Turkey and South America.
Thanks to the British efforts, the fiction behind Hamas’s “political” and “military” wings has been revealed, and the curtain pulled back.
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 applied the terrorist label only to Hamas’s “military wing.”
According to Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the move could also prompt Australia to similarly outlaw Hamas’s “political wing.”
The British decision will likely help cut off funding sources for Hamas.
The effects may not be felt immediately, around the world or on the ground in Jerusalem. But the more countries that recognize the true stripes of Hamas, the safer we all will be.