UK Home Secretary Designates Hamas A ‘Terrorist Group’

The Guardian is reporting that the UK will now join the US, Canada, and the EU in designating Hamas — the militant group in control of Gaza — a terrorist group. Under the Terrorism Act, anyone who expresses support for the far-right extremist organization, be that flying flags or holding meetings for the organization, will be in breach of the law and can face up to 14 years in jail.

UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel says that “Hamas is fundamentally and rabidly anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism is an enduring evil that I will never tolerate. Jewish people routinely feel unsafe – at school, in the streets, when they worship, in their homes, and online.” She claims the move will help against anti-Semitism.

This announcement comes on the heels of the Liverpool bombing incident which has raised the UK’s terror threat level from “substantial” to “severe”, and Patel said that the case was “a complete reflection of how dysfunctional, how broken, the system has been in the past, and why [she] want[s] to bring changes forward.” Gabby Hinslif questions the Home Secretary’s casual conflation of asylum seekers with dangerous criminals rather than her departments’ shouldering of the blame internally. 

In response, the Palestinian Mission to the UK calls the designation “retrograde and one-sided.” A statement released later the same day says, “With this move, the British government has complicated Palestinian unity efforts and undermined Palestinian democracy,” and that the designation “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.” 

The designation aims to curb antisemitism in the UK, but more broadly may foster Palestinian resentment in Western public opinion. However, Gaza has been under Israeli blockade since 2006 crippling its economic and human mobility, and fighting between Hamas and Israel routinely leaves more Palestinians dead than Israelis, many being innocent civilians. This has led to apathy among many Israelis as the brunt of conflict is removed from their daily lives, and thus debilitating Israeli political will for peace. 

In his book “The Hundred Years War On Palestine,” Rashid Khalidi argues that the colonial nature of the Israeli occupation of Palestine has not been visible to most of the Western public, that “Israel appears to [the West] to be a normal, natural nation-state like any other, faced by the irrational hostility of intransigent and often anti-Semitic Muslims (which is how Palestinians, even the Christians among them, are seen by many).” In reality, however, there is a blatant asymmetry of power where the Palestinians have an absence of rights and the Israelis have a State and means to National self-determination. Khalidi goes on to say that both peoples must wean from their respective delusions: Israelis from their attachment to inequality rooted in historical (somewhat justified) insecurity, and Palestinians from their assertion that Jewish Israelis are not a “real” people and they do not have national rights.

Furthermore, a report issued in April by the Human Rights Watch finds that Israeli authorities have committed apartheid and persecution: crimes against humanity towards Palestinians. Roughly 6.8 million Jewish Israelis and 6.8 million Palestinians live in Isreal and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), and throughout most of this area Israel is the sole governing power and in the remainder, it exercises primary authority met with limited Palestinian self-autonomy. The report goes on to state that “laws, policies, and statements by leading Israeli officials make plain that the objective of maintaining Jewish Israeli control over demographics, political power, and land has long guided government policy,” often leading to “dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated, and subjugated Palestinians by virtue of their identity.”

And so, irrespective of the UK designation, the conflict will continue unabated if the root causes are left unaddressed, and any formula advanced as a resolution will fail if its goal is not absolute equality on both sides. 

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