Is Hamas a terrorist organization?

Palestinian Information Center

By Muslim Imran

Muslim Imran

Muslim Imran

On March 2, the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters made a ruling that Hamas was a terrorist organization. This decision came after a similar ruling by the same court labeling Hamas’s armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, a terrorist organization. This decision and other post-coup Egyptian policies towards Hamas pose an important question: Is Hamas really a terrorist organization?

The Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) was founded in the late 1980s by a group of Palestinian activists. The Movement emerged in conjunction with the outbreak of the First Palestinian Intifada in 1987. The Intifada started on December 8, 1987 and Hamas released its first Press Statement on December 14, 1987.

The establishment of Hamas came at a time when the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was starting to lean towards diplomatic means of resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. However, the establishment of Hamas ran parallel with the will of the Palestinian people to maintain armed struggle as one of their effective resistance strategies. Hamas made it clear, from day one, that armed struggle was a right for occupied people guaranteed by all relevant international laws and norms.

The Movement continuously reiterated that it will continue to pursue this strategy along with other resistance means in order to liberate Palestine.

Although Hamas was very affirmative in pursuing armed struggle, the Movement was not the first to resort to such a strategy neither was it the lone Palestinian faction to adopt it. Palestinian National Liberation Movement (Fatah) founded in 1959 was among the first to resort to armed struggle in the Palestinian arena. Fatah was joined by other nationalist, leftist and Islamist movements in adopting armed struggle against Israeli occupation. This was also the strategy adopted by earlier Palestinian and Arab groups in countering the Israeli occupation of Palestine in 1948.
In spite of the fact that most Palestinian factions adopted the same strategies, the Egyptian court listed only Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Interestingly, Egypt itself used, among others, armed struggle in its successive revolutions against the British colonization in the first half of the twentieth century. Was this Egyptian resistance terrorist as well? And is the current Egyptian government planning to disown its national history and rewrite school syllabuses to suit its current definition of terrorism?

One of the main pretexts used by the current Egyptian government in its aggressive policies towards Hamas and the Gaza Strip in general is that Hamas was, reportedly, involved in the internal Egyptian affairs. This claim is usually based on the assumption that since Hamas adheres to the Muslim Brotherhood ideology then it must be interfering in domestic Egyptian affairs in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood. Let’s ignore here the fact that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood was the democratically elected government of Egypt before the army generals brought down its rule, and let’s not highlight the moderate nature of the MB’s ideology. The main refutation of the Egyptian government claims is that there has been no single proof of a Palestinian or a Hamas involvement in any domestic Egyptian affair.

Hamas has repeatedly announced its willingness to cooperate with any Egyptian security agency or commission to investigate the Egyptian claims but was never allowed. The Movement also cited its clean record in all other countries where it has never interfered in domestic affairs. The Movement has also highlighted its policy of not targeting any Israeli target outside of the occupied Palestinian land. So how can a Movement so restrained to resisting occupation inside its land be accused of wasting its time and efforts in meddling in other countries affairs?!

Following up the internal economic, political and security situation in Egypt leads to the conclusion that the Egyptian government was in dire need of a supposedly “weak” enemy to export its failures and internal problems and blame that “enemy” for the government’s inability to maintain security and stability in the country.

In order to cover for its failures, the Egyptian government has waged a media campaign against almost all its neighboring countries. Gaza and Libya got the lion’s share of the Egyptian blame and mongering. Mainstream Egyptian media called months ago for Egyptian military attacks on Gaza and Libya. This call was answered weeks ago, when the Egyptian air-force bombarded Libyan cities in response for the brutal killing of dozens of Egyptian Copts in Libya. The timing and approach used by the Egyptian government in handling this crime pose questions on the real intents of its intervention in Libya, given that its Libyan backed Haftar military coup failed to take over the Libyan state.

In Gaza, Egypt has made the life of Gazans impossible by its almost continuous closure of the Rafah Crossing (the only Gazan way to the outside world). The Egyptian government continues to collectively punish 1.8 million Palestinians living in the Strip. Assuming that Hamas membership in Gaza could reach one million (of course this is an absolute exaggeration of the number!), why are the other 800,000 Palestinians living in the Strip being blockaded and humiliated?!

Since the year 2007, over 300 Gazan Palestinians died at the Rafah Crossing due to lack of medical treatment and supplies. As of today Egypt continues to violate relevant international laws by closing down the Rafah Crossing most of the days of the year.

Hamas was elected in 2006 in a transparent democratic election, where it gained 64% of the seats, and therefore it represents the majority of the Palestinian people (or at least those who elected it). Hence, it is a mere disrespect to the Palestinian people to list their elected representative as a terrorist organization. It is also an utter disrespect for the friends and allies of the Palestinian national movement to see their friend being listed as a terrorist organization in a fellow Arab Muslim government.

Hamas is one of the main Palestinian resistance movements that inspire the hope of the Palestinian people to see their country free and independent. What Palestinians expect from their fellow friends worldwide is to see their bold support for Hamas and other Palestinian factions. Listing Hamas as a terrorist organization is seen by most Palestinians as nothing short of backstabbing of their struggle!

Muslim Imran is the director of the Palestinian Cultural Organization Malaysia