Hamas to Remain on the EU Terror List
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict may be raging over the Temple Mount, but another front has just opened in Brussels.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) on July 26 rejected the assessment of its advocate general who had concluded in September that the right paperwork was not filed in the evidence that kept Hamas on Europe’s terrorism list between 2010 and 2014.
The decision was a blow to Hamas. The group was already celebrating a bureaucratic if inconsequential victory. At issue was not whether Hamas is a violent extremist group. Rather, the question was whether the supporting documentation for Hamas’s terror listing between 2010 and 2014 was based too heavily on media reports rather than on its own investigations.
As it turns out, the Court stated that only the initial entry of a person or entity on the list must be based on its own investigations, not on press reports. The designation of Hamas in 2003 was sufficient in this regard. The ECJ further found that the Council may maintain a person or entity on the list if it concludes there is an ongoing risk of involvement in terrorist activities.
That risk is abundantly clear with Hamas. The group is an Iranian proxy. In other words, Hamas continues to be armed and funded by the world’s most prolific state sponsor of terrorism. Much of Hamas weapons, or the expertise needed to build them, are conveyed via Iran. Over the years, Hamas has fired thousands of rockets and mortars blindly into Israel. The goal of these attacks is to provoke fear in Israel’s civilian population.
There is also a growing body of evidence, furnished by both Egypt and Israel, suggesting that Hamas has been cooperating with the Islamic State (IS) through its Egyptian proxy in the Sinai Peninsula. While there is a mutual affinity for jihadist ideology and a mutual antipathy for Egypt’s secular regime, Hamas also sees this cooperation as a source of income. The group taxes IS operatives using Hamas smuggling tunnels for weapons and other goods.
Hamas has consistently urged Palestinians to reject the peace process with Israel. The group has encouraged the upsurge of Palestinian knife and car-ramming attacks on Israelis. More recently, Hamas continues to fan the flames of violence today, as clashes continue on the Temple Mount.
Hamas certainly does have a political apparatus that governs the Gaza Strip. However, even Palestinians will be quick to note that Hamas only came to control the Gaza Strip after it launched a violent attack in 2007 against the Palestinian Authority. A brutal civil war ensued during which Hamas shot its opponents at close range to ensure permanent disabilities and pushed others off of tall buildings to their death. In other words, Hamas displayed an utter disregard for the laws of war, much in the way we might expect from a terrorist group.
Hamas is, furthermore, increasingly a global terrorist group. Last week, reports revealed that Hamas is also operating on European soil. An Austrian court handed down a life sentence to a Palestinian asylum seeker who was convicted of using phone messages to encourage Palestinians to toss grenades at gatherings of people in Jerusalem.
Of course, some European officials disregard Hamas’ terrorist activities. For example, some reportedly participated in ‘diplomatic’ meetings in Qatar late last year. Another report suggests that Hamas activists are behind a Dutch conference that took place in April of this year.
Other European leaders point to a supposed distinction between Hamas’ political leaders and its fighters. Scholars and analysts have debunked this notion for more than a decade. More importantly, European law does not allow for that distinction, with the UK having designated the military wing in 2001 and the EU designated so-called political wing in 2003.
In short, the court made the right decision, and when it goes back to the General Court, it should uphold the decision of the ECJ as well. Not surprisingly, Hamas disagrees. The group began lobbying the European Parliament, arguing that its brand of armed resistance should be regarded as acceptable.
But the European Parliament should not be swayed. Hamas’s raison d’etre is terrorism; its goal is to kill not only Israelis but also the very prospect of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The evidence of this, dating back to Hamas’ founding in 1987, is overwhelming. No technical or bureaucratic challenge can erase the group’s 30-year trail of bloodshed and brutality.
Toby Dershowitz and Jonathan Schanzer are senior vice president for government affairs and senior vice president for research at Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, D.C.