Activists associated with a prominent Islamist organization in the United Kingdom lamented that Hamas is listed as a terror group less than two months after it killed 14 British citizens during the October 7 massacre that cost more than 1,200 Israelis their lives.
They made the call for Hamas’s delisting during a November 25 webinar hosted by CAGE, a British Islamist group led by ex-jihadis. During the webinar, titled “The Politics of Proscribing Hamas,” CAGE’s research director, Asim Qureshi, claimed that “the vast majority of the world” does not see Hamas as a terror group. Qureshi expressed support for the “de-vilification” and de-listing of Hamas as a proscribed terror organization. The listing of Hamas as a terror organization, Qureshi said, served “the political agendas of a U.S. and Eurocentric world” and unfairly maligned the cause of Palestinian nationalism.
Another panelist, Tristan Dunning, an Australian academic and author of Hamas, Jihad and Popular Legitimacy: Reinterpreting Resistance in Palestine, said “The proscription of the de facto government in Gaza, Hamas, criminalizes all of Gaza.” The designation of Hamas, as a terror organization, Dunning said, gave carte blanche to Israel’s “disproportionate response in Gaza” and legitimized Western silence over Israel’s efforts to defeat Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The British Government designated Hamas’s military wing, the Al Qassam Brigades, as a terrorist organization in March 2001. In November 2021 the government proscribed Hamas in its entirety. Proscription subjects a group’s members to travel bans and asset freezes. Under British law, supporting a proscribed terrorist group in the UK carries a maximum of 14 years in prison.
Speaking at the webinar, Azzam Tamimi, a Palestinian academic, broadcaster, and Muslim Brotherhood activist, said that Hamas didn’t really mean what it said when it affirmed its charter, which glorifies the killing of Jews — in 1988.
“That charter is terrible, it is the worst thing that has happened to Hamas. You rarely see a Hamas affiliate let alone a leader quote the charter,” he said. “It was completely forgotten by Hamas people but not by their enemies. It is used by Zionists to attack Hamas, and claim they are anti-Semitic.”
Tamimi had earlier denied that Hamas militants attacked civilians on October 7 his TV show on Al-Hiwar TV. “On October 7, Hamas targeted military personnel only. All the [Israeli] civilians who were captured or harmed — it was not done by the Hamas fighters” he told viewers “And we see these lies. Why do we see these lies? Because it has been the trend of the Jews to lie time and time again about what the Muslims are doing in Palestine and in particular Gaza.”
Jonathan Hall, an attorney who serves as Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation for the British Parliament, told Focus on Western Islamism (FWI), that it is “unthinkable that the government would de-proscribe given Hamas’ actions and stated objectives.”
Hall, whose role allows him to regularly report on how Britain’s terrorism legislation is working, recently told the BBC: “If you take what happened in the Be’eri kibbutz, where babies were massacred, that is unambiguously an act of terrorism,” he said. “People need to know, if you glorify that, you risk committing a really serious terrorism offence.”
Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Palestinian academic and broadcaster Azzam Tamimi declared during the webinar that the UK had listed Hamas as a proscribed group “for economic reasons, to appease Saudi, UAE and Al Sisi’s military coup regime in Egypt.”
“The UK was silly enough to lose an important position,” Tamimi added. “They could have played a role in talking to Hamas indirectly, resolving issues. And when you talk to Hamas, it is not just a small fringe group in Palestine. Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood represent a major power across the Muslim world, and those who don’t see this are blinded by arrogance or ignorance.”
Tamimi called for a campaign to change public opinion regarding Hamas. “It does Hamas less harm to proscribe it than it does to those who have proscribed Hamas,” he said. “You are excluding yourself from playing probably a very crucial role at certain moments. For instance now, with the crisis in Gaza, the USA and its European allies have to talk to Hamas through the Qataris. Why not talk directly?”
Dunning made similar arguments during the webinar. “For the UK and Australia, there is no utility to this designation. There is no evidence that Hamas has any operations that go on in the UK, Australia or the US. We have seen the chilling effect it has had on pro-Palestine protests and initiatives, that Hamas is being conflated with Islam and Palestine.”
Contrary to what the speakers said, there is plentiful evidence that Hamas has supporters and fundraisers in the UK. According to a 2014 report commissioned by then-Prime Minister (now Foreign Secretary) David Cameron, UK-based activists affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood have “ repeatedly defended Hamas attacks against Israel, including the use of suicide bombers and the killing of civilians.” Moreover, the report states, these activists raise funds for Hamas.
Last month, The Sunday Times in London reported that Muhammad Qassem Sawalha, a Hamas fugitive who “ran the group’s terrorist operations in the West Bank” and served on its ruling body fled to the UK in the 1990s. According to the Sunday Times, Sawalha continued to work for Hamas from London, holding secret talks about “revitalising” terrorist acts in Israel and helping to launder money to support activities in Gaza and the West Bank. Hamas’s website called Sawalha a member of its “political bureau,” described by the European Council on Foreign Relations as the group’s “main decision-making body” charged with formulating the groups “social, political and military policies.” He was part of Hamas delegations to Russia in 2017 and 2019.
According to reports, the new deputy secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain Mohammed Kozbar, who is also general secretary of Finsbury Park Mosque in North London, also met senior Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh — Gaza’s ex-prime minister — and its hardline former foreign policy chief Mahmoud al-Zahar. has praised the leaders of terror group Hamas and hosted an Egyptian cleric Omar Abdelkafi, who compared Jews to pigs and monkeys. Moreover, FWI recently identified five British groups funding or in partnership with the Qawafil Al-Khair Association, established in 2015 by two Hamas terrorists, Mansour Rayan and Ali Al-Mughrabi.
Given all this, it’s unlikely the Government will remove Hamas from its list of terror organizations. On November 14, the UK announced a co-ordinated package of sanctions with the US to disrupt Hamas operations both in Gaza and internationally, including travel bans and asset freezes on four Hamas leaders including Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’ political leader in Gaza and Muhammed Deif, commander of the group’s military arm, as well as a Lebanon-based financier and money launderer in Sudan.
Foreign Secretary David Cameron said: “We will continue to use every tool at our disposal to disrupt the abhorrent activity of this terrorist organisation, working with the United States and our other allies, making it harder for them to operate and isolating them on the world stage.”
He added “The Palestinian people are victims of Hamas too. We stand in solidarity with them and will continue to support humanitarian pauses to allow significantly more lifesaving aid to reach Gaza.”
Hannah Baldock is a UK-based researcher on radicalization and terrorism.