It’s been a rough old week for Hamas. The UK announced plans to proscribe the organisation, Justin Bieber ignored its call to cancel his 2022 concert in Tel Aviv, and even the recently friendly Labour party has vowed that it ‘does not and will not support BDS’. One minute, you’re going about your business, trying to drive the Jews into the sea, and the next you’re being treated like you’re the bad guy.
Priti Patel’s decision to add Hamas to the Home Office list of terrorist organisations corrects a 20-year-old error which saw the Izz al-Din al-Qassem Brigades — Hamas’s paramilitary wing — outlawed in 2001 but the rest of the organisation unaffected.
Sajid Javid closed a similar loophole with Hezbollah and Patel’s amendment underscores the absurdity involved in pretending an organisation with a terrorist wing isn’t a terrorist organisation. If parliament backs the plans, from 26 November it will be a criminal offence under the Terrorism Act to be a member or supporter of Hamas, to arrange or address meetings in support of the group or to wear a uniform or other clothing suggesting membership of or support for it. Penalties range from a fine to a custodial sentence of up to 14 years.
Patel’s decision, to be formally outlined in a speech to the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC, has been welcomed by Israel and Jewish groups in the UK. Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett thanked Boris Johnson ‘for your leadership’ while foreign minister Yair Lapid called it ‘an important and significant decision’ that would help ‘prevent the continued build-up of the Hamas terror organisation’ in Britain and elsewhere. The Board of Deputies of British Jews said it was ‘immensely grateful’ to the government for ‘end[ing] the dangerous loophole’ which allowed Hamas to ‘spread its extremist poison here and raise funds and support in the UK’.
So it might seem churlish to cavil but there are a few dissenting points worth making.