The Australian government has said it planned to list the whole of the Palestinian movement Hamas to its list of outlawed “terrorist” organisations.
In response, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem told Al Jazeera the movement strongly condemned Australia’s decision on Thursday, saying the move pointed to clear bias towards Israel. He added that the planned listing contravenes international laws that protect Palestinians’ right to resist Israeli occupation.
“Hamas is a national liberation movement that resists the occupation in accordance with international laws and resolutions and humanitarian agreements,” he said.
“Those who should be classified as terrorists are the Israeli occupation who deliberately target Palestinians and violate international and humanitarian laws and covenants,” Qassem said.
Australia had previously listed Hamas’s al-Qassam Brigades military wing as a “terror” group in 2003, but the new designation which will come into force in April, will list the organisation in its entirety, including its political wing.
Hamas has been running the besieged Gaza Strip since 2007 and has fought successive wars with Israel since then. The latest 11-day Israeli assault on Gaza in May last year killed at least 248 Palestinians, including 66 children, and wounded more than 1,900 others. Rocket fire from Gaza also killed at least 12 people in Israel, including two children.
“The views of Hamas and the violent extremist groups listed today are deeply disturbing, and there is no place in Australia for their hateful ideologies,” said Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews.
The designation will place restrictions on financing or providing other support to Hamas – with certain offences carrying a 25-year prison sentence.
“It is vital that our laws target not only terrorist acts and terrorists, but also the organisations that plan, finance and carry out these acts,” Andrews said.
But the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, a national coalition of Australians who support Palestinian rights, disagreed with the designation, saying it does nothing to advance the cause of peace and will only create more suffering for the two million people currently living under the 15-year Israeli blockade.
“The government has failed in its duty of searching for a peaceful solution and has shown it applies one set of rules to Palestine and another to Israel,” Network President Bishop George Browning said.
Israel welcomes move
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett welcomed the Australian move, tweeting that it marked “another important step in the global fight against terrorism”.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid also thanked Australian Ambassador to Israel Paul Griffiths for what he described as a “significant step” in Israel’s international effort to curtail terrorist organisations.
Zionist Federation of Australia President Jeremy Leibler said the Hamas listing made clear Australia’s “absolute rejection of hatred and terrorism”.
“There is absolutely no doubt that Hamas in its entirety meets the definition of terrorist organization,” Leibler said in a statement, adding that the decision aligns Australia with the United States, European Union, Britain and Canada.
The United States and Canada have long designated Hamas a terror group. A similar European Union decision had been the subject of a protracted court battle, that eventually resulted in Hamas being returned to the terror list.
In November last year, Britain banned the group as a terrorist organisation, after Home Secretary Priti Patel pushed for the move, arguing that it was not possible to distinguish between Hamas’s political and military wings.
Following the UK’s move, Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, said the decision was not going to improve a climate of peace.
“There is a degree of gesture politics going on, whereby the UK government is trying to look tough on terrorism and anti-Semitism, but the reality is that this will not have much meaningful impact on the ground where it really matters,” Doyle told Al Jazeera at the time.
“I don’t think you are going to see any stemming of violence at all as a result of this, nor will it impact the fighting against anti-Semitism because those who hold anti-Jewish views and spout it out are going to do so regardless,” he said.
Al Jazeera’s Maram Humaid contributed reporting from Gaza