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Thursday, December 9, 2021

What does the UK’s stance on Hamas mean for Qatar?


The British government has decided to proscribe Palestinian resistance movement Hamas as a terrorist organisation under it’s Terrorism Act.

The UK’S minister of interior (Home Secretary) Priti Patel has announced she intends to list Hamas’ political wing and ban any support for the movement under the UK’s Terrorism Act.

Accordingly anyone expressing support for the the organisation, flying its flag or arranging meetings on Hamas’ behalf would be in violation of the law and could face up to 14 years in prison.

With this decision, the UK’s stance on the group falls more in line with the United States’ and the European Union, both of whom have for years proscribed the resistance movement.

“Hamas has significant terrorist capability, including access to extensive and sophisticated weaponry, as well as terrorist training facilities,” said the British interior minister in a statement.

“That is why today I have acted to proscribe Hamas in its entirety,” she added.

Prior to Patel’s decision, the UK only had a ban on the group’s military branch, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Patel is expected to present this change to the British parliament in the next few days.

Hamas political official Sami Abu Zuhri called Britain’s move as an indication of “absolute bias toward the Israeli occupation and is a submission to Israeli blackmail and dictations”.

The move has also been slammed by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority’s mission to the UK, which falls under the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett welcomed the decision, tweeting “I welcome the UK’s intention to declare Hamas a terrorist organization in its entirety — because that’s exactly what it is.”

In 2017, Patel was forced to step down as the UK’s international development secretary after failing to disclose secret meetings with top Israeli officials during a private holiday to Israel, an indication analysts say of her pro-Israeli stance and the politicised nature of the decision.

Questions have now been raised regarding Hamas’ international presence and how  proposal by Patel, if accepted, will impact countries that have relations to the group.

Read also: Qatar and Egypt agree on mechanism to send building materials to Gaza

Qatar is among a number of countries that hosts a Hamas office, and officials in the country have had regular meetings with Ismail Haniyeh, the movement’s political leader. Doha views this relationship as critical in Qatar’s efforts to seek peace and a just solution to the ongoing illegal occupation of Palestine. It was Doha that managed to broker a ceasefire that put an end to the latest Israeli war on Gaza in May of this year.

That said, some analysts predict that the proposal may not have an impact on Qatar or any other government that fall outside the UK’s jurisdiction.

Speaking to Doha News, British Palestinian academic and author of ‘Hamas: Unwritten Chapters” Dr. Azzam Tamimi said that the decision will not impact Qatar’s activities or relationship with both Hamas and the British government.

Tamimi gave the example of Qatar’s hosting of the Taliban and its relations to the group that took control of Afghanistan in August. “It [Qatar] hosts the Taliban by the request of the Americans. The Taliban is considered a terrorist organisation to many nations, however this has not affected their relations with Qatar.”

Tamimi noted that the UK’s legislation is intended for domestic use. “It’s likely to be used against Palestinian activists or other pro-Palestine activists inside the UK if they defend Hamas or promote it in any way.”

The academic said it has yet to be seen how the proposal will translate, but that it will very likely be adopted after parliamentary review. Within the UK, both the Labour and Conservative parties are competing to appease the Israeli agenda, according to Tamimi.

“This episode is intended to appease the Zionist lobby in the UK, but it will not have much of an impact on Palestine or on Hamas itself,” said Tamimi.

Israel carried out a deadly 11-day bombing on the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by Hamas, in May. The airstrikes resulted in the death of over 250 Palestinians, dozens of which were children. Over the course of the attacks, 2,200 homes in Gaza were destroyed and 37,000 were damaged.

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