Britain’s official labeling of Hamas in its entirety as a terrorist organization came very late, but as the saying goes, better late than never. It is a very encouraging step.

The British move also came after Israel outlawed six Palestinian organizations claiming to be non-government civilian organizations but that actually belonged to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist organization. The PFLP officially belongs to the PLO, but advocates the destruction of Israel and has close ties to Hamas. In November 2021, the Hamas leadership in Gaza held a special meeting with the leadership of the PFLP in the Gaza Strip to increase cooperation between the two organizations.

This is of great concern in much of the Arab world because London is the global fundraising center for Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. They transfer funds to the Gaza Strip to finance Hamas’s terrorist activities. At the same time, the accounts provide funds for private investments by Hamas leaders abroad. According to a Nov. 28 report in the Saudi AlArabia.net, Hamas’s investments in Britain until 2020 amounted to one billion dollars.

It should be noted that Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Saudi Arabia, and Saudi intelligence services watch Hamas’s activities in the Middle East closely. Last year, dozens of Hamas operatives were arrested in the kingdom for smuggling and money laundering.

Sources in Gaza said that the son of Khalil al-Hayya, the deputy Hamas leader in Gaza, left the Strip to join the sons of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in investing money abroad. Senior Hamas figures are investing billions of dollars in various countries worldwide, and much of the funds go through London, along with funds from the Muslim Brotherhood. Two months ago, Sudan revealed the sum of investments by senior Hamas figures in the country had reached $1.2 billion.

According to sources in the Gaza Strip, several hundred Hamas operatives work in three “humanitarian” fundraising associations in London. The money does not reach Gaza residents and flows directly into the pockets of Hamas leaders. Money is deposited in the HSBC Bank in Britain or Turkish banks, per Muslim Brotherhood instructions. Sixty charitable associations were established in the United Kingdom alone for Hamas fundraising. One organization, the Islamic Aid Organization, also received funding from the British government.

The British decree froze or confiscated much of the funds of Hamas’s massive enterprise.

Hamas refuses to change

The Hamas movement’s outrage over the British decision is pronounced. A few days ago marked the anniversary of the historic Balfour Declaration in 1917, a historic victory for the Zionist movement. In recent months, the Palestinians pressed their demand that Britain apologize for the Balfour Declaration and recognize an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 lines. The British answer came relatively quickly: declaring Hamas a terrorist organization and blaming the movement for anti-Semitism and threatening the lives of Jews in Britain.

Hamas is not the Palestine Liberation Organization, that was declared a terrorist organization in the 1970s by the United States and most European countries. Nevertheless, the PLO was allowed to open missions in several countries and conducted secret negotiations with Israel in Oslo in 1993, officially recognized Israel, ostensibly canceled the Palestinian Covenant at a ceremony in the Gaza Strip attended by U.S. President Bill Clinton, and opened diplomatic talks with Israel.

The PLO was coerced to renounce the principle of “armed struggle,” the second intifada, which Yasser Arafat unleashed in 2000, costing the Palestinians dearly. The current PLO chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, has learned his lessons and advocates political negotiations. He also maintains close security cooperation with Israel.

On the other hand, the Hamas movement continues to advocate the destruction of Israel. The 1988 Hamas Covenant, replete with anti-Semitic clauses, is still in force. The organization supports the destruction of Israel and the establishment of Palestine “from the river to the sea,” and its leaders have formally adopted the path of terrorism, that they codenamed “resistance.” It has established a large independent terrorist entity all over the entire Gaza Strip equipped with thousands of rockets aimed at Israel, and with Iranian aid, seeks to spread it to Judea and Samaria.

The benefits of the decision to Israel

This decision by the British government helps the political and public relations struggle of the State of Israel. It is hoped that Israel will know how to leverage the British action for these tasks, which could influence other countries to follow in the footsteps of the United Kingdom. It also encourages Arab countries which oppose the Hamas movement and the Muslim Brotherhood to follow in Britain’s footsteps and even normalize relations with Israel.

The British decision will also help Israel fight legal battles against Palestinian referrals to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which claim Israel is committing “crimes and terrorism” in the territories.

There is another important implication of the British declaration of Hamas as a terrorist organization: it gives moral and security justification to Israel to launch a major military operation in the Gaza Strip to protect itself from Hamas rocket attacks. The British declaration helps the international public to understand that Israel is fighting against a terrorist movement that controls the Gaza Strip and uses it as a base for attacks on Israeli civilians.

The British decision may embarrass Egypt, which is now trying to achieve long-term understandings between Hamas and Israel, and also makes it difficult for the P.A. chairman to go into a political partnership with Hamas. The Biden administration is also being reminded by Britain that Hamas is an extreme Islamic terrorist organization that is unwilling to moderate, recognize Israel and abandon the path of terrorism.

Today, when Hamas’s influence on the Palestinian street has increased following “Operation Guardian of the Walls,” it is essential that the residents of the territories know what a country like Britain thinks of the Hamas movement and that the world does not accept the path of terrorism, the idea of destroying the State of Israel and harming Jews living abroad.

The Palestinians will eventually have to decide which strategy they choose: an approach to peace negotiations, however long and difficult it may be, or terrorism and a violent struggle against Israel. As things seem at the moment, the future does not bode well.

Yoni Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center. He served as director general and chief editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

This article was first published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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