Australia’s move to list Hamas a terrorist organisation 'an incredibly blunt instrument'

A protester in the Gaza Strip. Photo: Hosny Salah/Pixabay

The federal government declared its intention to designate the Palestinian organisation Hamas a terrorist organisation on February 17. Hamas’ military wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, was listed by Australia in 2003.

This move, which comes into force in April, aligns Australia with Israel, the United States, the European Union, Japan and Britain. New Zealand and Paraguay have only listed its military wing.

The designation will place restrictions on sending funds or providing other support to Hamas — with some offences carrying a 25-year prison sentence.

The Embassy of the State of Palestine condemned the Scott Morrison government’s decision, arguing it reveals a “double-standard” and does nothing to advance peace. “Australia’s friendship with Israel should not be at the expense of international law,” a spokesperson said on February 17.

“By condoning Israel’s illegal and oppressive practices, the Australian government holds Israel to a different standard than the rest of the world and encourages Israel to continue its aggressive violations against the Palestinian people.”

A Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem told Al Jazeera the planned listing contravenes international law which protects the right of Palestinians to resist Israeli occupation.

Dr Ben Saul, advisor to the United Nations and Professor of International Law at the University of Sydney, told SBS News: “The designation ultimately punishes two million Palestinian civilians who rely on Hamas as their government."

The Australian Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN) also condemned the government’s decision, saying it showed its bias against Palestine. APAN described much of the information the government used to make its decision as “questionable”.

“As the elected governing body of Gaza, designating Hamas a terrorist organisation does nothing to advance the cause of peace, and will only cause more suffering for the 2 million people currently surviving under a 15-year Israeli blockade,” APAN said.

Hamas won the 2006 elections in the Gaza Strip, defeating Fatah.

“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,” APAN President Bishop George Browning said.

“The entire process leading up to this designation has been led by those who have a political barrow to push, with only pro-Israeli groups being sought out for evidence.”

APAN described the designation as “an incredibly blunt instrument”. “In 2017, Hamas updated its overall charter which now accepts Israel and a two-state solution and took out the anti-semitic aspects of the charter.”

However, the federal government has form: it has also listed other national liberation movements — the Tamil Tigers and the Kurdistan Workers Party — as terrorist organisations.