Why does the PA/PLO Reject the Designation of Hamas as a Terror Organization?

March 3, 2022

8 min read

Australia recently announced that it will designate Hamas, in its entirety, as a terror organization. Until now, Australia had only designated the “Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades”, the so-called “military wing” of Hamas, as a terror organization. The Australian move followed a similar decision, made in November 2021, by the United Kingdom, to also widen the scope of the terror designation of Hamas from only covering the Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades to cover the entire organization. The United States and the European Union already designate Hamas, in its entirety, as a terror organization.

While there is widening global understanding that it is impossible to distinguish between the military and non-military wings of terror organizations and that Hamas, through and through, is a terror organization, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are insistent on supporting Hamas and rejecting its terror designation.

Responding to the Australian decision, Hussein Al-Sheikh, said:

“The [PLO] Executive Committee emphasized its absolute rejection of the attempts by a number of states to describe the Palestinian struggle and some of the [Palestinian] factions and organizations as terrorists.”

[Official PA TV News, Feb. 18, 2022]

Hussein Al-Sheikh has been the Head of the PA General Authority of Civil Affairs since 2007. He is a member the Fatah Central Committee since 2016 and was recently appointed to the PLO Executive Committee. Some commentators have even suggested that Al-Sheikh is positioning himself to replace the aging Mahmoud Abbas as PA Chairman.

When the United Kingdom decided to widen its designation of Hamas as a terror organization, PA officials responded in a similar manner.

Instead of recognizing that the broader definition of Hamas as a terror organization was part of the global fight against terror, the PA Minister of Justice, Muhammad Shalaldeh, turned reality on its head and argued that the UK is “carrying out a step considered a crime against international law”:

“Instead of Britain defining the Palestinian resistance organizations as terror organizations, it should bear responsibility because it carries the legal responsibility for the disaster that befell the Palestinian people, first in the Balfour Declaration, and it gave this legal approval in the British Mandate. Now, instead of recognizing the State of Palestine and providing help to the Palestinian people in achieving self-determination and establishing a state for the Palestinian people, Britain is carrying out this step that is considered a crime against international law.”

[Official PA TV, Topic of the Day, Nov. 21, 2021]

PLO Executive Committee member and Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) Political Bureau member Tayseer Khaled also rejected the broadening of the UK terror designation of Hamas:

“The decision to declare the Hamas Movement a terror organization is stupid. He [Khaled] called on the British government to recant this decision, which constitutes a blind bias in favor of the aggressive policy of expansion that is hostile to peace, according to which the governments of Israel act… This increases many times over Britain’s responsibility for the ongoing crimes against the Palestinian people since the issuing of the British Balfour Declaration (see note below -Ed.) more than 100 years ago.”

[Donia Al-Watan, independent Palestinian news agency, Nov. 20, 2021]

As Palestinian Media Watch has demonstrated, the PA and the Palestinian leadership believe that the UK is responsible for all the ills of the Palestinians. To this end, they attach decisive weight to the 1917 Balfour Declaration, while positively ignoring the 1922 League of Nations “Mandate for Palestine,” whose purpose was “reconstituting” the Jewish “national home” in Israel, and the fact that the Mandate was the result of broad international consensus.

Fatah’s Syria branch Secretary Aws Abu Ata also stressed the theme of rejecting the designation of Hamas as a terror organization. According to Abu Ata, it is not the Hamas terror campaigns that impede peace but rather the the recognition of Hamas, in its entirety, as a terror organization.

“We think that British Secretary [of State for the] Home [Department] Priti Patel’s decision [on Nov. 19, 2021] to define the Hamas Movement – including the political wing – as a terror organization is a biased decision that completely adopts the Israeli position and turns a blind eye at the Israeli crimes in the occupied territories. It will not contribute to the two-state solution or establishing peace in our region in any way…”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 23, 2021]

The messaging of the PLO and Fatah officials mimicked the response of Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), also internationally designated as a terror organization, who also rejected the UK designation and similarly referred to it in terms of “aggression” against the Palestinians:

“On Sunday evening, Nov. 21, [2021,] the Popular Front [for the Liberation of Palestine] (PFLP) and the Hamas Movement in the Gaza Strip held an important senior level meeting, during which many domestic and foreign topics were discussed…

PFLP and Hamas emphasized that they condemn the British decision against the Hamas Movement and view it as aggression against the Palestinian people with all its streams and elements. They called on the British Parliament not to ratify this law, because it contains dangers to world peace and to Britain itself.”

[Ma’an, independent Palestinian news agency, Nov. 22, 2021]

The cumulative responses reflect statements made by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who is also the Head of the PLO, in similar circumstances. In response to a US proposed resolution in the United Nations to condemn Hamas for firing rockets into Israel and inciting violence, and demanding that it and other terrorist groups such as Islamic Jihad cease their terror activities, including the use of airborne incendiaries, Abbas said:

“Two days ago [Dec. 6, 2018] they [the US] published a statement or proposed a [UN] resolution in which they want to consider the Hamas Movement a terror [organization]. Okay, they asked me: ‘What’s your opinion?’ I told them my opinion is that the Hamas Movement is part of our people, and I do not agree that terror be ascribed to it. I do not accept that it is a terror [organization].”

[Official PA TV, Dec 9, 2018]

While the US proposal received a majority of the votes in the United Nations General Assembly, the proposal did not receive the two thirds needed to be ratified.

At the time, the future PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh, explained the PA’s objection to the planned condemnation of Hamas:

“Now there is a proposed [resolution] at the UN condemning the Hamas Movement. From this podium we condemn this resolution, because under no circumstances will we agree to any Palestinian organization being defined as a terrorist organization. We will not agree! Because today it is Hamas, tomorrow [Islamic] Jihad, two days from now Fatah, and so on. We know the story. Our disagreement [with Hamas] is internal, but under no circumstances will we agree to Hamas being condemned.”

[Official Fatah Facebook page, Dec. 2, 2018]

In other words, despite the growing consensus that Hamas, in all its forms, is a terror organization, the PLO and the PA reject that basic understanding. Their position is based on the understanding that, in their essence, they are no different from Hamas. While Fatah/ PLO/ PA /Hamas division is merely an expression of the internal Palestinian power struggle, what connects these organizations is their common goal to destroy Israel and their use of violence and terror to achieve their goal.

The following are longer excerpts of the items quoted above:

Excerpt of an op-ed by Fatah Syria Branch Secretary Aws Abu Ata

Headline: “Hamas and the Palestinian umbrella of legitimacy”

“Everyone knows how the Palestinian diplomatic system has made frantic and uncompromising efforts at the UN General Assembly, according to direct instructions from His Honor [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas, to prevent Hamas from being put on the list of terror organizations.

In the same period, many Palestinian voices have risen demanding that Hamas seize the moment and act seriously and sincerely to realize the Palestinian national reconciliation and implement the latest Cairo agreement, which was signed in 2017 [between Fatah and Hamas]. But Hamas attacked President Mahmoud Abbas and took a position against his historic speeches at the UN. It continued and still continues to oppose the legal Palestinian government and the independent Palestinian national decision making…

We think that British Secretary [of State for the] Home [Department] Priti Patel’s decision [on Nov. 19, 2021] to define the Hamas Movement – including the political wing – as a terror organization is a biased decision that completely adopts the Israeli position and turns a blind eye at the Israeli crimes in the occupied territories. It will not contribute to the two-state solution or establishing peace in our region in any way…

In conclusion, the question remains: Would it not have been difficult for Britain or any other state to define all of Hamas as a terror organization if it had abandoned the goal of taking control of the PLO – the legitimate and sole representative of the Palestinian people, agreed to implement the PLO’s fundamentals in accordance which the agreements that it has signed since 2011, implemented the reconciliation agreement, and helped to advance the national interests instead of narrow partisan interests?”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 23, 2021]

Headline: “Tayseer Khaled: The declaration of Hamas as a terror organization increases many times over Britain’s responsibility for the crimes against the Palestinians”

“PLO Executive Committee member and Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) Political Bureau member Tayseer Khaled said that the decision to declare the Hamas Movement a terror organization is stupid (refers to British announcement on Nov. 19, 2021, that it will recognize all of Hamas including its political bureau as a terror organization -Ed.). He called on the British government to recant this decision, which constitutes a blind bias in favor of the aggressive policy of expansion that is hostile to peace, according to which the governments of Israel act…

He emphasized that this is liable to encourage the government of Israel – which rushed to welcome the decision of British Secretary [of State for the] Home [Department Priti Patel] – to continue its attacks against the Palestinian people and continue violating international law and the resolutions of the international institutions. He added that this increases many times over Britain’s responsibility for the ongoing crimes against the Palestinian people since the issuing of the British Balfour Declaration (see note below -Ed.) more than 100 years ago.”

[Donia Al-Watan, independent Palestinian news agency, Nov. 20, 2021]

“On Sunday evening, Nov. 21, [2021,] the Popular Front [for the Liberation of Palestine] (PFLP) and the Hamas Movement in the Gaza Strip held an important senior level meeting, during which many domestic and foreign topics were discussed…

PFLP and Hamas emphasized that they condemn the British decision against the Hamas Movement (refers to British announcement on Nov. 19, 2021, that it will recognize all of Hamas including its political bureau as a terror organization -Ed.) and view it as aggression against the Palestinian people with all its streams and elements. They called on the British Parliament not to ratify this law, because it contains dangers to world peace and to Britain itself.”

[Ma’an, independent Palestinian news agency, Nov. 22, 2021]

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas: “What I want first of all is that you [Americans] take back the things you have done: in other words, transferring the embassy to Jerusalem – a mistake. Cancelling the aid to UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) – a mistake. And say what you have said more than once: That the borders are the 1967 ones and [the solution is] two states. After all, this was much talked about already in the days of [former US President George W.] Bush the son, so why have you taken it back? This is in regards to the Americans. Afterwards, what happened two days ago [Dec. 6, 2018] – they published a statement or proposed a [UN] resolution in which they want to consider the Hamas Movement a terror [organization]. Okay, they asked me: ‘What’s your opinion?’ I told them my opinion is that the Hamas Movement is part of our people, and I do not agree that terror be ascribed to it. I do not accept that it is a terror [organization]. Therefore, they went and submitted the resolution to the [UN] General Assembly. Here the modest Palestinian diplomacy took action… and the resolution failed, while the resolution that Ireland submitted about the Palestinian people’s rights succeeded with a majority of 146 votes (sic., 156 votes in favor of a draft resolution titled “Comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East”), and with this we succeeded because the matter is not great, but it must be done since it is about an issue of the homeland and an issue of Jerusalem. I will not take back my decision, and I will not relinquish my rights.”

[Official PA TV, Dec 9, 2018]

The Balfour Declaration of Nov. 2, 1917 was a letter from British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Baron Rothschild stating that “His Majesty’s government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” In 1922, the League of Nations adopted this and made the British Mandate “responsible for putting into effect the declaration,” which led to the UN vote in favor of partitioning Mandatory Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state in 1947. In response, Britain ended its mandate on May 15, 1948, and the Palestinian Jews, who accepted the Partition Plan, declared the independent State of Israel. The Palestinian Arabs rejected the plan and together with 7 Arab states attacked Israel, in what is now known as Israel’s War of Independence.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Palestinian Media Watch

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