The Government decision, passed on Tuesday by Parliament, to proscribe Hamas in its entirety will do nothing to advance the cause of peace, considering the role of Hamas in the political fabric of Palestine as evidenced by its winning of the PLC elections in 2006. Furthermore, the decision exposes again the Uk Government’s inconsistency in the application of international law. It illustrates an approach to policy making in relation to Israel/Palestine that is not rights’ based but rather is framed on the principle of “one rule for Israel , one for the Palestinians”.
PSC believes that it is right to condemn any usage of force or violence outside of the framework of international law. But Governments should apply that principle universally and not on a partial basis. In the context of Israel and Palestine an application of that principle has to be applied to all actors including the Israeli state. Whilst the UK Government has acted to address violations of International law by Hamas , including via the imposition of sanctions , it has consistently failed to address Israel’s 74-year long violations, including via the targeting of civilians, the illegal demolition of Palestinian property, the continued illegal expansion of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the 14-year long immoral siege on Gaza. It has also failed to tackle by any meaningful measures frequent ongoing attacks on Palestinians by armed settler groups, protected by the IDF.
Any form of “peace-making” in Israel / Palestine must be founded upon a rights’ based approach rooted in international law. This demands addressing, in the first place, Israel’s imposition upon the Palestinian people of a system of injustice which meets the legal definition of Apartheid of which the military occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem is a part. Under International law Palestinians have the right to resist military occupation including, through the use of force, within the boundaries of that law. And yet the UK government’s approach, increasingly mirrored by the Labour leadership, fails to hold Israel to account for breaches of the law whilst denying Palestinians any rights of resistance. This includes treating Palestinian appeals to diplomatic bodies such as the Human Rights Council as illegitimate, and framing the call by Palestinian civil society for non-violent resistance though the processes of boycott divestment and sanctions as inherently antisemitic. The UK has even expressed its opposition to legal redress through the International Criminal Court.
The proscription of Hamas in its entirety is also likely to have significant implications for the wellbeing of the people of Gaza. Hamas remains the governing authority in Gaza with responsibility for the provision of all essential public services already deeply devastated by the realities of Israel’s ongoing siege. The deliberate removal of any distinction between Hamas as a political organisation and governing authority and its military wing is likely to have significant consequences for civil society in Gaza and for international NGO’s, who seek to support the delivery of essential services including in the field of health and education. It is also likely to place illegitimate obstacles to those seeking to raise funds to support such crucial humanitarian work.