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Europe Court decision provides a rare opportunity to correct a discredited policy

December 17, 2014 at 5:31 pm

The decision by the General Court of the European Union to annul the decision to place Hamas on the European list of terrorist organisations was long overdue. It should never have taken place in the first place because, as the Court itself attested, the decision was “based not on acts examined and confirmed in decisions of competent authorities but on factual imputations derived from the press and the internet.”

Like the recent votes in several European parliaments and that of the EU to recognise the State of Palestine, the Court’s ruling will not result in an immediate change of existing policies. This is by no means the end of the road. These developments do, however, expose an important chink in the wall of propaganda and innuendo that has enabled Israel to avoid accountability and deny Palestinian rights.

As it stands, the Court has left the doors open for any party to appeal and to provide the real evidence that Hamas has been engaged in terrorism. Given that they could not provide such evidence since 2001, it is hard to see what they would be able to produce in the coming weeks.

Alastair Crooke, the former Middle East advisor to Javier Solana, the EU’s High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy (1997 to 2003)recalled his shock and dismay with the role played by the former British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, in having Hamas blacklisted. Crooke was present in Downing Street when Straw burst into a room he was in with an advisor; he gloated that he had persuaded Joschka Fischer, his German counterpart, to add Hamas to the EU list of terrorist movements.

Both Britain and Germany share historical responsibility for creating the “running sore” that is often referred to as the Palestine Question. It is not far-fetched, therefore, that either one, or both, will try during the next three months to provide the Court with “evidence” in order to keep Hamas on the terrorist list.

According to Crooke, who also worked for MI6 in Palestine, the decision to blacklist Hamas was underpinned by the “security first” doctrine that envisaged a Palestinian state only if Israel’s self-defined security needs were met. It sought, moreover, to create total Palestinian submission and a dismantling of the resistance. As a resistance movement that was resolutely committed to its vision of a liberated Palestine, Hamas was naturally seen as an obstacle and hence the political decision was taken to designate it in its entirety (its political as well as its military wing).

There were, of course, other political considerations. By demonising one Palestinian faction and favouring another, the groundwork was carefully laid for the odious division that has now become an almost permanent feature of the Palestinian national landscape. Divide and rule; a classic British and European tactic.

Although the Court’s decision is symbolic for the moment, it does create a useful platform for the reappraisal of policy towards Hamas, not just in the West but also in the Middle East. In Europe, there will be a debate on the efficacy of conducting foreign policy on the basis of newspaper clippings and media reports; it is entirely right and proper that such a debate takes place.

In reality, the EU has, thanks to its politicians, painted itself into a corner by its original decision and this may well be a welcome opportunity to extricate itself. If Europe is genuinely committed to an inclusive and representative politics in Palestine this is its opportunity. If, on the other hand, it still believes that it can dismiss Hamas as a major player in Palestine, then Europe and its politicians will remain forever deluded.

In practical terms, this Court decision also provides an opportunity for the EU to end its support for the disgraceful medieval blockade of the Gaza Strip. The denial of food, medicine and a decent living to almost two million people is unjustified, immoral and without any basis in law. Indeed, it contradicts the very laws which the Europeans themselves helped to write, and signed up to.

David Cameron is one who must now lead by example. It was he who at the beginning of his tenure in July 2010 said that “Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp.” Even if regional governments like Egypt maintain the blockade Mr Cameron should not allow his national politics to be held hostage by narrow-minded partisanship and vindictiveness, especially when it victimises an entire population.

The next three months will no doubt witness a heated battle between the pro-Israel lobby and the voices of reason and justice in Europe. The former will call for the listing to remain and the latter will demand the end of the charade. It is clear that the whole intent of the initial policy was based on the erroneous assumption that Israel will reciprocate and withdraw from the lands occupied in the territories and recognise a Palestinian state. That has now been proven to be a massive miscalculation.

Closer to home, the EU Court’s decision provides a lifeline to Mahmud Abbas and his Fatah movement. They have always dragged their feet on the national reconciliation fearing that the European and western governments will veto any inclusion of Hamas in the political process. If for no other reason than this, and if there really is something called respect for the rule of law and justice in Europe, the Court’s decision must be allowed to stand unopposed.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.