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How Hamas is dealing with the Amnesty report

Since the end of the Israel's offensive against the people of Gaza last summer, Hamas has spent a great deal of its energy on proving to human rights organisations and international law bodies that Israel has committed war crimes against the Palestinians. One of the most important reports supporting that view was that issued by Breaking the Silence – ex-Israeli soldiers revealing what they were ordered to do – with the title, "How We Fought in Gaza".

However, on 27 May, Amnesty International released a report which claimed, "Hamas is accused of executing individuals who it believes were cooperating with Israel in the 2014 offensive." Hamas expressed its shock at the content of the report and its disappointment at being equated with Israel, which is guilty, without doubt, of committing war crimes.

Several days after the Amnesty report was issued, it had become apparent that the turn of events had taken Hamas by surprise, especially on the diplomatic and legal levels. Amnesty international enjoys a great deal of credibility around the world and it is for this reason that Hamas fears its condemnation, although it may not admit so publically.

The Amnesty report follows the execution of 23 Palestinians who were accused of spying for Israeli intelligence in Gaza. The arrests and executions were part of a campaign called "Khanq Al-Ruqab", which was launched in July and August 2014 during Israel's war on Gaza.

Hamas did not wait long before responding to Amnesty International; it rejected the report as a politicised document lacking in professional standards and based upon false allegations requiring further clarification if they are to be considered credible at all. The Islamic movement not only denied that it executed Palestinians who were accused of spying during the 2014 Gaza war, but also went a step further by accusing Amnesty of issuing a report containing allegations that contradicted reality.

According to Hamas, the danger of the Amnesty report is that it suggests that Israel and Hamas are on an equal footing in such matters, or that they carry out similar crimes. It equates the executioner with his victim; the killer and the one being killed; the occupier and the occupied. It also suggests that the vicious war launched by Israel on Gaza in 2014 is somehow comparable to the actions that Hamas took against traitors.

Another aspect that occupies Hamas's internal debates about the Amnesty report centres on the movement's fear that Israel will take advantage of this opportunity and use it as a justification for filing a suit against the movement in the International Criminal Court (ICC). Such a move could result in the need for a change in the leadership, as the current leaders could be placed on Interpol's wanted list; it would be Hamas's worst nightmare.

The Islamic Resistance Movement pre-empted the release of the Amnesty report and declared that it was ready to work with the ICC but would not hand anyone over to its jurisdiction unless and until the leaders of the Israeli occupation authorities also stood before the court. Its reasoning was simple: if Hamas and its leaders resist the Israeli occupation in a way that is in compliance with international law, then the world cannot condemn or de-legitimise such resistance.

Hamas added further that it did not fear the ICC, even if the Amnesty report were to be presented as evidence against it in judicial forums. The Palestinian group is prepared for this possibility because it is a resistance movement defending its people by all the means that international law and conventions allow; its doors are open to any party that wants to find out of the truth about the 2014 Israeli war against the people of Gaza.

This air of confidence that Hamas has adopted in the wake of the Amnesty report coincides with the movement's effort to obtain its full and original text in order to refute its content. The report could harm Palestine's position seriously as it heads to the ICC. This requires Hamas to take practical steps to deal with the expected fallout from the Amnesty document.

There is a move within Hamas to create a committee that includes representatives of rights organisations among its members. Its task would be to investigate and verify the contents of the Amnesty report, prepare complete dossiers about those who were executed during the last Gaza war, especially those suspected of collaboration with Israeli intelligence, and prepare a response strategy in international forums.

Hamas knows well that the ICC will take a long time to verify what Amnesty has said, and that subsequent suits against the leaders of the movement would not be an easy task, because it requires it to obtain secret documents that might confirm their direct responsibility for the executions. These documents are not contained within the report.

The real danger to Hamas from the Amnesty report is that it moves it a step further away from joining the international community. What it needs to do is create legal and political teams to refute the contents of the report and prove that Hamas is a legitimate resistance movement fighting to end Israel's military occupation of Palestine; more importantly, to prove that it does not commit war crimes.

Translated from Felesteen newspaper, 8 June, 2015

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

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