President Donal Trump has been accused of equating Hamas, a Palestinian resistant movement, with Daesh and Al-Qaeda terrorist groups, to echo the narrative of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, that “Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas”.
Speaking to leaders of 55 Muslim countries in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, about combating “radicalisation”, Trump said: “The true toll of ISIS [Daesh], Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas and so many others, must be counted not only in the number of dead. It must also be counted in generations of vanished dreams.”
Trump’s association of Hamas resembled comments made by Netanyahu at the United Nations in 2014 when the Israeli prime minister told world leaders: “ISIS and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree. When it comes to their ultimate goals, Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas. And what they share in common, all militant Islamists share in common.”
Hamas has strongly condemned the comments, which it believes highlight the Trump administration’s “complete bias towards Israel”.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum rejected the comments as “a distortion of [our] image and shows a complete bias to the Zionist occupation.” The comparison, Barhoum went on to add, confirmed that Trump is following the policy of previous US administrations while pointing to Trump’s lack of objection against Israeli crimes perpetrated against the Palestinian people.
Daesh: PR victory for Israel
The shocking violence of Daesh has been a PR victory for Israel. Since the rise of the terrorist group, Israeli politicians quickly realised the political gain that could be made by conflating the two organisations. In a Chicago Tribune op-ed, Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett wrote: “What the free world fails unfortunately to understand is that Israel’s conflict with Hamas and the current battle to stop ISIS’ advances in Syria and Iraq are one and the same.”
But many commentators have mentioned the errors and dangers of spreading such a false narrative. They say that it ignores key differences between Hamas and known terrorist organisations like Daesh. They point to many obvious differences between the groups while stressing their contrasting political goals and methods. Al-Qaeda has accused Hamas of having “lost its religion”, while Daesh criticise the group of “polytheistic innovation” for taking part in the democratic process while espousing a nationalist agenda, despised by Daesh, which has a global agenda.
Israel has long sought for Hamas’ political isolation and campaigned to blacklist the organisation around the world. Legal experts have campaigned against the designation of the group as a terrorist organisation, believing that the evidence used to designate Hamas a terrorist organisation is based on assertions and claims made by its enemies.
A top European Court of Justice (ECJ) advisor has recommended that Hamas should be removed from the EU’s terrorism blacklist while arguing that EU leaders relied too heavily on media reports rather than their own investigations when they blacklisted terrorist organisation.