A number of Jewish community groups in Switzerland have failed to have the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, designated as a "terrorist" organisation, Arabi 21 reported on Wednesday. The latest Israeli military offensive against the Gaza Strip has apparently reignited the debate in the European country about the movement's status.
The Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities (SIG) and the Platform of Liberal Jews in Switzerland (PLJS) said on 20 May that Hamas is "clearly extremist, terrorist and anti-Semitic." According to Swissinfo.ch they added that it was unacceptable that "members of Hamas moved around freely, raised funds and conducted business in Switzerland." The Israeli Embassy in Bern issued similar calls.
Switzerland is a neutral country, with no formal alliances with other states. It is for this reason that it is often used as a mediator in international disputes, and hosts negotiations. Swiss Radio reported that this is why it is not taking a stand on Hamas, as it may be asked to mediate between the Palestinian movement and Israel, for example. "As part of its policy which supports peace in the region, it is important to continue having dialogue with all sides, as well as to continue exerting efforts between Israel and the Palestinians or between the Palestinians themselves, Hamas and Fatah," it said.
The EU regards Hamas as a terrorist organisation, and so has not played any mediation role. Switzerland is not a member of the bloc.
With Hamas now seen as the strongest Palestinian political party even outside its Gaza stronghold, Swissinfo.ch said that it is "questionable whether banning Hamas would achieve much." It quoted Middle East expert Erich Gysling as telling Luzerner Zeitung: "Hamas is the winner on the Palestinian side. We have to maintain dialogue with them. Calling them terrorists would not work to anyone's advantage."
The Israeli offensive on Gaza killed at least 255 Palestinians, including 66 children, 40 women and 17 elderly people. Thousands more were wounded as homes and civilian infrastructure were destroyed by the eleven-day Israeli bombardment.