Creating new perspectives since 2009

There’s a big difference between legitimate resistance and terrorism

March 28, 2024 at 2:30 pm

Hamas’ armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades destroy a tank of Israeli forces in Gaza City, Gaza on October 07, 2023 [Hani Alshaer – Anadolu Agency]

Israel and some Arab states have regarded Hamas consistently as being in the same league as ISIS/Daesh, despite major differences in their make-up. The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement’s position on ISIS/Daesh is clear, just as it is in relation to followers of other nominally Islamic organisations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a cheerleader for the claim that Hamas and ISIS/Daesh are “two sides of the same coin”, as was evident in his most recent speeches at the UN, the US Congress and the conference of AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby group in America.

While Israel’s attempt to associate legitimate Palestinian resistance with global terrorism is not new, what is remarkable is the expansion of Israeli propaganda from both government and media to include Arabs as well as the West. This could be a very open attempt to exploit the global, Arab and Islamic aversion to the slide of some trends in the Middle East towards militancy and terrorism justified by texts claiming to represent Islam.

Netanyahu and the Israeli political establishment are well aware that Hamas and ISIS/Daesh have nothing to do with each other. Arab regimes which describe Islamic movements as “terrorists” also know this.

OPINION: The IDF and ISIS are both rotten apples from the same barrel

In fact, Hamas and ISIS/Daesh are bitter enemies. They differ in their view of Islamic jurisprudence, the concept of the state and relationships with followers of other faiths and none. It is, therefore, disingenuous to try to link the two.

In this context, it has to be noted that the political environment in the territory in which Hamas is based is one of military occupation by the Zionist state of Israel.

The environment where ISIS/Daesh operates, however, is generally authoritarian, with sectarian and religious conflicts, which is a breeding ground for the emergence of indiscriminate acts of violence motivated by extremist ideas. The authoritarian nature of Israel’s occupation regime in the West Bank is currently witnessing a growth of extremist views leading to such violence by, ironically, Jewish Israeli settlers, not Palestinians.

Nevertheless, the Zionist entity believes that it can succeed regionally and internationally if it invests time and resources in trying to convince the world that Hamas and ISIS/Daesh are from the same terrorist stable. The general mood in the region as a result of Daesh terrorism has become more receptive to the idea of designating any and all Islamic movements as “terrorists”; adopting the Israeli narrative without question, credible or not.

Moreover, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) — which was itself a designated terrorist group until it played along with the Oslo charade — shows no inclination to defend Hamas from the “terrorist” slander in international forums. This is because of the political divide between Fatah, which controls the PLO, and Hamas, which isn’t a member.

Hamas is the Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is seen as a threat to the survival of authoritarian Arab regimes. The Brotherhood is generally listed as a “terrorist” group by such regimes, with almost inevitable links made with ISIS/Daesh. In Egypt, the two are said to be one and the same thing, which is then used by the international community to exclude the movement from political life.

READ: Egypt criticised for amnesty given to Daesh militants, while political prisoners languish in jail

However, Hamas is a major part of Palestinian society and political life. To exclude it, therefore, poses a threat to stability and is an incubator of militancy, which affects Fatah and its supporters as much as Hamas.

The most important distinction between Hamas and ISIS/Daesh is the attitude towards followers of other religions. When its 1988 Charter was published in its early days, Hamas used religious vocabulary to describe the conflict with the occupation state. This has since been used as a stick with which to attack the movement. Amendments were made in a 2017 version, and the original is not used as a frame of reference by anyone except, predictably, Hamas’s enemies, who overlook the 2017 document and go back to the 1988 version.

Both Hamas and ISIS/Daesh are designated as “global terrorist entities” by a number of countries, as well as the EU and especially Israel’s main benefactor, the US. This is despite the fact that Hamas has never carried out any resistance activities anywhere other than within historic Palestine occupied by the Zionist state. ISIS/Daesh, as we know, operates in multiple locations and attacks anyone and everyone. It would seem, therefore, that the inclusion of Hamas on the “terrorist lists” is more of a political decision than anything linked to security or legal issues. Hamas, it should be noted, was included on these lists in the aftermath of 9/11, but it had nothing whatsoever to do with the events of that fateful day.

The political nature of the position taken against Hamas is reflected in the decision of the General Court of the European Union on 17 December 2014 to remove it from the terrorist list. The Court stated that its 2003 listing decision was based on media reports and not on firm evidence. The movement remains listed, though.

Palestinian movements should not allow their political differences with Hamas to be used as a justification for accusing it of damaging the Palestinian cause globally and straining relations in the domestic arena. Palestinians and Arabs should be aware that Israel’s attempt to exploit the chaos of the Middle East by linking the resistance movement to ISIS/Daesh has to be assessed within the context of its efforts to foment Palestinian infighting and block Palestinian unity. This attempt by the occupation state must be rejected, because Hamas is ideologically, intellectually and politically a world apart from ISIS/Daesh.

Israel is not a victim, as it promotes itself to be, and the Palestinians are not terrorists. Israel is an occupation state built on ethnic cleansing, apartheid and, now, genocide. The people of occupied Palestine have every right under international law to resist this brutal military occupation of their land. Their resistance is not terrorism.

OPINION: Foreigners fighting for Israel in Gaza are war criminals and mercenaries. Period.

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