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Stance of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Hamas

Volume 597: debated on Monday 15 June 2015

The Petition of residents in the Southend West constituency,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that the Foreign Office view Hamas as a plausible negotiating partner for creating a peace agreement with Israel; further that the Petitioners believe that such a view is incorrect as Hamas’s own political charter clearly states that it seeks nothing less than the destruction of Israel; further that the Petitioners believe that the Foreign Office is unwilling to clearly declare that it deplores the use of civilians and civilian buildings by Hamas as part of Hamas’s warfare strategy; Hamas’s consequential abuse of civilian properties as places from which to launch attacks on Israel, and its abuse of civilians as human shields resulting in a disproportionate loss of life; further that the Petitioners believe that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, and is the only place in the Middle East where Christianity and other faiths can co-exist peacefully and thrive; further that a lack of clarity in support of Israel contributes to anti-Jewish sentiment; further that the Petitioners recognise the need for, and the rights of, the civilians of Gaza and other Arabs who live within and around Israel for a peaceable existence; and further that the Petitioners believe that the lack of demonstrable public clarity by the Foreign Office to support Israel and to deplore Hamas is deeply concerning.

The Petitioners therefore urges the House of Commons to request that the Foreign Office explains its actions and views on Israel, and clarifies its view of and position on Hamas.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Sir David Amess, Official Report, 12 February 2015; Vol. 592, c. 1049.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs:

The UK is a firm friend of Israel and we enjoy an excellent bilateral relationship, built on decades of co-operation between our two countries across a range of fields including education, hi-tech research, business, arts and culture. The Government have made significant progress in building the UK-Israel partnership. On almost every front, we have taken the relationship to new levels.

The Prime Minister, who visited Israel in 2014, has made clear the importance he attaches to this relationship, most recently during a call with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, following his re-election. The FCO Ministers have also repeatedly expressed their support for working closely with Israel on issues that matter to us both. And we continue to support Israel’s right to self-defence; our commitment to Israel’s security is unwavering. UK Government policy on Hamas have not changed and is clear: Hamas must renounce violence, recognise Israel and accept previously signed agreements. These conditions remain the benchmark against which Hamas’ intentions should be judged.

Throughout the hostilities in Gaza of summer 2014, the UK condemned Hamas’ illegal and indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israel and stressed the need for Hamas and other militant groups to stop them. We condemned any use of human shields as violations of international humanitarian law, and we called on all sides to ensure that civilians were not put in danger. The UK was also clear that Israel had a right to take action to defend itself but needed to act proportionately and to minimise the risk of civilian casualties.

We also made clear our serious concern regarding human rights abuses in Gaza by Hamas. We are deeply concerned by incitement in the Hamas-run media and leadership, which is both anti-Israel and anti-Semitic; we are concerned about the deteriorating freedoms of religion and belief; and we are concerned about the continued use of extrajudicial executions of alleged collaborators.

Hamas’ military wing (Izz al-Din al-Qassem Brigades) is proscribed by the UK Government and have been since March 2001. Proscription makes it a criminal offence to invite support for a proscribed organisation which includes, but is not restricted to, the provision of funds.

The entirety of Hamas (including its political and military wings) has been listed by the European Union since 2003. The UK enforces the EU asset freeze on Hamas through the Terrorist Asset Freezing Act 2010 which makes it a criminal offence for individuals or entities to supply funding to any part of Hamas. In December 2014, the listing of Hamas was annulled on procedural grounds by the European Court. This does not mean that the EU no longer considers Hamas a terrorist organisation and the European Commission is challenging the European Court’s decision. The asset freeze remains in place while the legal challenge is ongoing.

The UK has a longstanding policy of no direct contact with Hamas. No UK aid money goes to Hamas. Safeguards ensure compliance with UK and EU legislation on terror financing.

Anti-Semitism is a separate issue, but the following should be noted to address the remark made in the petition. The United Kingdom remains firmly committed to fighting all forms of anti-Semitism, wherever it is found, both domestically and globally. The FCO plays an active part in the cross-Government working group on anti-Semitism. We encourage our embassies and high commissions across the world to remain vigilant to resurgent anti-Semitism and report to London on developing issues of concern. We work actively through multilateral organisations and bilaterally to tackle anti-Semitism wherever it is found.