A UK Blow to Hamas

Implications of Designating Hamas as a Terrorist Organization by Britain

Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel speaks at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, England, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Jon Super, File)
Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel speaks at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, England, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Jon Super, File)

A UK Blow to Hamas

The British government announced on November 19, 2021 that it will present a draft bill before parliament declaring the political wing of the Palestinian group Hamas to be a terrorist organization. The proposals would outlaw flying Hamas’ flag, arranging to meet its members or wearing clothing supporting the group.  According to the proposed law, showing support for Hamas in Britain could be punishable with 14 years in prison. Politically, it could force Britain’s Labour party to take a position on Hamas, given the strong pro-Palestinian support on the left of the main opposition party.

Earlier this month, a man appeared in court for wearing T-shirts supporting Hamas' military wing and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which was banned in Britain in 2005. On three occasions in June, Feras Al Jayoosi, 34, wore the garments in the Golders Green area of north London, which has a large Jewish population.

The threat level has been increased from “substantial to severe,” said Home Secretary Priti Patel, because the November 15, 2021 blast was “the second incident in a month.” The new threat level means an attack is “highly likely.”

The U.K. government is set to proscribe Hamas under the country’s Terrorism Act, according to plans that will be announced by Home Secretary Priti Patel on November 19, 2021. Anyone who “recklessly” supports the Palestinian group, arranges meetings to back it, invites people to endorse it or is a member will face up to 10 years in prison under new laws to be tabled in the U.K. parliament. “Hamas is fundamentally and rabidly anti-Semitic,” Patel will say during a speech in Washington on Friday, according to multiple media reports. “Anti-Semitism is an enduring evil which I will never tolerate. Jewish people routinely feel unsafe — at school, in the streets, when they worship, in their homes, and online.”

According to the AFP report on November 19, 2021, Home Secretary Priti Patel said “that Hamas has significant terrorist capability, including access to extensive and sophisticated weaponry, as well as terrorist facilities, and it has long been involved in significant terrorist violence."

Hamas Movement

Hamas was founded in 1987, soon after the First Intifada broke out, as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood which in its Gaza branch had previously been non-confrontational toward Israel and hostile to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Canada, the European Union, Israel, Japan and the United States have designated Hamas as a terrorist organization. Australia, New Zealand, Paraguay and the United Kingdom have designated only its military wing as a terrorist organization.

Men hold up signs depicting a map of historical Palestine wrapped in the Palestinian flags next to the Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, and urging British parliament to impeach Home Secretary Priti Patel, during rally for Palestinian factions against Britain's possible designation of Hamas as a terror group, in Gaza City on November 23, 2021. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades

Hamas’ military wing, the cornerstone of the movement, is a manifestation of the ideology of resistance (Muqawama). During its brief history, the military wing, called the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has carried out hundreds of terror attacks against Israeli civilians. In a terror campaign it led in the 1990’s, Hamas carried out suicide bombings at restaurants, buses and public venues, killing hundreds of Israelis and derailing the fragile peace process. "Hamas commits, participates, prepares for and promotes and encourages terrorism," stated press release issued by the British Home Office.

In the wake of that Patel’s announcement, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said the move was a crime against “our Palestinian people and all their history of struggle, as well as a condemnation of the legitimate struggles of all free peoples against colonialism.”

The proposal by British Home Secretary Priti Patel to designate the political wing of Hamas as a terrorist organisation will be submitted for parliamentary approval this week. Britain designated the Hamas military wing as terrorist in 2001, but not the political wing. It had previously relied on the EU designation of the movement in its entirety. Post-Brexit, that is no longer possible. The move is almost certain to be approved by parliament, given the government's majority in the House of Commons.

Hamas constitutes a security threat

The British Home Secretary also stressed that Hamas constitutes a security threat against British society in general and British Jews in particular. “If we tolerate extremism, it will erode the rock of security. This is an important step, especially for the Jewish community. Hamas is fundamentally and rabidly anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism is an enduring evil which I will never tolerate.” Patel stated.

“Hamas does not differentiate between its military and political wings when it indiscriminately targets civilian populations with rockets, uses human shields, recruits children and conducts hostage-taking. Nor does it differentiate when it oppresses Christians and other minorities,” said CUFI UK’s executive director Des Starritt. He added, “full proscription ends the dangerous loophole via which Hamas can spread its extremist poison here, and raise funds and support in the U.K. We thank the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and the Government for this decisive action in tackling extremism.”

Tony Blair’s warning

The west still faces the threat of 9/11-style attacks by radical Islamist groups but this time using bio-terrorism, Tony Blair has warned. Blair also challenged the US president, Joe Biden, by urging democratic governments not to lose confidence in using military force to defend and export their values. In a speech to the defense think tank Rusi marking the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 al-Qaida terrorist attacks on the US, Blair, who was British prime minister at the time and supported military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, insisted the terrorist threat remained a first order issue.

Armed police outside Downing Street in London, Britain, 16 November 2021. The UK terror threat level has been raised to severe following the Liverpool hospital attack. (EPA/ANDY RAIN)

MI5: The terror threat would not change

A total of 31 late-stage terror plots have been foiled in the UK in the past four years, the head of MI5 has said. Director General Ken McCallum, who revealed in October there had been 27 attacks thwarted since 2017, said there had been six during the pandemic. The terror threat would not change overnight but there could be a "morale boost" for extremists, he said. "The terrorist threat to the UK, I am sorry to say, is a real and enduring thing…Of course there are likely to be terrorist attacks on UK soil on my watch.”

The ruling Conservative government in Britain has already recently passed legislation ending early release for anyone convicted of a serious terror offense. And it is considering new measures to make it easier to prosecute British jihadists returning from overseas, who, if convicted, would serve long jail terms and possible life imprisonment. Ministers say they are planning to overhaul the treason laws to cover membership or support of non-state actors who seek to harm Britain - that would include terrorist groups and hackers.

CONTEST Objectives

In 2003, the Government introduced its counter-terrorism strategy, CONTEST. Now in its fourth iteration, CONTEST aims to reduce the risk to the UK from Terrorism with four objectives:

• Pursue: to stop terrorist attacks

• Prevent: to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism

• Protect: to strengthen protection against a terrorist attack

• Prepare: to mitigate the impact of a terrorist attack


The decision to outlaw Hamas may lead to more restrictions on extremist organisations such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Britain. Although channels of communication between the Muslim Brotherhood and the British government do not exist under Patel, the move closes all possibilities of engagement.

The ban on Hamas came with the U.K.’s raising its terror threat to “severe” after an explosion outside a hospital in Liverpool on November 15, 2021.

This step is a strong and important preparation for the legal treatment and prosecution of the Muslim Brotherhood in Britain, given that Hamas is part of the international organization. The Brotherhood is in the eye of the storm, as the British government will work to limit the organization's political and media activities in light of the growing threat it poses to European and British identity.

Banning Hamas, affiliated with the Brotherhood, sends a clear message to the organization and to all extremist organizations that the government will impose strict policies, and will not allow the spread of extremism and terrorism, especially since the country suffers from terrorism. That the British Home Office took this step of limiting their activities was also a message to political Islam and especially to the Muslim Brotherhood. On the Brotherhood’s future activities after the Hamas ban, the organization will deal with extreme caution at the level of its political and media discourse, especially if it comes to the issue of anti-Semitism, because the organization is keen not to lose Britain as the largest haven and incubator for the organization.

Putting Hamas, with its political and military wings, on the ban list makes it easier for the British government to follow up and limit its activities, and this British move may encourage other European countries to put the organization on the ban lists.


Jassim Mohamad is a researcher who focuses on international security & counter-terrorism; his work covers Europe, Middle East (Iraq, Syria, Libya, Iran and Yemen), and African Sahel. He is the Head of the European Centre for Counterterrorism and Intelligence Studies ECCI.


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