The Problem With Labeling Hamas ‘A Terrorist Organization’

Paul Pillar, a 28-year CIA veteran and now senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies, writes in The National Interest about how ridiculous and self-serving is the reaction of Israel (and the U.S.) to the Fatah’s announcement of political reconciliation with Hamas.

Pillar argues that “The Israeli and U.S. posture toward Hamas is fundamentally self-contradictory.”

Hamas is said to be a “terrorist” organization and as such not an acceptable interlocutor for negotiations. (In fact, Israel has engaged in extensive and detailed negotiations with Hamas over exchanges of prisoners.) Terrorism is a tactic, one whose use comes and goes, not a fixed category of people or of groups. If previous use of that tactic were to be a negotiating disqualifier forever, a lot of useful business would not get done, including on the very conflict at hand. We went through all this with the PLO; there was a time when Israel was vehemently opposed to anyone even talking to the PLO, much less negotiating with it, and went as far as assassinating the organization’s representatives to try to keep the United States from talking to it. The birth of the state of Israel also included much terrorism, perpetrated by men who went on to become top leaders of Israel.

The Israeli prime minister says Hamas is “dedicated to the destruction of Israel.” Actually, Hamas leaders have repeatedly made clear a much different posture, one that involves indefinite peaceful coexistence with Israel even if they officially term it only a hudna or truce. It would be more accurate to say that Israel is dedicated to the destruction of Hamas, an objective that Israel has demonstrated with not just its words but its deeds, including prolonged collective punishment of the population of the Gaza Strip in an effort to strangle the group. Such efforts have included large-scale violence that—although carried out overtly by military forces and thus not termed terrorism—has been every bit as lethal to innocent civilians. In such circumstances, why should Hamas be expected to be the first to go beyond the vocabulary ofhudna and mouth some alternative words about the status of its adversary?

Read the post in full here.

Pillar goes on to note, as I’ve noted before, that there is good reason to believe Hamas is on the road to moderating its position on violent resistance to Israel. Acknowledging that, along with the hypocrisies noted above, would denote a willingness to solve the conflict once and for all. Refusing to acknowledge these things, on the other hand, denotes a firm commitment to perpetuating Israel’s current military and political domination over the West Bank and Gaza.

30 thoughts on “The Problem With Labeling Hamas ‘A Terrorist Organization’”

  1. "Terrorism is a tactic," the word has over a hundred meaning,so politicians will spin it to fit their political agenda.

  2. One problem with labelling Hamas as terrorists, and refusing to negotiate with them, is that many of Israel's leaders have themselves participated in terrorist acts:

    Israeli Prime Ministers who were Terrorists

    David Ben-Gurion — #1 — presided over the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians
    Levi Eshkol — #2 — presided over the ethnic cleansing of 250,000 Palestinians
    Menachem Begin — #3 — the preeminent terrorist in the Middle East, before Ben-Gurion and Eshkol surpassed him
    Ariel Sharon — #4 — responsible for massacres at Qibya, Sabra and Shatila
    Benjamin Netanyahu — #5 — responsible for Operation Cast Lead and Operation Pillar of Fire
    Yitzhak Shamir — #6 — had British and Swedish nobles murdered for trying to have Arabs treated as equals of Jews
    Ehud Barak — #7 — participated in death squads that killed women, policemen and a poet known as "The Conscience"
    Golda Meir — #8 — threatened to destroy the world with nukes during a BBC interview
    Shimon Peres — #9 — aggressively pursued nuclear weapons and succeeded in delivering them
    Yitzhak Rabin — #10 — signed an order for the children of Lydda to be ethnically cleansed "quickly without attention to age"
    Yigal Allon — #11 — served in Special Night Squads which tortured and killed "without compunction"
    Ehud Olmert — #12 — presided over the 2006 invasion of Lebanon, which killed 1,300 people and displaced more than a million
    Moshe Sharett — #13 — was a staunch proponent of compulsory population transfer (ethnic cleansing)

    1. One problem with your post is that is partially fictional and completely one sided. If Israel is committing ethnic cleansing, how come the population of the Palestinians grows so rapidly?
      How come there are more male casualties than women and children, despite the bombardments are "carelessly" made in populated areas?
      And one last thing, if they're not terrorists… just a shot of reality:

      Try to find a difference and distinguish between the photos… can you tell who's who?

  3. The Israeli prime minister says Hamas is “dedicated to the destruction of Israel.” Actually, Hamas leaders have repeatedly made clear a much different posture, one that involves indefinite peaceful coexistence with Israel even if they officially term it only a hudna or truce. Good post
    friv 10

  4. For years, since it was elected as Gaza authority, Hamas has supported the international law mandate that Israel must withdraw from Palestine, which is supported by every authoritative body on the planet, and physically blocked by the gangsters, terrorists and cowardly distance-bombers of the USA, who excel in nothing but low-brow thuggery.

  5. Israel has terrorized the Palestinians and Israeli Arabs since its founding with US approval. The USA has committed terrorist acts against Native Americans, Native Alaskans, Native Hawaiians, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans and African Americans. The USA took land away from the Native Americans and killed off most of the people, imprisoned Queen Lilioukalani when they annexed Hawaii, put Japanese Americans in concentration camps, enslaved African Americans, took land away from Mexico and took over Spain's last colonies in the Americas and the Pacific and interfered in Colombia's affairs by encouraging Panama to secede so they could build the Panama Canal.

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  7. The only reason Israel negotiate with a terrorist organization is because of their value for life and the feeling that they have no choice. I think that this can be proven by the fact that Gilad Shalit was exchanged for over 1,000 'terrorists.' Putting aside whether this is ethically correct or not it clearly proves that Israel value an Israeli as priceless. And for this reason Israel had to negotiate.

  8. Can you give ANY support to your claim: "Hamas leaders have repeatedly made clear a much different posture, one that involves indefinite peaceful coexistence with Israel" ???

    HAMAS repeatedly sayed Israel should not exist, that's the whole problem in a nutshell.

  9. What unmitigated BS. So,let's go for a "temporary" truce, so that Hamas can rearm and THEN execute its long term objective of destroying Israel, as mandated by its charter. That is why it WILL NEVER renounce its long term goal of liquidating the Jewish state. Now please tell us that hatred and incitement to violence does NOT beget savage murder ! (Tell that to the Tutsis, the Ibo and the Coptic Christians.) IN STARK CONTRAST, regardless of what duplicity and bad faith you accuse Israeli leadership of, they have publicly supported THE 2 STATE SOLUTION

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  11. I think that this can be proven by the fact that Gilad Shalit was exchanged for over 1,000 'terrorists.' Putting aside whether this is ethically correct or not it clearly proves that Israel value an Israeli as priceless.

  12. Now, if you look at the history of the area of 'palestine' or biblical 'canaan' the Jews have been there(historically and archaeologically) for thousands of years. there have been different rulers throughout the times that have taken control. Before World war Two, if any elderly Europeans recall, those countries actually told the Jews to get out of Europe and move to what was then called 'palestine'. When most of them came to the land around the 1920s was mostly desert. They built homes, and cultivated the land. Once Israel became a state almost a million Jews from Arab countries were kicked out and told to go there. Its ironic how just a short time ago the world actually wanted all the Jews to go there. With regard to the Israeli Prime ministers killing and displacing Palestinians, not true. They were given an option to either stay or leave. Those who stayed, stayed. Those who left had a choice of 22 other Arabic countries to go to. When a land gets established or conquered by war, it is up to them what to do with the current peoples. Israel won 'gaza' and the 'west bank' and the 'golan' in war. Technically, they decide what they want to do about control. Just read a history book. In fact, they relinquished control of some of those areas to the PA. In terms of Hamas as a terrorist organization,if you watch Gaza TV their shows clearly state how violence is the only means to get what you want. ( on children's television as well). In addition, Hamas, who is now in control of the gaza bank, had millions of dollars to use towards infrastructure and/or other means of supporting a people(such as food or weapons). However, they chose to spend it on underground tunnels to get into Israel. they were just given another billion dollars; what do you suppose they'll spend it on now? In fact, not only did the PA reject a two state solution, their latest proposal was to kick all of the Jews out,, but wouldn't promise not to attack them. Now, the PA(Palestinian Authority) has control of arab areas(gaza and the west bank cities such as Jericho and Bethlehem). The issue to be focused on rather, is the relationship between the Palestinian people and Hamas. As mentioned, Hamas 'wants peace and peaceful negotiations' but I for one have yet to see it. This past summer, they had started shooting rockets into Israel, and Israel had agreed to a cease fire three times, and Hamas broke each one. They still continue to use violence as a means of achieving something. this is what a terrorist organization does(like isis). They are similar in the sense of their lack of regard for their own people, and the horrible way in which they treat others. (Just watch a video of them shooting rockets into Israel; there are almost always a roup of children nearby). Israel built bomb shelters to keep thier people safe; Hamas does the opposite. There have been more attacks on Israelis(and Americans in Israel) than vise-versa. Just google "hamas children' an "israeli children". You'd have to be blind not to notice the difference.

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  14. Has the author ever heard of takkiya? Read the Hamas charter, it promises the annihilation of Israel and every Jew on earth.

    1. And what would taqiya have to do with any of that? First of all, it’s a Shiite concept and Hamas is a Sunni group. Secondly, it only allows a Muslim to lie about one thing (whether or not he’s a Muslim) and only for one reason (if being known to be a Muslim would endanger his life).

      1. The only important and relevant thing to notice from your comment, is that you don’t deny that Hamas promises the annihilation of Israel etc. in their charter – directly contradicting the key argument in the article.

        1. Couldn’t you comprehend what he wrote? Shiite Muslims have a different perspective of Islam. So, Taqiya is a Shiite concept, and Hamas is a Sunni Islam group. So, Hamas has nothing to do with the promise of annihilation of Israel.

          1. Wow.. You haven’t even read hamas’ charter, and yet you dare jumping into arguments about the subject.

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