EU: Court decision to remove Hamas from terror list “legal” not “political”

Palestinian militants of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas's armed wing, take part in a parade marking the 27th anniversary of the resistance movement's creation on December 14, 2014 in Gaza City. AFP / Mahmoud Hams

Published Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Updated at 3:24 pm (GMT +2): Palestinian resistance group Hamas must be removed from the EU’s terrorism blacklist, but its assets will stay frozen, a European court ruled on Wednesday, hours before the European Parliament overwhelmingly backed the recognition of a Palestinian state within 1967 borders “in principle.”

The original listing of Hamas in 2001 was based not on sound legal judgements but on conclusions derived from the media and the Internet, the General Court of the European Union said in a statement.

But it stressed that Wednesday’s decision to remove Hamas was based on technical grounds and does “not imply any substantive assessment of the question of the classification of Hamas as a terrorist group.”

The freeze on Hamas’s funds will also temporarily remain in place for three months pending any appeal by the EU, the Luxembourg-based court said.

Hamas, which has been in power in the Gaza Strip since 2007, had appealed against its inclusion on the blacklist on several grounds.

Hamas’s military wing was added to the European Union’s first-ever terrorism blacklist drawn up in December 2001 in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States.

The EU blacklisted the political wing of Hamas in 2003 after the group claimed responsibility for a spate of attacks on Israeli targets during the Second Intifada, a popular uprising that erupted in 2000 against Israel’s decades-long occupation.

Hamas was founded in 1987 shortly after the start of the first Palestinian Intifada.

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The European Union said Hamas is still on its terror list despite Wednesday’s ruling.

“The EU continues to consider Hamas a terrorist organization,” European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic confirmed, saying the EU General Court’s decision “is a legal ruling, and not a political decision taken by EU governments.”

Hamas, meanwhile, hailed the decision, describing the move as a “victory for justice.”

“We thank the European Court for its decision. This is a victory for all advocates of liberation from all forms of occupation,” senior Hamas member Moussa Abu Marzouq said.

A lawyer for Hamas, Liliane Glock, told AFP she was “satisfied with the decision.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded the EU immediately restore Hamas to its terrorism blacklist.

“We are not satisfied with the European explanation by which Hamas has been withdrawn from this list. We expect the Europeans to puts Hamas back on the list immediately,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

Palestinian state “in principle”

Meanwhile, the European Parliament overwhelmingly backed the recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders “in principle” on Wednesday, following a series of votes on the issue in EU nations which have enraged Israel.

Lawmakers approved the non-binding motion by 498 votes to 88 with 111 abstentions, although it was a watered down version of an original motion which had urged EU member states to recognize a Palestinian state unconditionally.

The motion said the parliament “supports in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood and the two state solution, and believes these should go hand in hand with the development of peace talks, which should be advanced.”

The socialist, greens and radical left groups in the European Parliament had wanted an outright call for the recognition of Palestinian statehood.

But the center-right European People’s Party of European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, the leading group in parliament, forced them into a compromise motion linking it to peace talks.

“There is no immediate unconditional recognition (of statehood),” EPP chief Manfred Weber said.

But his socialist counterpart Gianni Pittella insisted it was a “historic decision” and a “victory for the whole parliament.”

European politicians have become more active in pushing for a sovereign Palestine since the collapse of US-sponsored peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in April, and ensuing conflict in Gaza, where more than 2,000 Palestinians, at least 70 percent of them civilians, and on the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and six civilians were killed this summer.

EU’s vote follows Sweden’s decision in October to recognize Palestine and non-binding votes since then by parliaments in Britain, France, Ireland, and Spain in favor of recognition demonstrated growing European impatience with the stalled peace process.

The roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict date back to 1917, when the British government, in the now-infamous “Balfour Declaration,” called for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Zionist state – a move never recognized by the international community.

In 1988, Palestinian leaders led by Yasser Arafat declared the existence of a state of Palestine inside the 1967 borders and the state’s belief “in the settlement of international and regional disputes by peaceful means in accordance with the charter and resolutions of the United Nations.”

Heralded as a “historic compromise,” the move implied that Palestinians would agree to accept only 22 percent of historic Palestine in exchange for peace with Israel. It is now believed that only 17 percent of historic Palestine is under Palestinian control following the continued expansion of illegal Israeli settlements.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) this year set November 2016 as the deadline for ending the Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967 and establishing a two-state solution.

It is worth noting that numerous Palestinian factions, including Hamas, as well as pro-Palestine advocates support a one-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians would be treated equally, arguing that the creation of a Palestinian state beside Israel would not be sustainable and that it would mean recognizing a state of Israel on territories seized forcefully by Zionists before 1967.

They also believe that the two-state solution, which is the only option considered by international actors, won’t solve existing discrimination, nor erase economic and military tensions.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar, Anadolu)

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