John Minto: Why New Zealand should not designate Hamas a terrorist group

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A Palestinian response to Israel's genocidal war on Gaza
A Palestinian response to Israel's genocidal war on Gaza . . . now more than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed, most of them women and children. Image: APR

COMMENTARY: By John Minto

The New Zealand government is shortly to announce whether it will designate Hamas a “terrorist” group in response to the October 7 attack on Israel in which Hamas was involved.

The US and most of the Western world calls Hamas “terrorists” but so far New Zealand has only designated the armed wing of Hamas as a terrorist group.

More importantly, the United Nations — along with most of the rest of the world — has not taken this step and neither should New Zealand.

It is for Palestinians to decide which groups they support in their struggle for self-determination but it’s important here to respond to the incessant, hysterical lies told about Hamas by Israel and the pro-Israel lobby around the world.

There are probably more lies spoken about Hamas than any other organisation in the world.

One of these is the lie that the Hamas Charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews worldwide. (For example, this was claimed in an opinion piece in The Post newspaper recently by Israeli diplomat and former ambassador to the United Kingdom Daniel Taub  — in response to which the newspaper declined to print any letters)

The truth is that in the latest Hamas charter from 2017, the organisation says

“Hamas reiterates that its conflict is with the Zionist project and not with the Jews based on their religion.”
“Hamas is not fighting against the Jews because they are Jews, but against the Zionists who are occupying Palestine.”
“Hamas rejects the persecution of people or the undermining of their rights on nationalist, religious or sectarian ground.”

Hamas accepts Israel with 1967 borders
In fact, their new charter goes further and Hamas accepts the state of Israel based on 1967 borders — precisely the same policy as the New Zealand government along with the US, the UK and most of the world!

It is clear to everyone that war crimes were committed in the October 7 attack on Israel.

Killing civilians and taking civilian hostages are war crimes under the Fourth Geneva Convention and should be condemned.

These crimes should be investigated by the International Criminal Court as were crimes in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Those investigations resulted in arrest warrants issued against Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

The same process should be followed for the October 7 attack on Israel and Israel’s genocidal response. For example, arrest warrants should be issued by the ICC against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and at least half his cabinet for war crimes and crimes against humanity — including the crimes of genocide and apartheid.

As things stand there were eight Palestinian resistance groups involved in the October 7 attack on Israel and we simply do not know yet which groups and leaders were responsible for war crimes.

Palestinian resistance groups have the right under international law to take up arms to fight against their colonial occupiers just as the African National Congress (ANC) had the right to take up arms to fight for freedom in apartheid South Africa.

Aotearoa New Zealand must respect this right and not pander to the deep-seated racism and cheap political sloganeering of the pro-Israel lobby.

A knee-jerk reaction from New Zealand to designate Hamas a terrorist group would be a further step backwards from an independent foreign policy.

John Minto is national chair of the Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa (PSNA).

The besieged Gaza Strip
The besieged Gaza Strip . . . Hamas’s surprise attack on October 7 came after Israeli settlers had stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and after a record number of Palestinians had been killed by Israel at that point in 2023. Image: Al Jazeera
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