Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network condemns in the strongest terms the British government’s criminalization of the Hamas movement, specifically its political wing, through the use of the “terrorist” label, and demands that all such designations targeting liberation movements be cancelled or rescinded. It is particularly appalling to see such an action from the British state, which holds the greatest responsibility for the ongoing colonization of Palestinian land and dispossession of the Palestinian people. This declaration is nothing more than another British colonial crime against the people of Palestine, continuing a record of over 100 years of attempted subjugation of Palestinians.
British colonialism and crimes in Palestine
Britain conspired with other Western imperialist powers and especially France to divide up not only Palestine but the entire Arab region in the Sykes-Picot agreement. The results of this colonial assault on the Arab people continue to undermine all efforts for national liberation and self-determination throughout the region. In 1917, British official Lord Balfour was responsible for the notorious Balfour Declaration, that aimed to gift the Palestinian people’s land to the European colonialist, racist Zionist movement for a “national home for the Jewish people.”
Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the British state supported, funded and armed the Zionist movement; reflecting its recognition of Theodor Herzl’s vision expressed in his letter seeking the support of Cecil Rhodes: “it is something colonial…put the stamp of your authority on the Zionist plan…quite good for England, for greater Britain.” The assault on Palestine was, of course, part and parcel of the crimes of British colonialism spanning the globe and particularly targeting Africa and Asia.
Under the British mandate, Palestinians’ homes were blown up and Palestinians executed for rejecting British and Zionist colonialism. Indeed, the early poetry, songs and symbolism of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement was developed in British jails for revolutionary Palestinians. Many of the British “emergency laws” imposed on occupied Palestine have been continued today by the Zionist regime; for example, administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial, indefinitely renewable, on the basis of secret evidence.
Britain is directly responsible for the crimes of colonialism and Zionism in occupied Palestine; it is directly responsible for creating the framework for Zionist armed groups to perpetrate the Nakba against the Palestinian people, carrying out massacres, destroying hundreds of villages, and forcing the vast majority of the Palestinian people into exile as refugees. Nevertheless, Britain has not only avoided any accountability for these crimes, it has refused to even apologize to the Palestinian people for the blatant colonialism of the Balfour declaration. Instead, the British state celebrated 100 years of Balfour in 2017, with then-Prime Minister Theresa May inviting war criminal Benjamin Netanyahu to sit beside her as they celebrated the anniversary “with pride.”
British state: perpetrator of terror
The British state is the perpetrator of terror against the Palestinian people for over 100 years. Not only does it have no right or legitimacy to designate Palestinian resistance organizations, political parties or revolutionary movements as “terrorist” (nor did it in 1929, 1936 or throughout the history of the Palestinian struggle), but instead, it is British officials who should be forced to stand trial and be held accountable for these historic and ongoing state crimes against the people of Palestine and the peoples of the world.
To those everywhere subjected to British colonialism, it is the Tory (Conservative) Party and the Labour Party who may be considered terror organizations, funding and directing the perpetration of massacres, confiscation of people’s resources, destruction of popular organizations and imprisonment of leaders seeking freedom and self-determination throughout the bloody history of the British empire. This is not a long-forgotten history; the reverberations of British colonial crimes continue today across continents, while Britain continues to occupy and colonize the north of Ireland, carrying out ongoing colonial crimes.
This is, of course, not to mention the ongoing crimes of the state against workers, impoverished and marginalized people, oppressed communities and especially formerly colonized peoples inside Britain and the United Kingdom today. Rather than providing for the needs of the people, the British state continues to invest in “security” alliances, “terror” designations and militarized, racist policing, while corporate directors and politicians evade accountability for even their domestic crimes.
“Terrorist” listings: A colonial weapon
Palestinians, like other colonized and oppressed peoples, have the right to resist. They have the right to struggle, including by the use of armed struggle, for their freedom. Palestinians have a right to organize themselves into political parties, social movements and revolutionary groups to seek their liberation from the occupation on their land for over 73 years. Any attempt to label Palestinian organizations seeking to achieve this goal as “terrorist” flies in the face of international law and any sense of justice.
The systematic listing of Palestinians and their political organizations and organizations of resistance and revolutionary struggle as “terrorists” is meant as a colonial weapon, taken up by the imperialist powers of the world, in order to undermine the Palestinian liberation struggle. The same is true in the United States, Canada and the European Union, and this is also why we see these countries pressuring reactionary Arab regimes engaging in normalization with the Israeli occupation and acting as puppets for imperialist interests to also impose the “terrorist” label on Palestinians seeking to return to their homes and liberate their land.
Many Western countries and imperialist-backed governments — see, for example, the Duterte regime in the Philippines new Anti-Terror Bill, used against activists, peoples’ rights workers and revolutionary movements — have based their anti-terrorism legislation in many aspects on the U.S. list of “foreign terrorist organizations.” While far from the first step in the U.S.’ use of the “terrorist” label against Black, indigenous and working class movements at home and liberation struggles around the world, modern U.S. “anti-terror” legislation was introduced in 1995, 1996 and again in 2001.
“Terrorist” listings in support of the Oslo process
The first iteration of today’s list of “foreign terrorist organizations” was created by the United States government specifically to attack organizations that aimed to “disrupt the Middle East Peace Process” — that is, the Palestinian and Arab resistance that rejected the attempt to liquidate the Palestinian struggle through the Oslo process. This political framework — the use of “terrorist” designations to punish noncompliant Palestinians and those who refuse to relinquish their rights or their vision for liberation — continues to define the use of “terrorist” listing against Palestinians today. The “terrorist” label is used to impose conditions of defeat or surrender on the Palestinian people, while those that reject such conditions and continue to resist are criminalized.
In many ways, the “terrorist” lists in these countries bear a strong resemblance to the ever-growing lists of “illegal organizations” and “terrorist organizations” created by the Zionist state. In its zeal to criminalize the Palestinian movement inside Palestine and internationally, those lists have been expanded to encompass human rights organizations, student movements, solidarity organizations, cultural groups and others.
In February 2021, Samidoun was listed as a “terrorist” organization because of its international organizing to free Palestinian prisoners; this was followed in October by the listing of Al-Haq, Bisan Centre, Addameer, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and Defence for Children International Palestine. Throughout this time, multiple Palestinian community and advocacy organizations outside Palestine were similarly labeled, with vague allegations in their case of “supporting Hamas.”
While some states have expressed their hesitation to fully embrace the attempt to list the six human rights and legal organizations as “terrorist” (precisely at the same time these Palestinian groups aim to hold Israel accountable at the International Criminal Court), they continue to embrace the use of “terrorist” designations as a weapon against the Palestinian people overall.”
The war at home: Anti-Palestinian Repression in Britain
The listing of Hamas as a “terrorist” organization not only aims to undermine the Palestinian resistance inside Palestine and anti-imperialist resistance throughout the region, it also aims to terrorize the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim communities in Britain and even supporters of justice for the Palestinian people. In the United States, such listings have been used similarly to criminalize even charity work; the Palestinian political prisoners of the Holy Land Foundation Five remain behind bars today because of this type of abuse of the “terror” label.
Under the so-called “PREVENT” program, teachers and other workers are forcibly engaged as spies and informers for the state to report on “warning signs” of “radicalization.” As a result, children wearing buttons with a “Free Palestine” slogan have been questioned by police. Arab and Muslim families have found police at their doors, questioning them and criminalizing them, for expressing political opinions, especially about Palestine.
Most recently, a man wearing a t-shirt during the May 2021 Israeli attacks on Gaza and Jerusalem and the uprising throughout Palestine, which bore the images of the armed resistance wings of Islamic Jihad and Hamas, was put on trial for criminal charges. All of this is part and parcel of the application of the Terrorism Act, which aims in large part to repress freedom of expression and opinion in support of national liberation movements and resistance to colonialism.
This exists on a continuum with the ongoing efforts to silence support for Palestine in Britain, from the corporate/right-wing attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and any politician expressing the slightest sympathy for the Palestinian cause; the repression of student organizations engaged in action for Palestine; the false use of anti-Semitism claims to target advocates for Palestinian liberation; the firing of professors such as David Miller; and the expression of sympathy by both Tory and Labour officials for far-right, racist Zionist Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hovotely when she was met with a peaceful, loud student demonstration. Despite all of this, support for justice and liberation in Palestine continues to grow among trade unions, workers, students and all sectors of society.
At the same time, Zionist organizations appear to enjoy free rein to support and fundraise for colonialism in Palestine and support the Israeli army engaged in war crimes against the Palestinian people, even openly calling to “burn” Palestine, working hand in hand with the Israeli Embassy in Britain to target the growing support for the Palestinian people. The minister who issued this designation, Priti Patel, was forced to resign in 2017 from her previous position as Minister for International Development due to her multiple undisclosed and secret meetings with Israeli officials, Israel lobbyists and the Conservative Friends of Israel, in violation of the Ministerial Code.
Why this designation?
The British state does not only use the “terrorist” designation in Palestine, of course; it uses it most avidly, perhaps, in the north of Ireland, in order to implement ongoing British colonialism and continue to divide the Irish people. Issam Hijjawi Bassalat, a Palestinian doctor, remains imprisoned alongside many Irish republican prisoners in British jails in the north of Ireland, targeted by British intelligence for attending political meetings where he expressed solidarity between the Irish and Palestinian cause.
In the north of Ireland, “anti-terror” laws are used to justify long-term detention before trial; while Dr. Bassalat and the Saoradh 9 have been imprisoned without bail for over a year, almost no forward motion has been made at all on the charges against them. The long record of internment and imprisonment against the Irish movement has led to a strong political prisoners’ movement, which led to not only the hunger strikes and martyrdom of historic leaders like Bobby Sands but ongoing solidarity between Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails and Irish prisoners in British jails.
Today, Dr. Hijjawi Bassalat’s case once again illustrates the clear connection between anti-colonial struggles. This reminds us also of the case of Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, anti-imperialist Lebanese Communist fighter for Palestine, imprisoned in France for 37 years, whose freedom is an urgent demand.
This designation aims not only to target Hamas alone, but to target the entire Palestinian people, especially the resistance. It aims to give police a weapon to use against demonstrators and social movements on the streets expressing solidarity with the Palestinian resistance by all means. It must be noted that hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in British cities and throughout the UK in May and June 2021 expressing full solidarity with the Palestinian people. That solidarity will not be suppressed or frightened into silence through this designation.
It is also intended to further isolate and entrench the siege on Gaza, implemented now for over 15 years and a form of punishment against the Palestinian people for making a democratic choice to vote for the resistance, an outcome unacceptable to the U.S., UK, EU and other imperialist powers. It also seeks to undermine the position of the Palestinian resistance in the ongoing discussions of a prisoner exchange, aiming to keep 4,650 Palestinian political prisoners — including national leaders like Ahmad Sa’adat and Marwan Barghouti — behind bars.
However, like all such efforts to destroy the Palestinian resistance through criminalization, “terrorist” labels, mass repression, imprisonment and assassination, such intentions will receive no satisfaction through this latest British attack on the Palestinian resistance and Palestine as a whole.
Like all such efforts to undermine Palestinian rights, this designation of Hamas as a “terrorist” organization requires organizations in support of Palestine to speak up, resist and fight back against the use of the terror label to criminalize resistance. Palestinians have a right to resist occupation and colonialism by all means necessary, including armed struggle. This is a principle not only of international law but of basic justice.
Palestinian resistance is a response to ongoing siege, bombardment, extrajudicial killings, land confiscation, mass imprisonment, home demolitions, settlement construction and the denial of millions of Palestinian refugees’ rights to return home. The most important work that groups in solidarity with Palestine can do is to reject the “terrorist” designation in full and strengthen their work to support Palestinian liberation, through demonstrations, direct actions, mobilization and action to confront the officials in Britain — and all imperialist powers — responsible for continuing to provide unlimited diplomatic, military, political and financial support to the Israeli occupation in Palestine, and to hold them accountable.
Of course, this includes intensifying actions to escalate the boycott of Israel, divestment from the corporations continuing to profit from colonialism in Palestine, and sanctions on the Zionist regime responsible for ongoing war crimes, including a military embargo. In this context, we view the actions by Palestine Action to confront the Israeli-owned Elbit arms factories in Britain, costing these arms dealers millions of pounds, as an exceptional example of confronting the real purveyors of terror in occupied Palestine. They have continued these actions despite arrests, raids and trials for their civil disobedience and direct action, and we express our strongest solidarity with Palestine Action.
We also urge all supporters of Palestine, in Britain and around the world, to escalate solidarity with the Palestinian political prisoners. They represent the Palestinian resistance in all of its forms, from protesting against land confiscation to organizing students to taking up arms in the fight for freedom, and a true leadership of the Palestinian people that Israel aims to isolate from their fellow Palestinians, the Arab people and our international movements for social justice and liberation. Their liberation from Israeli occupation prisons is a necessity.
We can confront unjust “terrorist” listings, criminalization and repression with stronger mobilization for Palestine and against all imperialist interventions in the region and in the world. Together, we can stand with the Palestinian people and their resistance, to achieve a free Palestine from the river to the sea.