Yesterday, the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS) the Uruguayan Luis Almagro posted a press release where he announced that, for the OAS, Hamas is a terrorist group. This designation comes as the conflict between Israeli defense forces and Palestinian militants escalates into the bloodiest clashes since 2014.
According to the statement authored by the OAS General Secretary the rocket attacks launched by Hamas militants to Israeli civilians “undoubtedly constitute attacks of a terrorist nature” condemning the group that currently controls the Gaza strip use of “children and woman as human shields” and calling the “militarization of residential areas” as deserving the “most absolute repudiation and condemnation”.
Almagro, who has also famously condemned Maduro’s regime in Venezuela, also said the attacks launched by Hamas on key Israeli cities makes the “invocation of the principle of legitimate defense by Israel essential”.
The move received quick support by pro-Israeli organizations in the U.S, with AIPAC (American-Israeli Political Action Committee) lauding the Secretary for his decision and commenting that “defeating terrorism is necessary for peace” and the American Jewish Committee also applauded Almagro’s decision, calling it “an example for all the nations of the Americas”.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry has recognized this sign of support by Almagro and tweeted a public statement congratulating the Uruguayan, saying that Hamas are “endangering the lives of Palestinians and Israelis alike”.
The designation per se was made by the OAS General Secretary, not by the OAS as a whole, which is why the qualification did not need a roll call vote by the nation-members of the organization. Although it is unlikely this designation would create much of a diplomatic or real effect over a conflict occurring thousands of miles away from the area of influence of the OAS, it does provide symbolic support for the Israeli government amid the spiralling violence that is engulfing the region.
It is also not the first time that Almagro has expressed public support towards Israel, with the General Secretary also praising Israel as a “full-fledged democracy, fully committed to democratic principles, constitutional order and the rule of law” during a conversation with the Israel Council of Foreign Relations in 2014.
Who else say Hamas is a terrorist group?
The designation by Almagro adds the OAS as one of the multilateral organizations that consider Hamas to be a terrorist organization. However, the Pan-American association is not alone in its opinion, with the U.S Department of State famously listing Hamas within their list of Foreign terrorist organizations since October 1997, which makes it illegal for people in the United States to “provide material support or resources to a designated FTO”.
The European Union also lists Hamas as a designated terrorist organization, according to the listing made by the Council of the European Union. This designation, however, has been challenged within Europe with European courts ordering the Council in 2014 to remove Hamas from the list of terrorist organizations, an order that was then appealed by the council.
Although there has been a long-running battle between Hamas and the EU, as of 2021 the official list of the European Union still includes Hamas on it. The latest court ruling affirming the decision of retaining the organization listed as a terrorist while also dismissing an appeal made to unfreeze their financial assets.
The decision of the OAS (or at least its General Secretary) to join the EU and the US at designating Hamas as a terrorist organization will certainly also raise questions on the way the UN has handled the issue of Hamas.
Currently, although the United Nations have passed more than 500 resolutions condemning the actions of the Israeli Defense forces in the Palestinian conflict, the international body has yet to pass a single one openly condemning Hamas’ use of rockets against Israeli civilians, with a 2018 resolution proposed by the United States failing to garner the required 2/3 support needed for its approval.
Although there have been no official resolution approved by the General Assembly nor a specific description of Hamas as a terrorist organization (the UN does not have a list of terrorist organizations) there has been some pushback of UN officials to the latest rocket attacks of Hamas towards civic targets, with the spokesperson of Michelle Bachelet calling the attacks “a violation of international law”.
However, the rather mild reaction of the UN towards Hamas certainly contrasts with the decisiveness shown by Mr Almagro or other countries in the region, who have decided to explicitly refer to Hamas as a terrorist organization, and will certainly be used by critics of the UN’s approach towards the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most complex, controversial and challenging international problems in the world, with passionate claims on both sides of the issue. However, few people will disagree that launching rockets towards civilian targets is detrimental to the peace and prosperity of the region, a diagnostic that is now also voiced by the OAS General Secretary Luis Almagro.