Last week the Bush administration banned five charities that serve as financial conduits for the terror group Hamas, based in the West Bank and Gaza. The British government is now pressing the EU to enact an outright ban on Hamas's 'political wing':
A British official told BBC News Online that joint action by the EU would be best but that Britain could act by itself if necessary. The military wing of Hamas is already banned in the EU but there has been resistance to the idea of preventing its political wing from operating. A decision was last discussed by the EU in June but was put off. The timing was not felt to be right given the promising state of the peace process at that time.
You read the last sentence right: the EU felt that cracking down on front organisations for terror would be inimical to a negotiated peace. I throw up my hands in disbelief. Only when Israeli civilians feel safe when they travel on a bus or go shopping - the things that are the stuff of everyday life, but for which reserves of courage are required by Israelis - will a negotiated peace, and a Palestinian state, become a reality. And that requires a serious, good-faith effort on the part of the Palestinian Authority to defeat Hamas.
In the circumstances, the British government's pressure is not before time. The notion that the activities of Hamas can be segregated between the violent and the philanthropic is worse than ill-informed: it's frivolous. The distinction itself is a mainstay of Hamas's propaganda, and is a means by which it draws supporters into terrorism. The ostensibly non-violent activity - the Da'wah - agitates and recruits, provides infrastructure and raises funds. It is the route traversed by men who later become rioters and finally suicide-bombers.
While the EU is dallying, other democracies are not. Canada has hardly distinguished herself in the wider battle against terrorism, but the Chretien government banned both Hamas and Hizbollah at the end of last year, and without indulging any nonsense about differentiating between different types of pro-terror activity. Indeed the Chairman of the Canada-Palestine Association, Hanna Kawas, was moved to write to prime minister Jean Chretien:
The Canadian government's announcement to ban the Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and the Lebanese group Hizbollah, as 'terrorist groups' is ill advised, biased and outrageous.... It is worth noting that all the military actions of the three above-mentioned groups were carried out against their enemies on the soil of Palestine/Israel in the case of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and in Lebanon and in cross-border clashes with Israel in the case of Hizbollah. It is well documented that Israeli Government-sponsored terrorism has reached to the four corners of the world.
Thus the campaigners against a ban, from supposedly representative institutions, make no attempt to disguise the fact that they are justifying the activities of the organisations in toto. Given that they regard 'all the military actions' of Hamas et al as being 'carried out against their enemies on the soil of Palestine/Israel', we must assume that these actions encompass the periodic destruction of buses and everyone travelling in them. And the declared 'enemies' include the six-year-olds blown to bits in a pizza restaurant.
That's my point.
Regarding Canada, a minor piece of political trivia - and you'll see that's an apt description for the personality involved - was prompted in my mind by reading the English translation, provided today by the Middle East Media Research Institute, of an article by a Hamas leader, Dr 'Abd Al-'Aziz Al-Rantisi. Rantisi says:
Many thinkers and historians have exposed the lies of the Zionists, thus becoming a target of Zionist persecution. Some have been assassinated, some arrested, and some are prevented from making a living. For example, Jewish associations and organizations have filed lawsuits against famous French philosopher Roger Garaudy, who in 1995 published his book 'The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics' in which he disproves the myth of the 'gas chambers,' saying, 'This idea is not technically possible. So far, no one has clarified how these false gas chambers worked, and what proof there is of their existence. Anyone with proof of their existence must show it.'
Hamas, in short, promulgates the most repellent and bigoted claim to be heard anywhere: that the Holocaust was a hoax concocted by international Jewry in order to squeeze reparations out of Germany. The Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy was put on trial - unwisely in my view - in France and was required to pay nominal damages. (The full text of his book may be found here. Warning: this is extreme antisemitic material posted on a Holocaust-denial web site; I link to it purely for information.) Garaudy is, moreover, hardly a philosopher; he is celebrated in France purely for his longevity and the inconstancy of his beliefs. In the mid-70s he was a Christian-Marxist, basing his beliefs on a naive interpretation of the revolt of the Anabaptist Thomas Muentzer, of whom Engels also wrote uncomprehendingly. Before that he'd been an orthodox Communist. After it he became a Muslim.
One of the few public figures in Canada to oppose the banning of these terrorist groups was a Member of Parliament called Joe Comartin, a recent unsuccessful contender for the leadership of the small New Democratic Party. (The NDP is technically a sister party to the British Labour Party. Its number of MPs barely reaches double figures, however, while its views on globalisation and the war in Iraq are exactly contrary to those of Tony Blair - whom NDP MPs refused to applaud when he delivered a speech to the Canadian Parliament three years ago.) Comartin is known for the extremism of his views on this issue: he even argued in his leadership campaign for a 'right of return' to Israel for all Palestinian refugees from 1948, evidently without knowing or caring that such a step would destroy the demographic character of the Jewish state. Or perhaps he knew perfectly well.
And Comartin certainly isn't careful about his choice of ally. In his leadership campaign web site he posted an extensive selection of his anti-Israel invective, campaign resources and messages of support from the narrow but passionate constituency supporting him. Among that material was a list of recommended reading on the Israel-Palestine issue. And you can see what's coming.... The recommended books included Garaudy's toxic work of antisemitism. Comartin's web site came down quickly after the party election - but not so quickly that I failed to spot this. If any Canadian reader wishes to contact Comartin to ask him what he was doing promoting works of Holocaust denial, I should be interested to know his answer.
In the meantime, I can think of one aspect of the war on terror in which the UK is lagging. We've allowed fund-raising for terror groups to be practised largely unhindered. We should follow Canada's example, and put a stop to it right now.