Committee hears evidence on Hamas listing
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'Hamas has no interest in peace'

Committee hears evidence on Hamas listing

"The Australian Parliament has made clear as to what constitutes a terrorist organisation. It is obvious that Hamas meets that definition."

Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar holds the child of an Al-Qassam Brigades fighter, killed in the May conflict with Israel, during a rally in Gaza. 
Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP
Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar holds the child of an Al-Qassam Brigades fighter, killed in the May conflict with Israel, during a rally in Gaza. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP

THE director-general of security at the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has declared he “would support” the listing of Hamas in its entirety as a terrorist organisation in Australia.

Mike Burgess gave evidence last Friday at a Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) hearing on the re-listing of the group’s military wing.

Representatives of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) and Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) also appeared at the online hearing.

Currently only the military wing – the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades – is proscribed. While the brigades carry out acts of terrorism and violence, Burgess said, “There’s no doubt the group as a whole does advocate for acts of violence.”

Noting much of language in Hamas’s founding charter “would not be out of place in a Nazi manifesto,” ECAJ co-CEO Peter Wertheim said the group “has made no attempt to hide or disguise the full enormity of what it stands for”.

“Its leaders boast about the essential unity of the organisation. All of its facets, including the al-Qassam Brigades, are under one ultimate command,” he said.

“Hamas is imbued through and through with a culture of terrorist violence. Criminality lies at the heart of the way Hamas acts against Israelis, and the way it rules over the Palestinians in Gaza. It should be proscribed in its entirety.”

AIJAC executive director Colin Rubenstein said the Brigades and political leadership share the same personnel, resources and goals and members shift fluidly between the two.

Noting a full listing would assist law enforcement in preventing Hamas fundraising in Australia, he added, “The more jurisdictions cut off Hamas’s fundraising ability, the lower the chance Hamas can pursue its violent goals.”

Noting parallels to a similar enquiry in June into the potential full listing of Hezbollah, ZFA director of public affairs Bren Carlill said that even if “one is determined to maintain this fictional distinction [between the political leadership and Brigades], the political wing of Hamas meets the definition of terrorist organisation, in and of itself”.

“The political wing of Hamas might not directly engage in terrorist acts, but it fosters, assists, prepares, plans and, indeed, finances terrorism,” he added.

“The Australian Parliament has made clear as to what constitutes a terrorist organisation. It is obvious that Hamas meets that definition. Just like it is obvious that Hezbollah meets the definition.”

Addressing the committee from Washington, Jonathan Schanzer, the senior vice-president for research at national security and foreign policy think tank Foundation for Defence of Democracies, said proscribing Hamas entirely could aid a two-state solution.

“If what you’re trying to do is to empower the more pragmatic faction within the Palestinian political divide, that is not Hamas,” he said.

“Hamas has no interest whatsoever in making peace.”

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