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Lane: Egypt's bold statement

BY JOE LANE | MARCH 04, 2015 5:00 AM

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On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered his much-anticipated speech to congress. Amid the coverage leading up to the controversial speech, other news coming out of the Middle East has been overshadowed.

Last week, according to CNN, an Egyptian court declared Hamas a terrorist organization. Egypt, historically a mediator between Israelis and Palestinians, has generally tried to work toward peace in the region. By joining the United States and the European Union in designating Hamas as a terrorist organization, Egypt has threatened this mediator status.

Hamas is, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, a spinoff of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood — also recognized as a terrorist organization by Egypt. Understandably, when President Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was ousted in a coup during the summer of 2013, some changes were in order. Last month, the same court designated the armed wing of Hamas, the Al-Qassam Brigades, as a terrorist organization.

The combination of these two actions may be grounds for the belief that Egypt is no longer a country without allegiance. However, in providing this label, Egypt is merely paying attention to facts.

As the Huffington Post points out, Egypt’s new description for Hamas is not so much about how the organization treats Israel as it is about the trouble it has caused in the Sinai Peninsula.

If Hamas is going to cause problems for Egypt as a terrorist organization might, Egypt is justified in defining the group as a terrorist organization without fear of retaliation.

Having an impartial third party is critical to mellowing hostility in the Middle East. Such a country that is not only in the Middle East but also shares a border with the region of interest can be imperative to peace in the area. However, it’s important that this country be unbiased only when the facts allow it to be.

In the case of determining whether Hamas is a terrorist organization, the facts are not very impartial.

The FBI provides a definition of terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

Hamas, believe it or not, is first-and-foremost a political party. This means that, by nature, nearly every action the organization takes has political or social objectives. Furthermore, Hamas’ repeated use of missiles in attacking Israel and of Palestinian citizens as human shields in their missile storage fulfills the other component of the FBI’s terrorist organization definition. And while the FBI’s definition of a terrorist organization may be different from Egypt’s, the principle is still valid.

Yet for all that Hamas has done that proves it is a terrorist organization, the leaders of the group still contend that these labels are false.

 According to Arutz Sheva, a popular Israeli newspaper, a Hamas leader was quoted as saying, “[Hamas] will not be subject to the mercy of the Egyptian judges or politicians … those threatening us will lose their people and nation.”

Hamas has chosen to view the legislation as an attack of the Palestinian political party and has subsequently condemned it. Yet in an attempt to reiterate that the organization is not a terrorist group, it created a legitimate threat with terroristic implications.

Not only is Egypt correct in labeling Hamas a terrorist organization, it’s long overdue.


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