While the U.S.and other Western countries declare Hamas a “terrorist organization” on paper, Israel has to deal with this reality on a daily basis.
For Israel, Hamas’ status as a terrorist organization means dealing with rockets, terrorists, intelligence, checkpoints, and, sometimes, expelling Hamas leaders from Israel – even at the expense of international criticism.
For instance, yesterday (Wednesday), an Israeli court ordered Hamas parliament member Muhammed Abu-Tir expelled from Israel, after he entered Jerusalem despite his lack of a residence permit.
Israeli officials escorted the formerly orange-bearded Abu Tir to a checkpoint near northern Jerusalem, where he was hugged by supporters and became yet again a focal point for condemnation of Israel. Robert Serry, the United Nations special coordinator for the Middle Eastpeace process, said the precedent set by the Israeli decision was "worrying" and “raise[s] serious human rights concerns… It is essential that all parties refrain from provocative actions, particularly at this time."
Hamas condemned the expulsion as “racist,” and said it would “only serve to reinforce the struggle" – i.e., terrorism against Israel.
Abu Tir was stripped of his residence permit for his activity in the Islamist movement Hamas – precisely the type of activity for which Hamas has been outlawed in the U.S., Canada, European Union, Japan, and elsewhere.
He was arrested and jailed several months ago for entering Jerusalem, and has now been freed and deported. He was also sentenced to a four-month jail sentence, to be implemented only if he enters Israel again during the next three years.
Three Others Find Asylum with Red Cross
Israel is in the midst of taking similar measures against three other leading Hamas officials, who have found refuge in the eastern Jerusalem offices of the Red Cross (ICRC). The fact that the Red Cross provides shelter to leaders of the same group that does not allow the Red Cross to visit captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit has sparked protests in Israel.
Israel National News (INN) spoke three months ago to stand-in ICRC spokesperson Cecilia Goin, who explained, “We have made it clear that if the police come to arrest [the three Hamas men], we do not have extra-territorial status and we will do nothing to stop the police.”
Asked why, then, the ICRC is letting them live on its premises, Goin explained that the ICRC considers eastern Jerusalem “occupied territory” and that the three Hamas leaders "are considered protected persons under international humanitarian law, as stated in Article 4 of the Fourth Geneva Convention."
“Interpretation of that article is a matter of dispute," INN noted, “but why is the ICRC not consistent with its own interpretation and protecting the Hamas men from what it feels would be an illegal arrest by Israel?”
Goin reiterated that the ICRC could not/would not prevent the Israeli police from arresting them.
What about Gilad Shalit? Goin explained that the ICRC has several times met with Hamas to demand “that we be allowed to visit with Gilad Shalit, or at least to pass him the thousands of letters, cards and messages that are stored in our Gaza office for him. But each time, Hamas has refused.”
“On the one hand,” INN asked, “Hamas is not letting you visit Shalit, while on the other hand, you host Hamas leaders – not in order to protect them, because you say you will not block their arrest, but rather giving them a platform for the media, etc. – who are representatives of the very organization holding Shalit and not allowing you to visit him. Is this a case of one ICRC arm not being aware of what the other is doing, or simply a double standard at Israel’s expense?”
The spokesperson repeated that Hamas is not allowing ICRC to visit Shalit, and that the Hamas leaders are receiving humanitarian protection.