European Parliament
European ParliamentFlash 90

For the first time, the European Parliament voted to condemn the Hamas terrorist organization for its acts of terrorism and its use of human shields.

The motion, which also criticized Israel, was passed by an overwhelming majority of 524 “yes” votes to 30 “no” votes, with 92 abstentions.

The three-page document notes that Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the European Union (EU), that it repeatedly calls for the destruction of Israel, and continues to fire rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip.

The motion dealt largely with the violence which has accompanied the 'March of Return.' Unusually for an EU body, the motion took Israeli claims of violence from terrorists hidden among the protesters seriously while all condemning Israel's use of force.

The motion noted Israeli reports that stones and firebombs were hurled at IDF soldiers guarding the border and that attempts were made to damage the border fence.

However, the motion also condemns the IDF's use of live ammunition in response to the violence, noting that “close to 30 Palestinians” have been killed since the protests began.

The majority of fatalities have been confirmed to have been members of the Hamas terrorist organization.

The European Parliament condemned specific acts of terrorism by Hamas, as well as the terror group's mistreatment of the Gazans under its rule. It noted that "Hamas continues to keep the population under control and pressure in the Gaza Strip, which remains a hub of internationally recognized terrorist organizations,” and that it restricts “basic freedoms, including of association and expression.”

The motion further acknowledges “Israel’s security challenges and the need to protect its territory and borders while using proportionate means” and “condemns the terror attacks of Hamas and other militant groups against Israel from the Gaza Strip, including the firing of rockets, infiltrations into Israeli territory, and the building of tunnels.”

It also “strongly condemns the continuous tactic of Hamas to use civilians for the purpose of shielding terrorist activities,” and noted that "Hamas seems to aim at escalating tensions.”

The motion still condemned Israel's acts of self-defense. "The European Parliament ... Calls for utmost restraint and underlines that the priority must be to avoid any further escalation of violence and loss of life; Expresses its regret of the loss of lives; condemns the killings and injuries of innocent Palestinian demonstrators in the Gaza Strip over the past three weeks and urges IDF to refrain from using lethal force against unarmed protesters."

“Intentional use of lethal force against protesters who do not pose an imminent threat to life or serious injury violates international human rights law and in the context of occupation is a serious breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The motion further calls for the complete lifting of the partial blockade on Gaza, which is meant to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Gaza by Hamas and other terrorist groups.

The motion also takes Israeli human rights into account, and calls for the return of all Israelis held hostage by terrorists in Gaza, including Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, as well as the bodies of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.

The text was the result of extensive negotiations between the various factions in the European Parliament.

Pro-Israel groups praised the unusually balanced European Union statement on the Arab-Israeli conflict, but were still disappointed by many parts of the final document.

The American Jewish Committee's European branch released a statement saying: “The AJC Transatlantic Institute today praised the European Parliament for condemning Hamas for the war crimes it committed during the recent violent protests, but criticized the EU legislature for urging in its resolution on the situation in the Gaza Strip an ‘unconditional’ end to Israel’s naval blockade on the Hamas-ruled territory."

The European Parliament has been seen as hostile to Israel. In 2016, Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas received a standing ovation when he gave a speech at the European Parliament in which he repeated the centuries-old anti-Semitic claim that Jews poison wells by stating that a rabbi had asked the Israeli government to poison Palestinian drinking water. No such rabbi existed.

In February, the European Parliament refused to host an exhibition of Israeli cartoons documenting human rights abuses in Iran. An anti-Israel BDS conference was held at the European Parliament the following month.

The European Parliament has also condemned Israeli laws to combat terrorism on a number of occasions.