Long-time UK-based supporters of Hamas have backed a move by the Gaza-based terror movement to rebrand itself as a moderate organisation.
Last month, to considerable acclaim in the West, Hamas released a new policy document claiming it accepted a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders, it no longer “wages a struggle against the Jews because they are Jewish”, and is now independent from the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.
However there was no indication Hamas had dropped its old antisemitic charter, and the new policy document was still calling for the liberation of historic Palestine, from the river Jordan to the Mediterranean.
At a panel discussion in London Doud Adbullah, director of Middle East Monitor, said “This is a movement that has broken out of its Islamist confines”.
To become a major nationalist force, Hamas had “to adopt a more consensual role, to open up and accommodate the various strands of Palestinian political thinking”, he said.
“It’s not a reversal, but rather the consequence of its growth.”
Palestinian academic Azzam Tamimi, who once expressed a wish to be a “martyr” and stated that “Israel must come to an end”, backed Hamas’ use of violence.
“Hamas has every right — as a national liberation movement – to use force in order to force the occupiers to give back the land,” he told the meeting.
He described the Document of General Principles and Policies as “the most significant developement within Hamas — expressing themselves in terms of what the conflict is truly about.
“As the new leader [Ismail Haniyeh] says, our problem is not with the Jews; our problem is with those who invaded us and displaced us. That’s the issue for Palestine.”
Around 30 people attended the meeting at a cultural centre in Euston.