UN Relief Chief says Hamas is ‘not a terrorist group’

Martin Griffiths told Sky News that organisation behind October 7 is a ‘political movement’


During a Sky News interview on February 14, 2024, UN Relief Chief Martin Griffiths told viewers that "Hamas is not a terrorist group," referring to it instead as a "political movement." (Photo: Screenshot via Sky News)

UN Relief Chief Martin Griffiths has told Sky News that he does not see Hamas as a terrorist group but “a political movement”.

Griffiths made the statement on Wednesday in response to interviewer Yalda Hakim’s question about whether Israel could exclude Hamas from future negotiations over Gaza.

He said the issue was “very difficult,” noting that he had worked with many different terrorist and insurgent groups. He then said: “Hamas is not a terrorist group for us, as you know, it’s a political movement.”

Griffiths went to add: “I think it’s very, very difficult to dislodge these groups without a negotiated solution, which includes their aspirations. I cannot think of an example offhand of a place where a victory through warfare has succeeded against a well-entrenched group, terrorist or otherwise.”

The UN has been criticised for its tepid and delayed condemnation of Hamas in the wake of the October 7 massacre and, more recently, the organisation’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians in Gaza (Unwra) has been under scrutiny since evidence emerged that a number of its staffers assisted Hamas in executing the attacks.

Griffiths’ statement declaring Hamas a “political movement” appears to further undermine the UN’s credibility since the outbreak of Israel’s war in Gaza.

Israel’s national X account tweeted its disapproval of Griffiths’ comments on Thursday morning, stating: “According to @UNReliefChief, Hamas is not a terrorist organization. They are a political organization, who from time to time murders, rapes and kidnaps civilians to let off steam. What an abomination the @UN has become.”

Government spokesperson Eylon Levy condemned the remarks, writing on X: “Martin Griffiths, @UNReliefChief, denies Hamas is a terrorist organization. No wonder he is abusing his power to save Hamas' skin after the deadliest terror attack since 9/11 instead of demanding its surrender.”

The Democratic Majority for Israel also expressed indignation over the statement in a post on X: “Sadly the @UN lost its credibility & moral authority long ago. However, Martin Griffiths @UNReliefChief reached a new low saying ‘Hamas is not a terror group for us.’ Shame! Denying Hamas is a terror organization is denying terrorism exists. Griffiths must be fired or resign.”

During the same interview with Sky News, Griffiths acknowledged the “trauma” that Israelis experienced on October 7, but affirmed that Israel must make concessions with its “neighbours” in order for a solution to be reached.

He also expressed concern for the situation in Gaza, calling it the “worst humanitarian crisis” he has seen in his 50-year diplomatic career due in large part to the fact that Palestinians have nowhere safe to evacuate to since Israelis launched military operations in Rafah.

Griffiths, who was appointed UN Relief Chief at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in 2021, has previously served as the UN’s Special Envoy for Yemen and as Adviser to three Special Envoys of the Secretary‑General for Syria.

A spokesperson from OCHA was contacted for comment.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive