A senior Hamas official on Monday attempted to walk back his call for members of the Palestinian diaspora to kill Jews around the world, as the terrorist group distanced itself from his remarks.
In a statement posted on the terror group’s website, Fathi Hammad said he supports “Hamas’s consistent, adopted policy of limiting its resistance to the Zionist occupation that usurps Palestine’s land and defiles its holy sites.”
He added: “Our resistance to this usurping entity will continue in all of its forms whether that is armed or popular peaceful struggle.”
The Islamist terror group, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, earlier on Monday said Hammad’s comments did not represent its official policy, amid a flurry of condemnations, including by a top Palestine Liberation Organization official, a United Nations envoy, and a number of Palestinian activists.
“These statements do not represent the movement’s official positions and consistent, adopted policies that stipulate that our conflict is with the occupation, which is occupying our land and sullying our holy sites, and not with Jews around the world or with Judaism as a religion,” Hamas said in an official statement posted on its website.
Hammad, a Hamas politburo member considered a hardliner and known for his fiery rhetoric, made the remarks in a speech at a protest in the border region between the Gaza Strip and Israel on Friday.
“Our patience has run out. We are on the verge of exploding. If this siege is not undone, we will explode in the face of our enemies, with God’s permission and glory,” Hammad said, referring to Israeli restrictions on the movement of people and goods between Israel and Gaza. “The explosion is not only going to be in Gaza, but also in the [West] Bank and abroad, if God wills.”
“But our brothers [in the diaspora] are still preparing. They are trying to prepare. They are warming up. A long time has passed with them warming up. All of you 7 million Palestinians abroad, enough of the warming up. You have Jews everywhere and we must attack every Jew on the globe by way of slaughter and killing, if God permits. Enough of the warming up,” he added.
Israel has said that it maintains the restrictions on movement in and out of Gaza to prevent Hamas and other terror groups from importing weaponry.
Hamas’s charter, which was issued in the late 1980s, is ripe with anti-Semitic language and calls for Israel’s destruction.
Critics of the terror group frequently point to it as evidence that Hamas openly espouses anti-Semitic positions that favor violence against Jews.
While Hamas issued a policy document in 2017 that said the “conflict with the Zionist project is not a conflict with the Jews because of their religion,” the terror group has not scrapped its charter.
Earlier on Monday, Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, condemned Hammad’s statements.
“The just values of the Palestinian cause include love for freedom, justice and equality. The repugnant statement of Hamas leader Mr. Fathi Hammad about Jews doesn’t represent any of them,” Erekat tweeted. “Religion shouldn’t be used for political purposes.”
“When I saw that statement, I couldn’t take it. So I had to go [tweet] in Arabic and English, calling it repugnant,” he told The Times of Israel in a phone call, adding that the comments made him feel like he wants “to vomit.”
Erekat has long said that he has great respect for Judaism. In an interview in June, he said that Judaism is “one of God’s great religions.”
Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations special coordinator to the Middle East peace process, also denounced Hammad’s remarks.
“A dangerous, repugnant and inciteful statement! It must to be clearly condemned by ALL. There can be no complacency with such rhetoric. Ever!” he tweeted on Monday.
Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director for Human Rights Watch, described the statement as “absolutely vile.”
“Calls to kill based on one’s religion have no place in a freedom movement & should be relegated to the dustbin of history,” Shakir tweeted on Sunday.
A number of Palestinian social media users, including Ahmad Abu Artema, an well-known activist in Gaza, also blasted Hammad’s statements.
“Our enemy is the occupation and not Jews. There are many Jews supportive of what is right and just in the world,” he said in a Facebook post on Saturday.
In the past year, Hammad has made a number of incendiary comments against Israel. In late July 2018, for example, he called on Muslims to kill Zionist Jews.
“O Muslims, wherever you find a Zionist Jew, you must kill him because that is an expression of your solidarity with the Al-Aqsa Mosque and an expression of your solidarity with… your Jerusalem, your Palestine and… your people,” he said at the time in a speech at a funeral at the Great Omari Mosque in Gaza City.