US official: This is a terrorist organization, period

Israel blasts top UN aid official after he says ‘Hamas is not a terrorist group for us’

Slamming comments by OCHA deputy chief Martin Griffiths, Jerusalem says UN ‘reaches new lows every day’; he later says he meant Hamas not a Security Council-designated terror group

Martin Griffiths, the UN's under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, meets with the Syrian foreign minister in Damascus on June 26, 2023. (Louai Beshara/AFP)
Martin Griffiths, the UN's under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, meets with the Syrian foreign minister in Damascus on June 26, 2023. (Louai Beshara/AFP)

A top aid official with the United Nations elicited outrage in Israel when he said during a TV interview that Hamas is “not a terrorist group for us.”

UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said during a Sky News interview on Wednesday that “Hamas is not a terrorist group for us, of course, as you know. It’s a political movement.”

Griffiths made the comments in response to a question about whether Israel’s insistence that Hamas never be part of a future Palestinian government is realistic. He added that “it is very, very difficult to dislodge these groups without a negotiated solution which includes their aspirations.”

Griffiths on Thursday tweeted a clarification of his comments, writing: “Just to clarify: Hamas is not on the list of groups designated as terrorist organizations by the United Nations Security Council.”

“This doesn’t make their acts of terror on 7 October any less horrific and reprehensible, as I’ve been saying all along,” he added.

The spokesman for secretary-general Antonio Guterres later stressed in a briefing that top UN officials including Griffiths have condemned Hamas’s “abhorrent terrorist attack” and said “there could be no justification for them.”

“As we’ve said many times here, and the Secretary-General himself not too long ago, for the United Nations, the designation of an entity as a terrorist group or terrorist organization can only be made by the Security Council,” the spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, added.

Griffiths also said during the Sky News interview, “If you want to have safety and security with people who are gonna inevitably continue to be your neighbor in some form or another, you are going to have to create a relationship based on some shared values.”

In response to Griffiths’ comments, Foreign Minister Israel Katz tweeted in English: “Shame on him.”

In Hebrew, Katz tweeted a sharper message: “The United Nations reaches new lows every day,” he wrote, pointing to statements from Griffiths, as well as Guterres.

“We will eliminate Hamas with or without them,” he pledged. “Jewish blood is not cheap.”

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan also blasted Griffiths, calling OCHA “a terror-excusing, Hamas-promoting, victim-blaming organization.”

“The UN’s pro-Hamas stance is finally exposed on live TV,” Erdan posted on X. “Is the brutal murder of hundreds of civilians not terror? Is the systematic rape of women not terror? Is attempting Jewish genocide not terror?”

Turning to Griffiths, Erdan wrote: “You are no ‘humanitarian.’ Sadly, you are a terror collaborator.”

The US on Thursday doubled down on its designation of Hamas as a terror organization in response to Griffiths.

“Hamas is a terrorist organization. We’ve said so. It is. It just is,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said, in response to a question on Griffiths’ comments during a press briefing. “You don’t have to look any further than what they did on the seventh of October to see it in stark terms.

“Take a look at their manifesto, even the one that was so-called watered down in 2017. There’s no doubt that they just want to wipe out Israel off the face of the map. This is a terrorist organization. Pure and simple. Period,” Kirby stated.

Israel has repeatedly slammed UN officials since the start of the war for what it says is a failure to condemn Hamas and has accused some of its aid workers on the ground in Gaza of collaborating with the terror group — most notably 12 employees of the UNRWA it said took part in the October 7 massacre.

The accusation has led multiple countries to freeze their funding of UNRWA, demanding an in-depth investigation.

Last week the IDF showed reporters a Hamas data center located directly beneath UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City.

Griffiths also said during Wednesday’s interview that the idea of a mass displacement of civilians from Rafah ahead of an IDF incursion was “illusory,” adding that his agency was holding daily discussions with Israeli officials about safeguarding civilians.

Israeli officials were furious when Griffiths met in November in Geneva with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian for a discussion on the future of Gaza. In response, the Israeli ambassador to Geneva wrote that “Iran has no place in the future of Gaza. It is part of the problem, not the solution.”

And Israel was not pleased when, during the midst of Hamas’s October 7 onslaught itself, Griffiths appeared to blame both sides for the violence, releasing a statement appealing “to all sides to stop the fighting immediately and protect civilians everywhere and at all times.”

A bill prohibiting UNRWA from operating on Israeli state-owned land passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset 33-10 Wednesday.

“UNRWA serves as a platform for incitement and education to hatred of Israel and harm of its Jewish residents. In the schools that it operates in Jerusalem, antisemitic content is studied, and the textbooks glorify terrorists who have murdered women and children,” stated an explanatory note to bill, which was sponsored by Likud MK Boaz Bismuth.

“The role of UNRWA is to deal with Palestinian refugees only, meaning that there is no place for it to give any services within the territory of the State of Israel,” it continued, adding that “UNRWA’s institutions serve as fertile ground for committing actions and incitement against the State of Israel.”

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