Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Europeans appeared to have learned nothing from the Holocaust, after a European Union court ordered the removal of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas from its terror blacklist.
“Today we witnessed staggering examples of European hypocrisy: in Geneva they call for the investigation of Israel for war crimes, while in Luxemburg the European court removed Hamas from the list of terrorist organizations, Hamas that has committed countless war crimes and countless terror acts,” Netanyahu’s office quoted him as saying.
Netanyahu’s war crimes comment was apparently a reference to a speech made earlier this week in the International Criminal Court by the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, who said the Palestinians intended to apply for membership in the ICC.
“It seems that too many in Europe, on whose soil six million Jews were slaughtered, have learned nothing,” Netanyahu added.
“But we in Israel, we’ve learned. We’ll continue to defend our people and our state against the forces of terror and tyranny and hypocrisy,” he said at the start of a meeting with US Republican Senator-elect Joni Ernst.
The General Court of the EU ruled Wednesday that the original listing of Hamas as a terror group in 2001 was based not on sound legal judgment but on conclusions derived from the media and the Internet.
But it stressed that the decision to remove Hamas from the blacklist was based on technical grounds and does “not imply any substantive assessment of the question of the classification of Hamas as a terrorist group.”
Founded in 1987 shortly after the start of the first Palestinian intifada, or uprising, Hamas was inspired by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. The Palestinian group’s charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic state throughout the British Palestine Mandate area.
Hamas’s military wing was added to the European Union’s first-ever terrorism blacklist drawn up in December 2001 in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called Wednesday’s ruling a victory for the Palestinian nation and for its rights. Another Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, said it was a correction of a political mistake by the EU.
Channel 10 said that the EU has kept Israel informed about the process of removing Hamas from the terror blacklist, and that there have been contacts with top Israeli officials, including Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.
The EU’s move stemmed from a petition recently submitted to the European Court of Human Rights on a related matter concerning Tamil terrorists.
During those proceedings, it was argued that the EU had designated Hamas a terror group on the basis of information provided by the United States, while EU regulations require that the EU’s own material be used as the basis for such a designation, Channel 10 news reported Tuesday.
Based on this, the EU would temporarily remove Hamas from its list of designated terror groups, but swiftly return it to that list once the correct paperwork has been processed.
Earlier Wednesday, Netanyahu called on the EU to return the group to the terror list, saying Israel was “not satisfied with EU’s explanations that taking Hamas off the terror list is a ‘technical matter.’”
“The burden of proof falls on the EU, and we expect it to permanently return Hamas to the list, so everyone will understand that it is an inseparable part of it — Hamas is a murderous terror organization that emphasizes in its charter that its goal is to destroy Israel,” he said in a statement.
In a meeting Wednesday morning with the Foreign Ministry, EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen said that EU intends to do everything it can to get Hamas back on the list.