Following the ISIS attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015, Hamas issued a statement denouncing the assaults. From Gaza, Hamas official Bassem Na’eem issued a statement “strongly condemn[ing] the series of attacks and hostile actions that were carried out in Paris. We pay our deep condolences to the families of the victims and we wish to France safety and security,” he wrote.2
Is that Hamas’ Real Sentiment?
On January 7, 2015 two terrorists associated with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) entered the Paris offices of the French satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine and murdered 12 people. Two days later, on January 9, both terrorists were trapped in a police standoff in Dammartin, Paris. At the same time an armed man entered a kosher grocery store in the Vincennes district of Paris. He killed four people and demanded that the police not make a move on his associates who committed the Charlie Hebdo attack, threatening to kill more hostages. In the end, all three terrorists were killed by police.3
The next day, January 10, Hamas condemned the attack on Charlie Hebdo, claiming that “any difference of opinion is no justification for killing innocents.”4 Meanwhile, Hamas neither condemned the attack on the kosher grocery store nor extended their condolences.5 The four victims killed in the supermarket were all either French or Tunisian Jews.6
If Hamas were only an anti-Israel group and not an anti-Semitic group, as it claims, then it should have condemned, or at the least acknowledged, the attack on the Jewish store. Its failure to do so supports the notion that Hamas is in fact an anti-Semitic organization even at its political level.
Following the two attacks, Charlie Hebdo published an issue featuring a cartoon of a weeping prophet Mohammed holding an “I Am Charlie” sign, with the caption “All Is Forgiven.”7 While this was an extremely restrained response by the Charlie Hebdo staff that had recently lost many co-workers, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum still condemned them, saying that the depiction of Mohammad was a “clear provocation against the feelings of Muslims worldwide” and that “all campaigns against Islam, the Muslims, and the Prophet Muhammad must end”.8 Hamas even organized a demonstration in Jabalia, Gaza on January 20 against Charlie Hebdo in response. The demonstration featured slogans such as “With spirit, with blood, we will redeem you, O’ messenger of Allah,” “Go to hell, Charlie journalists” and “F**k France,” while protesters carried pictures of the three attackers who participated in the two attacks and burned posters bearing the Charlie Hebdo logo. As many as 40 men from Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades armed with Kalashnikovs took part in a parade at the demonstration, shouting slogans such as “We will redeem you, O’ messenger of Allah.”9
A day earlier, on January 19, 2015, Hamas allowed Salafist demonstrators to burn French flags and threaten to attack the French again right in front of the graffiti-covered French Cultural Center in Gaza City.10 Gazan Ministry of Interior spokesman Iyad al-Bazem claimed that the demonstration was held under the supervision of Hamas security forces.11 The demonstration was broken up when clashes broke out between the security forces and demonstrators when they attempted to storm the Cultural Center.12
It is important to note that it is extremely rare for Hamas to tolerate Salafist Islamic State supporters or demonstrators. Only in this specific case, in order to demonstrate against France and Charlie Hebdo, Hamas was willing to forgo their policy concerning them.
View a video of Palestinian Salafist demonstration outside the French Cultural Center in Gaza City.
In recent years Hamas has increasingly attempted to present itself as a legitimate organization in order to receive international political support. This is done by condemning attacks such as the January 15, 2015 one on the Charlie Hebdo offices or the Paris attacks in November 2015. After studying the events which followed their condemnation of the Charlie Hebdo attack we can see just how insincere their condemnation was.
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Marissa Newman, “Hamas Blames ‘Zionist Lobby’ for New Charlie Hebdo Cartoon,” Times of Israel, January 14, 2015, http://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-blames-zionist-lobby-for-new-charlie-hebdo-cartoon/
Getty Images, “ Hamas Protest Against Charlie Hebdo Prophet Cartoons in Gaza,” January 20, 2015, http://www.gettyimages.de/detail/video/hamas-members-gather-to-protest-against-nachrichtenfilmmaterial/461967658
Getty Images, “CLAEN: Palestinian Islamists Burn French Flag in a Protest in Gaza City,” January 19, 2015, http://www.gettyimages.de/detail/video/palestinian-radical-islamists-took-part-on-nachrichtenfilmmaterial/462010696
Times of Israel, “Palestinians March Against Charlie Hebdo Cartoon,” January 25, 2015, http://www.timesofisrael.com/palestinians-march-against-charlie-hebdo-cartoon/