Follow Us

Hamas attacks meet the definition of terrorism, according to UN docs and security experts

Some progressives in the United States have been careful to avoid calling Hamas’ attacks on Israel "terrorism" and others call it "resistance", but the murderous attacks meet widely acknowledged definitions used by the United Nations and security experts.

Published: October 14, 2023 11:21pm

By the most widely accepted definitions, Hamas has committed acts of terrorism against Israel, despite rhetoric from some quarters in the United States refusing to use the word "terrorist."

A week ago, the Palestinian organization known as Hamas launched a brutal attack across the Israel-Gaza border, claiming the lives of more than 1,200 Israelis and foreigners, including at least 27 American citizens. There was an attack on a music festival, entire Kibbutzim—Israeli communal villages—were ransacked and inhabitants murdered, and Hamas took hostages back across the border, where it threatens to execute them in retaliation for planned Israeli bombing campaigns. The scenes of the brutal attack spread widely across X, formerly Twitter, making the real human costs vivid and sometimes gruesome.

After the Hamas attacks over the weekend, progressive representatives in the United States—known for their pro-Palestine views—made statements which did not directly address Hamas’ culpability for the attacks, referred to attackers as “Hamas militants,” and called for an end to “Israeli military occupation and apartheid.” In the media, the BBC defended its policy to refrain from calling Hamas attackers “terrorists” because the term implies taking a side, as one BBC journalist put it.

Article 7 of The Hamas Covenant—the organization's charter—specifically calls for genocide against Jews: "The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: 'O Moslem, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.'" 

“As part of achieving a just and lasting peace, we must do our part to stop this violence and trauma by ending U.S. government support for Israeli military occupation and apartheid,” Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.)—one of the key progressive members of the U.S. House—wrote in a statement posted to X.

Fellow progressive and "Squad Member" Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) released a similar statement, saying: “As long as our country provides billions in unconditional funding to support the apartheid government, this heartbreaking cycle of violence will continue.” 

Both representatives appear to be directly blaming Israel’s actions for the Hamas attacks against it.

In 2004, the United Nations Security Council defined terrorism in Resolution 1566, which passed unanimously out of the council. According to the council, terrorism is defined as:

“[C]riminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of  terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from  doing any act, which constitute offences within the scope of and as defined in the international  conventions and protocols relating to terrorism, are under no circumstances justifiable by considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other similar nature.”

There seems no room for ambiguity that the Hamas' attacks that began Oct. 7 match key aspects of the UN definition:

  • Hamas committed “criminal acts” against Israeli civilians with the “intent to cause death or serious bodily injury”;
  • They have taken hostages; and
  • They have done these acts in order to provoke a state of terror.

The latter can be seen by Hamas terrorists posting videos to social media of their own violent attacks, as the New York Times reported.

According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Hamas is committed to armed resistance against Israel and the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state in Israel’s place.” Therefore, it also seeks “to compel a government…to do or to obtain from any act,” specifically to compel Israel to surrender its land to Hamas.

Security experts say, according to the UN definition, that none of the acts perpetrated by Hamas can be justified with any political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic or religious reason.

“Terrorism is the premeditated threat or use of violence against noncombatants/civilians by individuals or armed groups to further a political or social objective by intimidating a larger audience,” Dr. Alexander Downes, co-Director of the Institute for Security and Conflict Studies at The George Washington University, told Just the News on Thursday.

“Hamas's attack last Saturday was clearly an act of terrorism by this definition,” he continued. “It was carefully planned, very violent, targeted civilians, is presumably for political ends (it's in the context of an ongoing dispute with Israel and may also have other objectives, such as spoiling Israeli negotiations with Arab states or provoking a massive response from Israel that will galvanize support for Hamas among Palestinians), meant to influence a broader audience, and carried out by a non-state actor. The kidnappings Hamas has carried out also meet the definition of terrorism.”

Dr. Downes also pointed out that Israel's response—particularly the total blockade of Gaza—comprises what he classifies as “civilian victimization,” a term from in his 2008 book “Targeting Civilians in War,” which he says “follows the same logic as terrorism.”

So far, the war “has taken the form of airstrikes and siege/blockade, but may expand to include a ground incursion/invasion. Israel says the blockade is meant only to target Hamas, but that's impossible since the Israelis are essentially cutting off all means of civilian life, including fuel, electricity, food, and water,” Dr. Downes said. “Hamas will be affected last, civilians first.”

“Observing this is not anti-Israel or pro-Hamas. There's no excusing what Hamas did. It's completely legitimate for Israel to defend itself and hit back,” Dr. Downes said. “But just as it's not okay for Hamas to argue that all Israelis are not civilians because they support government policies and/or serve in the IDF at some point, it's not okay for Israel to treat all 2.5 million Palestinians in Gaza as Hamas supporters,” he continued.

In his visit to Israel Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed these sentiments. “No country can or would tolerate the slaughter of its citizens – or simply return to the conditions that allowed it to take place.  Israel has the right – indeed, the obligation – to defend itself and to ensure that this never happens again,” Blinken said at a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“As the Prime Minister and I discussed, how Israel does this matters.  We democracies distinguish ourselves from terrorists by striving for a different standard – even when it’s difficult – and holding ourselves to account when we fall short." Blinken continued to say " Our humanity – the value that we place on human life and human dignity – that’s what makes us who we are.  And we count them among our greatest strengths, that’s why it’s so important to take every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians.”

Israel has taken steps to limit civilian casualties as it begins airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza. Before its bombardments, Israel has historically warned Gaza civilians to evacuate, sometimes neighborhood by neighborhood, using flyers dropped by air and loudspeaker trucks, before it strikes an area.

Additionally, the United States and Israel have engaged in talks with Egypt in efforts to create evacuation corridors for Gaza civilians trapped the strip as it is bombarded by the Israeli Defense Forces. However, the Egyptian Security Forces told Reuters on Thursday that it rejected the idea of evacuation corridors in order to protect “the right of Palestinians to hold on to their cause and their land,” though the country did express its willingness to help provide humanitarian aid.

Neither Bush’s nor Tlaib’s offices responded to requests for comment about whether they would define the attacks against Israel as terrorism. Tlaib was chased by a Fox reporter down a hallway in the Capitol asking whether she condones Hamas' murder of children. Despite being asked the question repeatedly, Tlaib, who has a Palestinian flag outside her office door, refused to acknowledge the question.

Just the News Spotlight