EU to blacklist people for pro-Hamas ‘incitement’

“Inciting or publicly provoking acts of serious violence” against Israel “in support of Hamas” is to be made illegal in the EU, alongside a new blacklist of Hamas money-men in Lebanon and beyond.

The EU blacklisted six Middle East financiers on Friday (19 January) on grounds they supported the Hamas militant group, which rules Gaza and which attacked Israel on 7 October.

Three of them were Lebanese — Nabil Chouman, Khaled Chouman, and Rida ali Khamis — shedding light on Hamas’ international network.

They all worked at the Sarl currency-exchange firm in Beirut, which “has been used to launder and transfer money to Hamas, including from Iran” to the tune of “tens of millions of USD [US dollars]”, the EU sanctions said.

Aiman Al-Duwaik was a Jordanian based in Algeria who managed Hamas’ “overseas investment portfolio”, the EU added.

This included the firms Sidar in Algeria, Anda Turk in Turkey, and Al Rowad in Sudan.

Abdelbasit Hamza, a Sudanese businessman, also ran the Al Rowad real-estate company, as well as an investment firm called Zawaya Group, the EU said.

And the sixth man was Musa Dudin, a Palestinian from Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, whom the EU called “a senior Hamas operative and member of the Hamas political bureau”.

The EU listed him not just for financing Hamas, but also because “he has frequently made public statements on behalf of the organisation”.

“All funds and economic resources belonging to, owned, held or controlled by any natural or legal person, group, entity or body as listed in Annex I [the list of six names] shall be frozen,” the EU said.

The EU crackdown comes after Hamas killed some 1,200 Israelis and kidnapped 200 others.

In response, Israel has killed over 24,000 Palestinians in Gaza and over 300 in the West Bank in the past three months, prompting pro-Palestinian protests in Europe and beyond.

The EU already listed Hamas as a terrorist entity in 2003.

But Friday’s new sanctions “framework” spelled out ever-finer EU red lines for Palestinian support.

In future, people can be backlisted for “implementing actions which undermine or threaten the stability or security of Israel, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf of or in support of Hamas”, the sanctions said.

And echoing the Dudin sanctions over “public statements”, the EU can now also go after pro-Hamas propagandists — crossing the line from forbidden actions to forbidden speech.

“Inciting or publicly provoking acts of serious violence by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf of, or in support of Hamas, PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad], any other affiliated group or any cell, affiliate, splinter group or derivative thereof”, is now a sanctionable offence, the EU said.

Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers will meet in Brussels on Monday with counterparts from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Israel to discuss the Gaza war.

They will also discuss upcoming EU sanctions on violent Israeli settlers and talk about sending EU-flagged warships to the Red Sea to guard merchant vessels against rocket-fire from the Houthi rebel group in Yemen.

The talks come amid EU fears of West Bank and wider regional escalation.

Belgium, France, and the Netherlands have already suggested Israeli names to publicly blacklist on grounds of “gross violations of human rights”.

In terms of war-time PR, that would put Israelis in the same rogues gallery as individuals from China, North Korea, Myanmar, and Russia — unless Israel’s EU allies, such as the Czech republic or Hungary, veto it.

But, according to one senior EU diplomat, the fact the US already imposed a travel ban on extremist Israeli settlers in December means the EU follow-up is less controversial.

US precedent

“Our Israeli partners know this is on the table,” the diplomat said on Friday.

“This is about extremist settlers whose behaviour risks destabilising the West Bank and actions which are putting a heavy mortgage on any future peace process,” he added.

His comments on “mortgage” alluded to the fact that over 700,000 Israeli settlers have stolen Palestinian real estate in the West Bank since 1967, when Israel conquered the territory.

But for some experts, the EU anti-extremist settler sanctions will be “rather toothless” in terms of stopping Israeli expansion.

The anti-Hamas sanctions will also fail to stop anti-Israel aggression unless a long-term solution is found, said H. A. Hellyer, a Middle East security expert at the Royal United Services Institute, a think tank in the UK.

“The occupation of East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank is one of the longest running military occupations in modern times, and we have to address that if we want to bring about a conclusion of this cycle of violence,” he said.

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