The head of Australia’s intelligence agency has said he would support a decision to proscribe Hamas as a terrorist organisation in its entirety.
The comments came during a current Australian parliamentary inquiry to determine if Hamas should be outlawed by domestic authorities, with the government warning of increased security at Australian embassies in the Middle East if it did so.
Like in the UK, Australia currently only recognises the group’s paramilitary wing as a terror group and not its so-called political wing even though it is one and the same.
But in a security hearing on Friday, Mike Burgess, Director-General of Security in charge of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, said defining the entirety of Hamas as a terrorist organisation would be valid due to the organisation’s history of supporting militant attacks on Israel and its promotion of violence.
“I would support it,” Mr Burgess said when questioned on the issue. “There’s no doubt the group as a whole does advocate for acts of violence.
“The brigades are a highly capable terrorist organisation who are committed to the use of terrorist tactics targeting Israel. As a consequence they remain a security concern to ASIO and we support the listing.”
Labor MP Anne Aly questioned Mr Burgess on the practical implications listing Hamas as a terror group would have on pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Australia, potentially those supporting Hamas.
Mr Burgess responded it could be “problematic” for some groups, as it would make it illegal to support Hamas under Australian counter-terrorism laws.
“It would be unlawful for people to support Hamas if they were listed entirely,” he said. “I’m not the expert … but of course I can recognise that being Palestinian is actually different to supporting Hamas.”
Mr Burgess did note that listing Hamas as a terrorist organisation was beyond his authority.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Home Affairs also appeared in front of the committee, claiming a ramp-up of security for Australian missions and posts in the Middle East would need to occur if Hamas was added to the list.
Home Affairs representative Richard Feakes said the “multifaceted” structure of Hamas prompted careful consideration due to the anti-association laws invoked by a terror listing.
“[It] requires more careful consideration because of the implications and the consequences of that, particularly in regards to the association offence,” Mr Feakes said.
Both governmental bodies said Hamas being listed as a terrorist organisation would be determined by the Home Affairs Minister.
Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of a pro-Israel group known as the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, said the idea of “wings” within Hamas was fiction.
Dr Schanzer said the Home Affairs Minister should list the entirety of Hamas under the Criminal Code.
“There is no separating the Izz-Add brigades (the paramilitary) from the broader organisation,” he said on Friday.
“This is a fiction perpetuated by those who wish to engage with elements of the terrorist group.
“The entry of Hamas should be listed as a terrorist group in Australia and around the world.”