Members Refute Twitter’s Response and Continued Failure to Ban Hamas, Points Out Hamas is “Violent Extremist Group” Under Twitter’s Own Criteria
WASHINGTON - Last month, Representatives Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1), Doug Lamborn (R, CO-5) and Joe Wilson (R, SC-2), Co-Chairmen of the House Republican Israel Caucus, submitted a 16 member letter urging Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to ban designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) from Twitter and remove all content promoting terrorist activity, including banning senior Hamas officials and associates who use the platform to radicalize individuals to incite violence against Israelis.
In response, Twitter highlighted the criteria they use to classify “violent extremist groups”, which, according to Twitter’s own rules, are groups that:
- identify through their stated purpose, publications, or actions as an extremist group;
- have engaged in, or currently engage in, violence and/or the promotion of violence as a means to further their cause; and,
- target civilians in their acts and/or promotion of violence.
Today, the Members of Congress refuted Twitter’s response, point by point, and, once again, urged Twitter to ban designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations, including senior Hamas officials and associates.
A signed PDF of the Members’ letter is available here.
Full text of the letter is as follows:
Dear Mr. Monje,
On June 26, 2019, we received your response regarding Twitter’s policy on “violent extremist groups.” Under the qualifications you laid out, Hamas would qualify as a “violent extremist group” under Twitter’s long standing policy towards groups designated on terrorist organization lists. While you have closed accounts affiliated with the al-Qassam Brigades, recognizing it as a violent extremist group, you fail to acknowledge the seamless relationship, coordination and influence with Hamas’ political bureau that can’t be separated.
There is little distinction between Hamas’ political and military wing. Hamas’ current political leader, Yahya Sinwar, is from Hamas’ military wing. Sheikh Ahmad Yasin, Hamas’ founder, stated in an interview with Reuters, “we cannot separate the wing from the body. If we do so, the body will not be able to fly. Hamas is one body.” Furthermore, the United States Treasury Department does not draw such a distinction and lists Hamas’ political leadership as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. In its designation, Treasury establishes a direct link between the political leadership of Hamas and their terrorist networks. For example, in 2015, the United States Treasury Department designated Saleh Al-Aruri, a Hamas political bureau member who funds and directs military operations in Judea and Samaria and against Israel. The Treasury Department also designated Al-Aqsa Television, a television station in Gaza, financed and controlled by Hamas. The United States identified that the public dissemination of Hamas propaganda was a threat to national security, and Hamas’ use of Twitter provides the same platform as Al-Asqa to disseminate propaganda.
According to your qualifications, first, the classification of a “violent extremist group” must “identify through their stated purpose, publication, or actions, as an extremist group.” Hamas as a whole long followed a comprehensive charter that blatantly promoted jihad as an obligation in Article 15 of the Covenant of Hamas in 1988 and called for the murder of all Jews. Even in Hamas’ latest attempt to revise its original charter, the language does not renounce violence and still considers jihad a legitimate duty of its people.
Second, you write that the “violent extremist groups” must “have engaged in, or currently engage in, violence and/or the promotion of violence as a means to further their cause.” Here, Hamas uses Twitter to promote its “Days of Rage” against Israel, calling on Members to throw rocks and fire missiles at Israel, which often results in actual violence, including death, targeting innocent civilians. Hamas is also well known for digging terror tunnels into Israel in order to murder and kidnap innocent Israelis and uses women and children as human shields. Hamas is an Iranian-backed terrorist organization that has also used incendiary kites and balloons, which destroyed some 8,000 acres of Israeli farms, parks and forests.
Finally, you write that the group must “target civilians in their acts/or promotion of violence.” Just one of many examples of Hamas’ targeting of Israeli civilians came just recently on May 15, 2019, when Fathi Hammad, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, addressed Israel as the "Zionist enemy" saying, "the day of your slaughter, extermination, and annihilation has drawn near.” Hamas’ charter specifically targets Israel in its promotion of violence. The entire foundation of what Hamas calls its “Islamic Resistance Movement,” is aimed at the destruction of Israel itself. Every year, Hamas goes on Twitter to incite violence on its “Days of Rage,” encouraging the citizens of Gaza to harm Jews.
If Twitter truly has “no place” for terrorist organizations on its platform, then why does Hamas continue to operate and promote hateful content with the explicit aim of harming Israeli citizens? Hamas' online apparatus aims to incite Jihad and endorses attacks against Israelis. On January 30, 2019, Ismail Radwan, a Hamas’ spokesperson, tweeted a Quranic verse during the “Days of Rage” stating, "Amongst the believers are men who are loyal to what they undertook before Allah; some of them died and some of them are awaiting their death and they would not change their commitment." On March 17, 2019, Essam al-Dalis, deputy head of Hamas' political bureau tweeted support for the Salift operation, sending operatives to murder Israelis, including Rabbi Achiad Ettinger, a father of 12, as the “natural response” to those who “speak out against the resistance.”
Additionally, it is inaccurate for Twitter to conclude that Hamas’ leadership is in “public office through elections”. Hamas has not had fair, democratic elections since 2006, when they ousted the majority party by force. Hamas’ leadership has only changed internally without public elections, while the use of violence to encourage the destruction of Israel remains a core foundation and principle of resistance.
We strongly urge Twitter to ban Hamas, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, and its affiliates and remove content promoting “violent extremist groups.” Twitter can play an important role in preventing the continued cycle of violence against innocent civilians if it stops providing its valuable resource to Hamas, which is perpetuating and promoting its terror through your platform.