SA should not be engaging with Hamas

Johannesburg - South Africa is playing with fire by officially welcoming Hamas to the country, former British Army officer Colonel Richard Kemp believes.

Kemp commanded British troops in Afghanistan in 2003 and ended his 30-year career three years later while working in intelligence as a member of the prime minister’s national crisis committee.

He is here at the invitation of the South African Zionist Federation, speaking on his experiences as a military observer in Gaza in 2009.

Kemp says Hamas is a jihadist group, committed to fighting a “holy war” - like Islamic State. “We’re in a situation where global jihadism wants to recreate an Islamic caliphate.

“It’s a long-term problem and it’s going to create a lot of death and destruction… the issue with world intervention is that as soon as there is the concern of civilian deaths and destruction, which is what Islamic State wants, they get cold feet.”

Kemp said that when the US withdrew from Iraq, the Iraqis harnessed the Sunni community to fight jihadism in their own communities.

“When America left, the Iraqis abandoned this strategy, and being a Shia government, turned on the Sunnis and their tribes and leaders. That then enabled the resurgence of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which in itself led to the evolution into Islamic State.

“Intelligence was aware of its formation, but underestimated its development and the seriousness of it. Due to the recent Iraqi conflict, there was also a battle weariness in that part of the world.”

Kemp said it was a legitimate concern for international agencies to consider how Islamic State may affect South Africa.

“South Africa is a democratic country and it is allied with a number of countries that Islamic State hates. Islamic State hates any country that does not rule by their idea of Sharia law, and they will attack at will.”

He believes the recent invitation by the ANC to Hamas to visit South Africa is nothing less than appeasement to a group that countries like the UK and US have declared a terrorist organisation.

“There is a myth that if you appease Islamic State or befriend jihadist groups like Hamas, you won’t be attacked, but this is a delusion.

“South Africa shouldn’t be dealing with Hamas because if you compare their agenda to that of Islamic State, it’s very similar.”

He said it was crucial for South Africa to work with global intelligence agencies to defeat the problem.

“The country should vigorously pursue any suspicions of people taking part in jihadist activity in this country. I think it should not do anything that encourages terrorism, like for example encouraging a relationship with the prescribed terrorist organisation Hamas. Not only does that sort of action not appease those (terrorist) organisations but it also encourages them.

“While it may or may not encourage them to take direct action against South Africa, it does increase the overall terrorist picture and it makes terrorism more prolific, and that has to have an effect on South Africans at home and abroad. It’s a very dangerous game to foster a relationship with groups like Hamas. Whatever the government perceives as valid reasons for this, they need consider the dangerous implications of those actions.

“The South African government should recognise the reasons why other countries in the world brand Hamas as terrorists.”

Back to all