Written by Khaled Abu Toameh
Hamas wants be dropped from the U.S. State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations not because it has changed, but because it feels that the world has changed, and that many naïve Westerners are now willing to tolerate its radical ideology and terrorism.
Hamas leaders are working hard these days to have their movement removed from the U.S. State Department list for Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
The Hamas leaders are hoping to persuade a number of European Union countries to support their bid.
Hamas wants to be removed from the list without changing its strategy or charter, which call for jihad [holy war] and which do not recognize Israel's right to exist.
Hamas is also not prepared to dismantle its armed group, Izaddin al-Kassam, as part of its effort to persuade the US and EU to drop it from the list of terrorist groups.
Nor is Hamas prepared to stop smuggling weapons or give up thousands of rockets and mortars that it possesses in various parts of the Gaza Strip.
And of course Hamas is not prepared to renounce violence in the context of its effort to seek legitimacy in the international community.
The Hamas initiative comes at a time when senior officials of the movement, including Khaled Mashaal, continue to talk about their dream of replacing Israel with an Islamic state. In addition, they are continuing to call on Palestinians to abide by the "armed resistance" as the only option for achieving their goal.
Ironically, the Hamas request to be removed from the list of terrorist groups coincides with reports about the Islamist movement's involvement in terror activities in neighboring Egypt.
According to these reports, Hamas was behind the August 2012 killing of 16 Egyptian border guards in Sinai. Hamas has also dispatched thousands of its men to Cairo to protect Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi against his political opponents, the reports revealed.
Although Hamas has denied the reports, there are increased signs that the movement is cooperating with other Islamic fundamentalist groups in Sinai to turn the peninsula into a base for jihadists from different parts of the world. Some of these jihadists are believed to be linked to groups that are affiliated with Al-Qaeda.
Hamas claims that it has won the secret backing of a number of EU governments -- a claim denied by the EU.
The Hamas demand was first raised by the movement's prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, during a meeting with European supporters in the Gaza Strip last month.
Ghazi Hamad a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, says that his movement is putting pressure on several countries to change their position toward his movement. He believes that there has already been a "positive change" in the minds of Western and Arab societies toward Hamas.
It is not clear what Hamas bases its optimism on. But sources close to Hamas revealed that some Arab leaders, including Egypt's Morsi and Qatar's Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, have promised to work toward convincing the Americans and Europeans to remove Hamas from the list of terrorist organizations.
Both Morsi and al-Thani, according to the sources, have raised the issue with US and EU officials over the past few weeks.
The two Arab leaders have argued that removing Hamas from the lost would actually have a moderating effect on the movement and boost the prospects of peace in the Middle East. They have also claimed -- according to the sources -- that removing Hamas from the list would pave the way for unity between the movement and Fatah.
The Hamas campaign to be removed from the list of terrorist groups also coincides with growing cooperation between the movement and other radical groups in the Gaza Strip, primarily Islamic Jihad.
During the last war in the Gaza Strip, Hamas and Islamic Jihad militiamen formed a joint command to coordinate rocket attacks against Israel. More recently, it was revealed that Fatah's armed wing, Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, also helped Hamas fire rockets at Israel in recent years.
The Americans and most EU countries are opposed to Fatah's efforts to achieve unity with a movement that remains on their list of foreign terrorist organizations.
In private, however, Fatah leaders say they are also opposed to removing Hamas from the list out of fear that such a move would legitimize the movement and pave the way for the creation of a separate state in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas wants to be dropped from the list not because it has changed. Rather, Hamas wants to be removed from the list because it feels that the world has changed, and that many naïve Westerners are now willing to tolerate its radical ideology and terrorism.
Anyone who supports Hamas's bid should also vote in favor of removing Al-Qaeda from the same list.