Hamas may wield the ‘Palestinian cause’ for a sinister agenda


In the wake of a pro-Palestinian rally thronging London’s Oxford Street over the weekend, a black flag frequently linked with jihadist factions was audaciously brandished. The Metropolitan Police might be too eager to dismiss this as an innocuous expression of faith, but let’s not be naive. Amid escalating violence between Israel and Hamas, the sudden visibility of this potent symbol is no mere quirk of cloth and ink. It urgently signals a policy-driven conversation we must have — especially as it further fuels an already rampant antisemitism.

With a recent uptick in antisemitic incidents, the UK finds itself at a chilling crossroads. While anti-Jewish hate crimes may not be new, what’s unprecedented is the insidious narrative that accompanies them — a narrative frequently fueled by ostensibly pro-Palestinian rallies. It’s a sad irony that many of these demonstrators, vocally opposed to discrimination, find themselves in lockstep with Hamas — an organization that does little to hide its antisemitic ideologies. By blithely supporting such an entity, they become unwitting agents of a much darker agenda. What many fails to grasp is that, in their quest to champion the Palestinian cause, they are, in fact, enabling a form of extremism that ultimately undermines both the Palestinian and Jewish communities. This blind spot is more than just ideological naivety; it’s a strategic failure that could have severe repercussions for social cohesion in Britain.

The collective amnesia surrounding the objectives of groups like Hamas is as perplexing as it is concerning. All too often, the conversation becomes muddied by virtue signaling, as if proclaiming one’s allegiance to a cause du jour somehow absolves one of any deeper understanding or responsibility. In throwing their support behind such groups, these so-called pro-Palestinian advocates paradoxically undercut the very principles they purport to defend. For instance, how does rallying behind an organization with a known Islamist agenda reconcile with the progressive ideals many of these supporters claim to espouse? The short answer: it doesn’t. In their rush to moralize, they overlook the intricate dynamics at play, not least the fact that they’re enabling the Islamists’ agenda against the very communities they claim to defend. This isn’t activism; it’s a potentially catastrophic miscalculation.

Islamist organizations are conducting a most dangerous gambit, exploiting the liberties of our democratic nations to advance their own sectarian aims. Cloaked under the mantra of religious freedom, they ply their trade of radicalism, disseminating extremist narratives with ease. Social media, their modern Agora, brims with manipulative videos and cleverly packaged content, luring the impressionable into their ideological vortex. And when finally cornered by state intervention, they adeptly cry victim, brandishing the term ‘Islamophobia’ to further cleave communities apart. This is gaslighting of the first order, calculated to pervert democratic norms and win fresh recruits.

The black flag, often referred to as the “Black Standard” or “Ar-Raya,” is no mere ornament; it’s a chapter out of Islamic heritage. According to Sahih al-Bukhari, one of the most authoritative Hadith texts, Prophet Muhammad himself hoisted a black flag during military campaigns. As David Cook, a distinguished Islamic Studies scholar, has often articulated, the use of these banners was essentially tactical — a means of battlefield coordination.

The theological nuances of this black flag are far from innocuous. Sunni and Shia doctrines alike predict a prophesied leader, the Mahdi, brandishing this symbol. Timothy Furnish, an expert in Islamic eschatology, has elaborated that such banners are seen as a herald of divinely guided leadership. History provides its own testament; the Abbasid dynasty unfurled the black banner in their overthrow of the Umayyad rule, signaling both a political and religious upheaval.

Fast-forward to Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, and again the black flag was utilized as a multi-layered emblem of resistance, piety, and a link to an Islamic governance ideal. This is outlined succinctly by Middle East analyst Vali Nasr in ‘The Shia Revival – How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future’, who points to its manifold roles during that tumultuous period.

But the 21st century has seen this ancient symbol hijacked by the likes of al-Qaeda and ISIS. Jessica Stern, an authority on terrorism, emphasizes how these groups rebrand the black flag to validate their violent acts and to lure fresh recruits to their perverse cause.

It’s of the utmost concern that groups such as Hamas could wield the Palestinian cause as a smokescreen for a far more sinister agenda. This is not a regional issue, nor a matter to be left to academics or theologians. It’s an urgent geopolitical imperative that underscores the need for a fully-engaged, policy-centric dialogue. The potential for broader destabilization looms large, and we ignore it at our peril.

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Catherine Perez-Shakdam
Catherine Perez-Shakdam, Special Contributor to Blitz is a research fellow at the American Centre for Levant Studies. Her background includes consultancy work for the United Nations Security Council, where she has played a crucial role in shaping policy decisions by providing insights into Yemen’s War Economy, uncovering an intricate web of corruption, trafficking, and money laundering. Catherine has also established herself as a respected voice in the media and has been a frequent contributor for the i24, Al Jazeera, the BBC, The Jerusalem Post, Politico, the Daily Express, and the Daily Mail. Having previously served as a Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, Catherine has authored compelling policy recommendations and research papers to address the increasing influence of the Islamic Republic of Iran, exposing its activities and providing a deeper understanding of its operations. In 2021, Catherine gained international attention when news broke of her remarkable decade-long infiltration of the Iranian regime, during which she was able to gain access to the highest echelons of the regime’s inner circles. Unsurprisingly, she was promptly labeled an ‘enemy of the state’ by the regime. Undeterred, Catherine has courageously utilized her extensive knowledge and expertise to denounce the activities of the Islamic Republic, helping to unveil a system that had long operated under a shroud of secrecy. Her revelations have provided a unique perspective on Iran’s actions, challenging its narrative and exposing the true nature of its operations.


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