Terror Trifecta: Media Mum as Russia Boosts Ties With Hamas, Iran
A delegation of Hamas officials, including terror chief Ismail Haniyeh, traveled to Moscow this week for high-level meetings with Russian government officials, politicians, and public figures.
The summit — which Hamas said took place at the request of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov — concluded on Wednesday, with the US-designated terror group hailing President Putin for his country’s “positions in support of the Palestinian people and their rights.”
Isolated from the West over its war of aggression against Ukraine, Moscow appears to be bolstering its ties with some of the worst terrorists, human rights violators, and war criminals around the globe.
Yet, Lavrov’s invitation to Haniyeh failed to generate any coverage in the international press. As it becomes increasingly clear that Putin is forging a new Axis of Evil, it is imperative that the media provide news consumers with the proper context to understand these developments.
Here’s what you need to know about this week’s events and Hamas-Russia relations.
As reported by local Israeli media outlets (see here, here, and here), Haniyeh touched down in Moscow on September 10 to discuss “mutual ties” and “other issues relating to the situation in Palestine [sic].” In addition to the Qatar-based Hamas leader, the delegation included terror commander Saleh al-Arouri, as well as senior members of Hamas’ political bureau.
Among others, the group sat down with Foreign Minister Lavrov, his deputy Mikhail Bogdanov, members of parliament, and local Muslim and Christian religious leaders.
After Monday’s meeting, Lavrov’s office said that he had urged Hamas to reunite with the West Bank’s ruling Fatah party. For his part, Haniyeh presented Russia’s top diplomat with a letter of support addressed to Putin, while reportedly reaffirming the “importance of the strategic relationship between Hamas and Russia.”
Indeed, Russia’s partnership with Gaza’s ruling terror faction goes back over a decade. While the Kremlin initially only supported Fatah and terror groups linked to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) — mainly by providing funds, training, and weapons — it developed stronger ties with Hamas following its victory in the 2006 Palestinian Authority (PA) elections. In March 2006, two months after Hamas’ shock win, Putin welcomed the Islamist terrorist organization to Moscow.
Notably, this happened only months after the end of the Second Intifada, in which Hamas suicide bombers killed hundreds of Israeli civilians.
Defying the international community, who largely boycotted the Hamas-led PA government, Putin told journalists at the time that he “never considered Hamas a terrorist organization,” adding: “Hamas came to power … as a result of democratic, legitimate elections, and we must respect the choice of the Palestinian people.”
Although the Russia-Hamas relationship has seen its ups and downs, presumably due to Russia’s historical ties to Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, Hamas terrorists have flown into Moscow on a near-yearly basis since.
“The Russians have always played the anti-Israel, or anti-Western, card whenever it was convenient for them, from the Soviet days,” Anna Geifman, a senior researcher at Bar-Ilan University’s department of political science, explained to JNS earlier this week. “They’ve always talked to terrorists. It’s not even a question of talking — it’s collaborating.”
However, Putin’s Kremlin simultaneously moved to improve its ties with the Jewish state. For instance, in April 2005, the Russian President told his Israeli hosts that “we have all the conditions for success, and most important, there is the will and desire on both sides to strengthen our friendship, trust and cooperation and to build a constructive partnership together.”
Jerusalem habitually condemned Putin for giving legitimacy to Hamas. At the same time, since 2015, Russia has backed the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and the armed forces of the Russian Federation have become the primary actor in the Arab country, necessitating Israeli military cooperation with Russia.
For the last decade, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) has been forced to carry out airstrikes on Iranian military assets in Syria, in what has become known as the “war between wars” with the Islamic Republic. By sending Shiite fighters, advanced weapon systems, and other military hardware to areas close to Israel’s border, Tehran is attempting to create a new front with the Jewish state, similar to what it did by backing Gaza-based terror groups and the Hezbollah terror organization in Lebanon.
To prevent Israel and Russia from clashing inside Syrian territory, Jerusalem and Moscow have in recent years maintained a so-called deconfliction mechanism. In the words of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, the “cooperation mechanism with them [Russia] assists in our determined battle against Iranian entrenchment on our northern border.”
But as Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has entered its seventh month, many wonder whether Russia is regressing to its extreme pro-terrorism policies from the Soviet era.
For one, analysts have argued that Russia’s growing censure of the Jewish state’s actions in the Golan Heights and Syria is related to Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s public criticism of Russian war crimes in Ukraine. In the past, Moscow has implicitly threatened to close Syria’s skies to IAF fighter jets, which would make Israel and the whole region less secure.
Furthermore, this week’s meeting between Lavrov and Haniyeh marked the second time in just five months that Hamas representatives met with top officials in Moscow. Following the May summit, Haniyeh, at a pro-Palestinian conference in Gaza, stressed the importance of opening up to Russia, calling the Ukraine war “the broadest and most significant war in the struggle between the world’s camps since the end of World War II.”
On Wednesday, the Gazan terror group attacked Ukraine over its criticism of the Hamas-Russia rapprochement, writing in a press release that it “reject[s] and denounce[s]” the country’s statements. This after Kyiv’s embassy in Israel had called Ismail Haniyeh a “terrorist organization leader of the first rank.”
In another possible sign of Russia’s shifting stance towards Israel, Putin this summer chose the Islamic Republic of Iran as the destination for his first trip beyond the former Soviet Union since launching his assault on Ukraine. Iran is the largest provider of money and arms to Hamas’ so-called military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Additionally, it funds Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
During Putin’s visit to Tehran, an official Twitter account linked to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei lauded the Russian president for his “recent stances against the Zionists.” Meanwhile, the delegation led by Haniyeh on September 13 met with the Iranian ambassador to Russia.
In conclusion, today’s Russia is jeopardizing its strategic partnership with Israel, while moving closer to Iran, Hamas, and other dangerous actors who have killed thousands of innocents in the Middle East and beyond.
It is time that the media, who have consistently and rightfully denounced Putin’s unprovoked crimes against humanity in Ukraine, take note.
The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.