Zakia Khattabi, Minister for Climate, Environment, Sustainable Development and Green Deal of Belgium, at the informal meeting of EU environment ministers at the Scandinavian XPO in Marsta outside Stockholm, Sweden, 18 April 2023. EPA-EFE/Henrik Montgomery SWEDEN OUT


Belgian minister sparks ire after refusing to call Hamas a terrorist group


Belgium’s climate minister Zakia Khattabi has caused outrage by saying she did not want to call Hamas a “terrorist organisation”.

“I don’t use the term ‘terrorist’ because it has a legal meaning that I don’t know,” the Green Party member said in an interview on news channel LN24.

She then called Israel’s response “disproportionate” and spoke of her “indignation and anger toward Israel”.

Her reluctance to refer to Hamas as a terrorist organisation contrasts with the EU, which officially gave it the label in 2017.

It is “unacceptable to hide behind legalistic constructions,” said Georges-Louis Bouchez, a senator and leader of the Francophone liberal Mouvement réformateur.

He said he felt “disgust” after learning of Khattabi’s remarks. His party called on PM Alexander De Croo to reprimand Khattabi.

“Hamas is a terror organisation pure and simple. I don’t understand how you can doubt that after what happened on 7 October,” says Egbert Lachaert of the Flemish liberal party Open VLD.

“There is no discussion possible,” he said.

“Hamas is recognised as a terrorist organisation by the Council of the European Union,” observed Ecolo, a Francophone Green party, adding their parliamentarians “have always been unambiguous” on the point.

“Ms Khattabi, this is a charity network perhaps and no one noticed?” asked Assita Kanko, an MEP for the centre-right N-VA party.

Zakia Khattabi backpedalled and clarified her statements later in the day.

“Regarding the classification, I precisely said, ‘I do not know the legal classification.’ Once it exists, [I am in] clear alignment with it,” she said on X.