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Nigerian TV Interview with Hamas Leader Sparks Controversy

Hamas delegation in Abuja. Senior Hamas leader Ghazi Hamad Center. A. Ali Far left. Sami Abu Zuhri far right. Credit: Hamas.
Hamas delegation in Abuja. Senior Hamas leader Ghazi Hamad Center. A. Ali Far left. Sami Abu Zuhri far right. Credit: Hamas.

By Steven Kefas | TruthNigeria | February 28, 2024

[Abuja] A recent televised interview with senior Hamas leader Ghazi Hamad on Channels Television, one of Nigeria’s popular TV stations, has elicited strong negative reactions both locally and from the international community.

Hamad, who appeared on the station’s flagship politics program, ‘Politics Today’, justified the October 7 terrorist attack by Hamas against Israel, which killed no fewer than 1,200 people. He claimed the assault that targeted a Jewish cultural festival was in retaliation for Israel’s actions towards Palestinians in Gaza.

By the day of the interview Hamad had led a four person delegation of himself, Sami Abu Zuhri and A. Ali Baraka on a 4-day visit to Nigeria where they met with government officials and civil society executives, according to Aaron Zelin on X.

The interview on Feb. 20, anchored by veteran Nigerian journalist, Seun Okimbaloye, struck many as a wrong move – putting a target on the backs of Nigeria as a State and Nigerians as emigrants to other countries. Many see Channels TV’s provision of a platform to a leader of a designated terror organization as a subtle legitimization of the group –

an action which can threaten and or strain bilateral ties between Israel and Nigeria- Africa’s most populous nation. Meanwhile, there has been no official reaction from the United States government.

Background on Hamas and the October 7 Attack

Hamas, an Arabic acronym for Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyyah, is a militant Islamist movement founded in 1987 with the main aims of liberating Palestine from Israeli occupation and establishing an Islamic state under Sharia law.

The European Union and other Western countries also consider it a terrorist organization. The U.S. State Department has designated Hamas a terrorist group in 1997 and the UK government proscribed the group in 2021 under Terrorism Act 2000. Hamas, which has vowed to annihilate Israel and has been responsible for many suicide bombings and other deadly attacks on civilians and Israeli soldiers, has governed Gaza since 2007 and has frequently clashed with the state of Israel. Human rights groups have accused both sides of violations.

On October 7, 2023, Hamas executed a coordinated air, land and sea attack on southern Israel during a major Jewish music festival attended by thousands. Hundreds of Hamas terrorists fired shots and barrage of rockets at multiple locations in Israeli villages and towns. The death toll included both Israeli civilians and soldiers.

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy said the October 7, 2023 attack ‘represents the largest number of Jews killed in a single day since the Holocaust,’ it also said that the attack ‘ranks as the third-deadliest terror attack of all time, exceeded only by Islamic State massacres and the 9/11 attacks.’

Hamad Stands By “Retaliatory” Attack

Speaking during the live interview session on Channels TV in Nigeria, Hamad expressed no reservations about Hamas’ role in the bloodshed.

A spokesperson for Hamas, Hamad had last year stormed out of an interview with the BBC after being asked about the atrocities committed by the terror group in Israel on October 7.

During the interview with Seun Okimbaloye, anchor for Channels TV, he justified the attack on Israel saying: “We have legal rights to fight against them for the continuous violation against our people. Why should we regret, all the time they are killing us, they are destroying us, they are killing our children, they taken our lands.’

The previous deputy foreign minister of Hamas declares that Israel should have been sanctioned but instead, Israel is being supported by the United States. Hamad argued that this leaves Hamas with no other option but to take matters into their own hands.

Israel has long accused Palestinian leadership in Gaza of using civilians as human shields and tools of propaganda. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu vowed a harsh response to “avenge black day”.

 Nigeria’s weak response to October 7 massacre

Hamad’s visit to Nigeria and his brazen media appearance has not only raised concerns within Nigeria about indirectly enabling radical messaging. It also confirms the country’s weak response to the October 7 massacre.

Nigeria joined in calling for cease fire since the October 7 attack. In a statement signed by the Minister of Foreign affairs, Yusuf Tuggar on October 7, the government called for de-escalation and ceasefire. Parts of the statement read, “The Federal Government of Nigeria is deeply concerned about the outbreak of hostilities between Israel and Hamas in the early hours of Saturday, October 7 2023, and calls for de-escalation and ceasefire.’

However, this visit by Hamad may lead to strained ties between Nigeria and Israel, a key counterterrorism ally. It may also lead other nations who have proscribed Hamas as a terror group to shun Nigeria if they perceive that the Nigerian government has any ties with the terror group. This is in addition to the fact that Nigeria appears to be a haven for terrorist groups and extremist Islamic sects.

Reaction of Human Rights Advocates: Alarm

“It’s alarming when Nigerian media are platforming a terrorist organization such as Hamas that has the same ideology as Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa — responsible for killing tens of thousands of innocent people in Nigeria,” said Judd Saul, founder of Equipping the Persecuted and CEO of TruthNigeria. “I call upon Nigerian media to show more responsibility in the future,” Saul wrote in an email to TruthNigeria.

“It should be no surprise that a Hamas official visited with the Nigerian government. Both Gaza and Nigeria are bases of jihadists who attack non-Muslims,” according to a text from Dr. Charles Jacobs, a leader of the newly formed African-Jewish Alliance. “The jihad assault on Israeli Jewish kibbutzim was no different than the continuous assaults on Nigerian Christian villages.Boko Haram is Hamas. Hamas is Boko Haram,” he added.

“It is an immense injustice for Channels TV to give a platform to Ghazi Hamad, a senior leader of Hamas,” wrote Dede Laugesen, executive director of Save The Persecuted Christians in an email to TruthNigeria.  “But it is no surprise. Hamas has long been active in Nigeria. Both Hamas and Fulani militants are funded in large part by drug trafficking. My guess is Hamad was in Abuja to make a drug deal with Tinubu, a convicted drug trafficker. I’m betting captagon, a drug similar to heroine that was used by Oct. 7 terrorists, will soon be flooding into Nigeria following Hamad’s visit,” Laugesen wrote.

Steven Kefas is a veteran conflict reporter specializing in social media controversies for TruthNigeria.

Read more at TruthNigeria

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