The British "Independent" has reported that Google has been profiting from the sale of T-shirts glorifying Palestinian militant group Hamas by advertising the garments, it can be revealed, days after the UK government banned its political wing as a terrorist organisation.
The military arm of the Islamist group – which controls the Gaza strip and does not recognise Israel’s right to exist – has been proscribed in the UK since 2001, but the entirety of Hamas was designated a terrorist organisation last week.
The move, announced by Home Secretary Priti Patel in a bid to crackdown on anti-semitism, came into force last Friday. It makes it a criminal offence to be a member of Hamas or even wear clothing suggesting an individual is a supporter – those in breach of the law could be jailed for up to 14 years.
Despite this, The Independent found the internet giant has in the days since been displaying adverts for T-shirts bearing the message “HAMAS ARMY”, emblazoned with a picture apparently depicting a fighter from the terror group wearing a jacket with a Palestinian flag.
Google had been advertising the £9.93 shirts – for sale via another website – at the top of the “shopping” section of its search engine. One of the adverts even highlighted a “price drop”, pointing out they were previously £19.26.
The adverts appeared after a search was made for “Hamas” on the shopping section of its search engine. A message next to the adverts explained that Google received payment in return for displaying them.
“Products and offers that match your query. Google is compensated by these merchants. Payment is one of several factors used to rank these results,” it said.
Last month, a man admitted terror offences after wearing T-shirts supporting banned Palestinian militant groups. Feras Al-Jayoosi, 34, wore clothing referring to the military wing of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Golders Green, an area in north London with a large Jewish population, earlier this year.
The move to make the entirety of Hamas a terrorist group was backed by Labour, and brings the UK in line with both the EU and United States. Explaining its proscription of Hamas, the UK government’s website states: “Hamas is a complex but single terrorist organisation. Hamas commits and participates in terrorism. Hamas has used indiscriminate rocket or mortar attacks, and raids against Israeli targets.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We expect tech companies to tackle terrorist content on their platforms and respond to emerging threats quickly. We are pleased Google acted so swiftly here, and we will continue to work with companies to ensure it remains a priority.”