Ken Stein

In the 1988 Hamas Charter and from remarks by it leaders and in other publications, they express hatred of Zionism, Israel and Jews. It is unmistakably clear that Hamas abhors Zionism, Israel and Jews in a sovereign state.  Hamas opposes any kind of negotiations that recognizes Israel as a reality or requires cooperation with Israel. Hamas celebrates the killing of Jews.  Hamas’s goal is to see Israel’s total elimination. In southern Israel on October 7, 2023, Hamas terrorists murdered 1,400 Jews, many others, and took more than 220 hostages. In earlier clashes with Israel,  Hamas killed more than 600 Israelis and wounded thousands of others. 

Hamas is a Palestinian political group and movement seeking to create a single, Islamic state in historic Palestine, which is now largely divided between Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.  Hamas, meaning “zeal” or “fervor” in Arabic, is also an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya, or  the Islamic Resistance Movement. The group was founded in 1988 as a militant segment of the Palestinian Arab national movement then dominated by the Palestine Liberation Organization, headed by Yasir Arafat.  Hamas finds its ideological origins in the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in Egypt sixty years earlier. The Muslim Brotherhood then rejected the influence of Western culture and called for the increased role of Islam in government and society.  The Muslim Brotherhood was outlawed in Egypt in the early 1950s because it threatened the secular military regime formed under the leadership of Gamal Abdul Nasser. 

Many of Hamas’s leaders were educated in Cairo during Nassar’s reign, soaking in the anti-colonial sentiment ripe in Egypt from the 1950s forward. Founding members of Hamas included religious leaders, sheikhs, intellectuals, businessmen, young activists and paramilitary fighters. Through the years, Hamas provided social services to the needy in Gaza and particularly in the eleven refugee camps in Gaza. Hamas ran schools, headed clinics, kindergartens, summer camps, medical services, and sports programs, and found job opportunities for adherents. Mosques and Islamic religious organizations are and remain Hamas’s most important vehicles for spreading its message and providing its services. Partly funded by its members, most funds come from sympathizers abroad, and in recent years major support from Qatar and Iran.

Vigorously, Hamas opposes all agreements and cooperation that any Arab state and particularly the PLO and the Palestinian Authority have made with Israel. Hamas founders vehemently opposed Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel and opposed the 1993 Oslo Accords, in which the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel engaged in mutual recognition for the purpose of Israel’s gradual transfer of power, land and limited self-rule to the PLO on behalf of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Meanwhile, the PLO leadership of Yasir Arafat and his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, viewed Hamas, as well as the much more militant Islamic Jihad organization, as significant threats to the PLO’s dominance as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

Hamas opposes Palestinian secular nationalism; it opposes individual freedoms, democracy, and liberty, prioritizing instead a commitment to the Islamic community.  Sheikh Ahmed Yasin, the Hamas founder and most revered of all its past leaders said in 2002, “We declare very clearly that Palestine from al – Naqurah to Rafah and from [river] Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea is the land of Palestine. There is no harm in establishing a Palestinian state on any part that is liberated at this stage, but without this meaning conceding the remaining territories of Palestine. This is the difference between the brothers in the PA and us.” Al-Majallah, March 31, 2002.  Other key Hamas leaders such as Khaled Mishal, Ismail Haniyeh, and Mahmoud al-Zahhar have been emphatic in their hatred of Israel. Mishal summarized in great detail in 2012, Hamas’s goal to destroy Israel.   In a May 2017 statement of principles, Hamas proclaimed,  

“Palestine is at the heart of the Arab and Islamic Ummah and enjoys a special status; the establishment of “Israel” is entirely illegal and contravenes the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and goes against their will and the will of the Ummah; there shall be no recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity. Whatever has befallen the land of Palestine in terms of occupation, settlement building, Judaization or changes to its features or falsification of facts is illegitimate. Rights never lapse.”

Accordingly, Hamas harbors no doubts about its vision for tomorrow–Israel’s destruction–and any solution that falls short of fulfilling this vision is to be rejected out of hand. Hamas is willing to have Palestinians take over Palestine in stages, gain geographic control of portions of it, even reach temporary cease-fires with Israel because the ultimate objective is to assert control over all of Palestine from east to west and north to south.  

Since taking over the Gaza Strip in 2007 in a political coup against the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the PLO, Hamas has held almost total autocratic control over the population and systematically indoctrinated Palestinian youth with hatred for Israel and Jews. Hamas continues to seek to undermine the influence of the PA and the PLO in hopes of dominating the Palestinian Arab political future. Hamas has sought international recognition from an array of notable public figures, including former Irish President Mary Robinson and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. In August 2014 they wrote a Foreign Policy article and were cited as saying that Hamas should be recognized as “a legitimate political actor,” and then Carter told The Times of Israel in May 2015 that Hamas “leaders are committed to peace.” Despite such praise, Hamas engaged in four major military confrontations with Israel, including after that date. Each round of hostilities was followed by a cease-fire that Hamas exploited, and on each occasion, Hamas rearmed, raised its political banner, obtained more foreign aid from outside supporters, and, finally over a short period, resumed its intense violence against Israel. Hamas, similar to Hizballah in southern Lebanon and the Iranian regime, openly advocates Israel’s destruction. Iran has provided Hamas and Hizbollah massive amounts of financial support, military training and equipment and has collaborated in political indoctrination.  

Ken Stein, October 23, 2023