Hamas - The Ideology
In order to understand the causes of the Gaza conflict, one must understand the ideology of Hamas. Hamas presents itself as an Islamist organisation that is part of the worldwide movement of Islamism. Islamism is a militant and supremacist manifestation of Islam that is based on a literal interpretation of the Quranic verses that exalt Muslims and advocate violence against infidels. The Hamas charter opens with the quotation from the Quran (3:110): “You (i.e., Muslims) are the best nation that hath been raised up unto mankind”.
The word “hamas” means “zeal” in Arabic, but it is also an acronym for “The Islamic Resistance Movement”. The term “Islamic” rather than “Palestinian” indicates that Palestine is only a part of the worldwide Islamic umma
or community. Hamas believes that the Jews usurped an Islamic land when they created the state of Israel in 1948.
Hamas - The History
Hamas was founded in 1987 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and others who belonged to the Palestinian wing of the (Egyptian) Islamist group The Muslim Brotherhood. This was at the time of the First Intifada (or “uprising”) of Palestinians against Israeli authorities. Hamas is the largest Palestinian militant organisation and its objective is to drive the Israeli forces out of all “occupied territories”. Its long-term aim is to establish an Islamic state throughout the whole of the historic Holy Land.
It is the firm belief of Hamas that Islam’s supremacy obligates its members to annihilate the Jews and all others who stand in their way. It is notorious for its suicide attacks against Israeli civilians and security forces, and has been branded a terrorist organisation by Israel, the U.S., the U.K., the E.U., Canada, Australia, Japan and even Jordan.
Hamas, however, has won popularity among a large segment of the Palestinian population for its extensive social projects among the poor that have seen the establishment of schools, clinics and other public services throughout Gaza and the West Bank, just as the Muslim Brotherhood have done in Egypt. This resulted in Hamas winning local elections in Nablus, Qalqilya, Gaza City and many other places. It even won more parliamentary seats than its main rival Fatah, which is seen by many Palestinians to be both corrupt and ineffective.
A vicious civil war ensued between the secularist Fatah and the Islamist Hamas for the control of Palestinian territories, which ended up in the former controlling the West Bank and the latter Gaza. Thus the Palestinian Authority has split into two bitterly rival factions that do not communicate with each other, a situation that hardly serves the Palestinian cause. Officially, however, Fatah is accepted as the legitimate authority by the international community because it both recognises Israel and is willing to negotiate with it.
Hamas - Its Goals
In 2005 Hamas claimed that Isreal’s withdrawal from Gaza was a victory for its commitment to the armed struggle and it still remains adament not to make peace or sign any agreement with Israel. The nominal ceasefire of June 2008 obviously did not last long, with both sides blaming each other. Hamas officials still talk about “removing Israel from the map”, although one or two have stated they would settle for Israeli withdrawal to the original 1948 or even the 1967 borders, though they know this will never happen. Hamas also unrealistically insists on the return of all Palestinian refugees to Palestine.
To achieve its goals, Hamas claims that it has no alternative but to carry on with its jihad or armed struggle. Its slogan is “God is our target, the Prophet our model, the Quran our constitution, jihad our path and martyrdom our loftiest wish”. Such slogan could be easily adopted by any of the organisations within Islamism.
Islamism is a set of ideologies proclaiming Islam to be not just a religion but also a political system and a complete way of life. The Islamist Movement seeks to create a pan-Islamic umma
, by force if necessary, that would be headed by a caliph and ruled according to strict Shari’a laws. These laws were formulated in the 8th and 9th centuries and based on the Quran, the Hadith (Muhammad’s sayings), and the Sunna (Muhammad’s lifestyle), and it is operating, in various forms, in most of the Islamic countries and communities. Islamism also seeks to eliminate all non-Muslim influences, particularly those emanating from the “corrupt” West.
Islamists and Islamism
Not all Islamists are terrorists, however, although all Muslim terrorists are Islamists by inclination. The pincipal ideologues of modern Islamism include Muhammad bin Abd-al-Wahhab, Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani, Muhammad Iqbal, Abul Ala al-Mawdudi, Sayyid Qutb, Usama bin Laden and Ayatollah Khomeini (for Shi’ite Isalamists). The Islamist organisations formed or inspired by these ideologues comprise Jamat-e-Islami in Pakistan, the Deobandis of India, the Egyptian and Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood, the Saudi al-Qaida (an offshoot of Wahhabism), the Taliban in Afghanistan, Amal and Hizbollah in Lebanon (both funded by Iran) and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine (funded by Saudi Arabia, Iran and others).
The expansion of Islamism
Islamism or Islamic Fundamentalism gained its momentum in the last few decades, following the perceived failure of secularist and nationalist movements, particularly in Arab lands. These were rejected in favour of Islamism, which is believed by its adherents to give them their true identity. Of all the movements within Islamism, Wahhabism (also called Salafism, referring to the Salaf or “ancestors”, i.e., Muhammad and his companions) is the most powerful. Its influence has increased since the mid-seventies thanks to the abundance of Saudi oil money. Throughout the Muslim world, as well as in the West, the Saudi government has been financing the building and staffing of thousands of mosques, schools, university Islamic departments, libraries and da’wa
or mission centres. The funding has also been used to reward academics and journalists for following the Saudi / Wahhabi strict interpretation of Islam. Wahhabism also preaches that Theocracy is superior to democracy.
As a result of such influence, Islamism is overshadowing, often silencing, the majority of “moderate” Muslims. Saudi money has even bought the allegiance of Egypt’s sl-Azhar University, which is the oldest in the world. Hamas shares all the Islamist tenets of Wahhabism, especially when it comes to the Jews.
Islamists and Jews
All Islamists believe that the Jews are the main cause of the world’s ills. They base this claim mainly on the anti-Jewish verses in the Quran and the hostility between Muhammad and the Jewish tribes in Medina
(which resulted in his wiping out one of them). Hamas also cites as “evidence” the racist worldview expressed in the Protocol of the Learned Elders of Zion, a fraudulent document used by Adolf Hitler and others to support their vicious anti-Semitism, which eventually led to the Holocaust. Islamists claim they are anti-Zionist and not anti-Semitic, but in practice there is no such distinction. “Jew” and “Zionist” are synonymous whether in Saudi school textbooks or the Friday sermons in mosques throughout the Middle East. Article 7 of the Hamas Covenant states that “the day of judgement will not come until Muslims have killed all the Jews”, and article 32 refers to the Protocol, adding: “The Zionist plan is limitless; today it’s Palestine, tomorrow another country”.
During the Second Intifada in 2000, Hamas spearheaded the violence and, from 2000 to 2004, 377 Israeli citizens and soldiers were killed and over 2000 wounded in 425 attacks. In a 2002 report, the Human Rights Watch stated that the leaders of Hamas “should be accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity”.
Hamas and the Persecution of Christians
Since 2007 Hamas has increased its rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza. Its brutality even extends to fellow-Muslims who may disagree with it, as well as to the tiny minority of Christian Palestinians. These ancient Christians have been emigrating from the Holy Land by the thousands in recent years, due to the violence they have suffered at the hands of both the Islamists and the Isrealis. Elsewhere in the Middle East, Islamists have also been persecuting other Christian minorities, so that in Iraq, for example, half of the Christian population (some 400,000) have had to flee for their lives.
In conclusion, then, many people in the West naively accept the myth that Islam is inherently a religion of peace and tolerance. This is disproved by many verses in the Quran, by numerous hadiths, by the Shri’a and by history. In recent years, Islamism has been the dominant force in Islam and it is venting its anger, hatred and revenge upon the Jews, the “Crusaders” (i.e., Christians) and the West. Hamas is certainly an Islamist organisation which aims not only at the destruction of Israel but also at the creation of an Islamic state that would be part of the worldwide umma
, would adhere to Shari’a laws and would be headed by a caliph, just as in the Classical or “Golden Age” of Islam.
(© JS, 2012, article previously published in The Catholic Times, 25 January 2009, included here with permission)