- Was instrumental to the creation of Hamas in 1987
- Calls for genocide against the Jews
Born in 1945 to a Palestinian father and an Egyptian mother, Mahmoud al-Zahar graduated with a medical degree from Cairo University at age 26. Five years later he earned a master’s degree in general surgery from Ain Shams University in Cairo. He then became an advisor to the Palestinian Health Minister, helped create the Palestinian Medical Society, and was a primary founder of the Islamic University in Gaza in 1978.
Al-Zahar was instrumental to the creation of Hamas in 1987 and has remained a senior official and spokesman for the organization ever since. While he currently resides in Hamas’s “political-wing,” prior to that al-Zahar helped plan terror attacks with the group’s “armed-wing,” the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
In 2004 al-Zahar articulated his vision of Islam’s glorious destiny: “We are part of Allah’s promise that Islam will enter Palestine and every home in the world, with a revelation of the power of Allah the Omnipotent, and a revelation of the inferiority of the infidels. Hamas is leading this plan in Gaza, the West Bank, and the 1948 territories, and the Muslim Brotherhood is leading it everywhere else. This is part of Allah’s predestination.”
That same year, Al-Zahar delivered a eulogy at the funeral of Hamas’s first female suicide bomber, promising: “She is not going to be the last because the march of resistance will continue until the Islamic flag is raised, not only over the minarets of Jerusalem, but over the whole universe.”
In 2005 al-Zahar made it clear that nothing less than the total and permanent destruction of Israel would satisfy him or his organization: “Neither the liberation of the Gaza Strip nor the liberation of the West Bank or even Jerusalem will suffice us. Hamas will pursue the armed struggle until the liberation of all our lands. We don’t recognize the state of Israel or its right to hold onto one inch of Palestine. Palestine is an Islamic land belonging to all the Muslims.”
But al-Zahar’s quest to annihilate the Jews comes with a major precondition, as he explained in 2006: “Before Israel dies, it must be humiliated and degraded. Allah willing, before they die, they will experience humiliation and degradation every day.”
When Hamas in early 2006 took the reins of the Palestinian government in Gaza, al-Zahar became the new foreign minister and candidly declared that Hamas “would not change a single word in its covenant,” which unambiguously calls for Jewish genocide and the destruction of Israel. “Israel is not a legitimate entity, and no amount of pressure can force us to recognize its right to exist,” he added. “… By God, we will not leave one Jew in Palestine. We will fight them with all the strength we have. This is our land, not the Jews’.”
On June 14, 2006, Palestinian officials reported that al-Zahar had been caught transporting twelve suitcases stuffed with $26.7 million in cash into Gaza through its border with Egypt, which was controlled by Palestinian guards loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah. “We do not have a law that sets a ceiling for the amount of money that can enter the country,” an Abbas aide said. “We don’t know where that money is going to go.”
In a 2010 television broadcast, al-Zahar demanded “the liberation of the West Bank, and the establishment of a state in the West Bank and Gaza, with Jerusalem as its capital—but without recognizing [Israel]. This is the key—without recognizing the Israeli enemy on a single inch of land…. We will not recognize the Israeli enemy.” On another occasion, al-Zahar said, “I dream of hanging a huge map of the world on the wall at my Gaza home which does not show Israel on it. I hope that our dream to have our independent state on all historic Palestine.”
In November 2010, al-Zahar declared: “The day we expel them [the Jews] is drawing near…. We extended our hands to feed these hungry dogs and wild beasts, and they devoured our fingers. We have learned the lesson—there is no place for you among us, and you have no future among the nations of the world. You are headed to annihilation.”
Soon after Hamas in 2011 released the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit after five years in captivity—in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian terrorists who had been serving time in Israeli jails—al-Zahar said in a newspaper interview: “The lessons we’ve learned by kidnapping soldiers leads us to continue the kidnappings. We still have 7,000 prisoners in [Israeli] jails, and they also need to be released.”
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This profile is adapted, in part, from “Voices of Palestine: Mahmoud al-Zahar,” by Frank Crimi (October 26, 2011).