HAMAS (an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawamat al-Islamiyya, which is Arabic for “Islamic Resistance Movement”) is an Islamic fundamentalist group founded on December 14, 1987. As a single Arabic word rather than an acronym, “Hamas” means “zeal.” The organization’s founders were seven leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood: Ahmed Yassin, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, Ibrahim al-Yazuri, Sheikh Salih Shihada, ‘Isa al-Našhar, Muhammad Shama’a, and ‘Abd al-Fattah Dukhan. Hamas, in a sense, grew out of a 1985-86 Brotherhood movement — in which Ahmed Yassin was involved — that resolved to pursue its goal of degrading and ultimately destroying Israel by means of civil disturbance. The movement went by various names such as The Armed Struggle Movement, The Steadfast on the Land of al-Isra’, and The Islamic Resistance Movement. Ultimately, Yassin blended a group he had founded in 1973 — the Islamic Organization — into this Brotherhood movement, and settled on the name Hamas. The organization gained great popular support Gaza due to commitment to “raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.”
Describing itself as “one of the wings of the Muslim Brother[hood],” Hamas’s avowed purpose is “liberating Palestine” from its Jewish “oppressors,” whose very presence in the Middle East Hamas considers an affront to Muslims’ rightful sovereignty over the region. Hamas is best known for using violent methods — including suicide bombings against Israeli military and civilian targets — as part of its long-term strategy to destroy Israel and replace it with an Islamic Palestinian state. The U.S. State Department, Canada, Japan, Israel, and the entire European Union have named Hamas as an Islamic terrorist organization.
With tens of thousands of loyal supporters, Hamas’ strength is concentrated principally in the Gaza Strip and a few areas of the West Bank. The group’s leadership is dispersed throughout these same areas, with a few senior leaders residing also in Syria, Lebanon, and the Gulf States.
Over the years, Hamas’ funding has derived from a variety of sources. Today it is supported primarily by donations from Iran, Arab governments such as that of Syria, Palestinian expatriates, private benefactors in Arab nations, Islamic fascist groups, and Muslim “charities” from around the world such as the now-defunct Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. (It is estimated that the “charities” account for about half of all Hamas funding today.) Some clandestine fundraising takes place in Western Europe and North America as well. When the United Nations Oil-For-Food program was in effect, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein skimmed more than $21 billion from its coffers and sent some of it directly to Hamas.
Describing Hamas’ political and social agendas, Israel scholar Steven Plaut writes: “Hamas and al-Qaeda are basically two sides of the same jihad. They have squabbled rhetorically on occasion … but … Hamas ‘schools’ and other institutions routinely distribute the harangues of [Osama] bin-Laden and other al-Qaeda materials. Hamas rallies feature posters of bin Laden and of Chechen terror leaders.” Dr. Harold Brackman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center elaborates:
“Hamas has held secret summits with Al Qaeda operatives in locales as distant as India, and even sent a select few members to train in bin Laden’s Afghan camps. For what it’s worth, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas claimed in 2007 that: ‘It is Hamas that is shielding Al Qaeda, and through its bloody conduct, Hamas has become very close to Al Qaeda [in Gaza].'”
The Hamas Charter, written in 1987, puts forth “The Slogan of the Hamas,” which closely resembles the Muslim Brotherhood’s credo and reads as follows: “Allah is its goal, the Prophet its model, the Qur’an its Constitution, Jihad its path, and death for the case of Allah its most sublime belief.” In addition, the Hamas Charter:
In 1992 Hamas formed its military wing, known as the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, named in honor of the late Sheikh who was the forefather of modern Arab resistance until his death in 1935.
In December 1992, Israeli forces responded to Palestinian atrocities by arresting more than 1,000 Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists and deporting 415 of them into Lebanon. Among those expelled were two co-founders of Hamas (including Ismail Haniya) and several of the organization’s top military commanders.
In response to these expulsions, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 799 which “strongly” condemned the deportation of “hundreds of Palestinian civilians” and expressed “its firm opposition to any such deportation by Israel.” The Security Council further demanded that Israel “ensure the safe and immediate return to the occupied territories of all those deported.” American and European officials likewise pressured Israel to abide by the UN directives. Bill Clinton, for one, said that while he understood Israeli concerns about Hamas, he was opposed to the Jewish state actually deporting the terrorists.
The media, too, helped turn the plight of the expelled Hamas terrorists into the leading human-rights issue of the day. For example, in a story headlined “Deporting the Hope for Peace,” Newsweek sympathetically reported that the deportees were “shivering in the cold.” The New York Times described the hillside upon which they were camped out, as “desolate.” The Christian Science Monitor said the deportees were huddling “under heavy rain.” And the Associated Press, which described Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi, the future leader of Hamas, only as a Gaza physician, provided detailed coverage of deportees who were suffering from such ailments as diarrhea. Eventually, in response to public presuures such as these, Israel agreed to permit the terrorists to return.
The first Hamas suicide bombing on record took place on April 26, 1993, when Saher al-tamam attacked two Israeli buses in Mehola, injuring several soldiers who were there on leave. However, this mode of attack did not become the organization’s “official policy” until 1994, when Hamas’ Yahya Ayyash—nicknamed ”The Engineer”— succeeded in perfecting the design for the suicide explosive belt. During the course of the next 13 years, Hamas terrorists would kill over 500 people in more than 350 separate attacks.
In October 1997, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the co-founder and spiritual head of Hamas, was released from an Israeli prison and returned to Gaza where he declared that the Jewish state must “disappear from the map.” “We have an aim and an enemy,” he added, “and we shall continue our jihad against the enemy. A nation without a jihad is a nation without a purpose.”
When Israeli helicopter gun ships used Hellfire missiles to kill Yassin on March 22, 2004, Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat eulogized him and declared three days of mourning for his people.
Upon Yassin’s death, his leadership role with Hamas was immediately filled by the group’s co-founder, Abdel Aziz al Rantisi, a 54-year-old pediatrician who himself had escaped an Israeli assassination attempt in June 2003. Immediately upon taking control of Hamas, Rantisi threatened retaliatory attacks against both Israel and the United States, though he later said that Hamas would target only Israel. On April 17, 2004, an Israeli army helicopter launched a missile strike on Rantisi’s car, killing him.
That same month, Yasser Arafat told the German magazine Focus that he was prepared to include Hamas and Islamic Jihad in a new leadership structure to operate in parallel with the Palestinian Authority (PA). “Forming a unified Palestinian leadership does not contradict the Palestinian Authority,” Fatah Central Committee member Hani al-Hassan told the Fatah-connected newspaper Al-Ayyam, “as it is an internal Palestinian factional issue.” “We think that all political movements should take part in the political decision-making process,” agreed senior Hamas figure Sheikh Said Siam. But this alleged diversity of political viewpoints was illusory. On January 3, 2003, PLO political chief Farouq Al-Qaddoumi candidly acknowledged that Fatah, “strategically,” was “never different from Hamas.”
Hamas boycotted the PA’s presidential elections of January 2005 but made a strong showing in the municipal elections, especially in Gaza, where it won 77 out of 118 seats in 10 council races.
In March 2005, FBI director Robert Mueller stated that “[o]f all the Palestinian groups, Hamas has the largest presence in the United States with a strong infrastructure … [and] is theoretically capable of facilitating acts of terrorism in the United States.” Seven months later an FBI counterterrorism agent in New York affirmed Mueller’s assertions, stating: “We have information [that] Hamas agents have been on U.S. soil the past few years and that the group may currently have up to 100 agents operating inside America.” And according to terrorism expert Steven Emerson:
“Hamas has an extensive infrastructure in the U.S. mostly revolving around the activities of fundraising, recruiting and training members, directing operations against Israel, organizing political support and operating through human rights front groups. … [I]t has the capability of carrying out attacks in America if it decided to enlarge the scope of its operations.”
In July 2005, Mahmoud al-Zahar, the most senior Hamas member in Gaza, stated that his organization would “definitely not” be prepared for long-term coexistence with Israel, even if the Jewish state were to agree to return to the borders it had in 1967 — i.e., before Israel had repelled the invading armies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan and taken control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. “It [coexistence] can be a temporary solution, for a maximum of 5 to 10 years,” said al-Zahar. “But in the end Palestine must return to become Muslim, and in the long term Israel will disappear from the face of the earth.”
In August 2005 al-Zahar said the following as Israel, in an effort to foster peaceful coexistence with its Palestinian neighbors, prepared to unilaterally withdraw all its troops and civilian settlers from the Gaza Strip:
Also in August 2005, the founders and political leaders of Hamas joined forces to publicly announce that their organization’s attacks against Israeli targets would continue even after the Jewish state’s impending withdrawal from Gaza. Senior Hamas member Ismail Haniyeh characterized Israel’s action as a “retreat” that was “a result of resistance and our people’s sacrifice.” Promising more violence, he declared, “Hamas confirms its adherence to resistance as a strategic option until the occupation retreats from our lands and holy places” — i.e., until Israel ceases to exist.
When Israel proceeded to actually withdraw from Gaza in September 2005, Hamas heralded the move by defiantly blustering that its “Zionist enemy” had suffered a humiliating “defeat,” and announcing its intent to continue pursuing Israel’s destruction.
For its perceived role in driving Israel out of Gaza, Hamas gained immense popularity and political clout in the region. In January 2006, the terror group participated for the first time in the PA’s political elections and won 76 of the 132 parliamentary seats, effectively taking control of the Palestinian government. Formally assuming power on March 29, 2006, the new 24-member Hamas Cabinet included 14 ministers who had previously served time in Israeli prisons.
Among “the first things Hamas did after taking over Gaza,” writes Steven Plaut, “was to launch a campaign of unbridled kleptocracy, stealing funds and commodities shipped to the Gaza Strip as humanitarian aid (including that sent by other Arab countries) sent via the UN institutions operating there. A Qatari newspaper claims the theft amounts to billions of dollars.”
The newly installed Palestinian prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, pledged to cooperate with PA president Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat’s successor and the head of the defeated Fatah party which still controlled most of the PA’s security apparatus. At a Gaza news conference, Haniyeh pledged that his relations with Abbas would emphasize the “cooperation and harmony” which could result from confronting “Israeli aggression against the people.” But before long, Hamas and Fatah were embroiled in a contentious political rivalry that escalated into violent street clashes throughout Gaza.
While this internal conflict was going on inside Gaza, Hamas terrorists also had their sights set on on their hated neighbor to the north, Israel. Since 2001, they had fired thousands of deadly rockets from Gaza into southern Israeli towns and cities, most notably Sderot, located just three miles from the Palestinian border. On June 11, 2006, Hamas spokemsan Abu Oviyada candidly declared, “We have decided to turn Sderot into a ghost town and we will not stop the rocket fire until the residents leave.”
In addition to the rocket attacks, in the post-2006-election era Hamas terrorists and their fellow Gazans also targeted Israelis via car bombs, suicide bombings, sniper attacks, stabbings, stonings, open gunfire in crowded places, the development of chemical weapons, and the smuggling of TNT and mine components into Israel.
In June 2006, Hamas released a video wherein one of its leading operatives, Yasser Ghalban, predicted the demise of the West:
“We will rule the nations, by Allah’s will, the U.S.A. will be conquered, Israel will be conquered, Rome and Britain will be conquered … The Jihad for Allah … is the way of Truth and the way for salvation and the way which will lead us to crush the Jews and expel them from our country, Palestine. Just as the Jews ran from Gaza, the Americans will run from Iraq and Afghanistan and the Russians will run from Chechnya, and the Indian will run from Kashmir, and our children will be released from Guantanamo. The prisoners will be released by Allah’s will, not by peaceful means and not by agreements, but they will be released by the sword, they will be released by the gun.”
On June 28, 2006, Israeli troops and tanks entered the southern Gaza Strip in an incursion intended to force the release of an Israeli soldier who had been kidnapped from an army outpost three days earlier by Palestinian militants.
On July 12, 2006, Lebanon-based Hezbollah decisively opened a second front in the Arab war against Israel when it conducted a surprise raid on a border post in northern Israel, taking two IDF soldiers captive and wounding eleven others. The abductions, which Israel called an act of war, prompted an Israeli military campaign against Lebanon, to which Hezbollah responded by firing, over the next month, more than 4,000 rockets across the Lebanese border and into Israeli cities.
“It’s not coincidental that we had these two attacks and they’re pretty much coordinated — in the south with Hamas and with Hizballah [Hezbollah] in the north,” said Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Daniel Ayalon, noting that both groups are supported by Tehran and Damascus.
Many of the rockets that Hamas (and Hezbollah) fired into Israel were launched from civilian areas, making it impossible for Israel to retaliate without causing civilian casualties; the terror groups then exploited those casualties for propaganda purposes. This has been standard procedure for both Hamas and Hezbollah in every military conflict they have ever had with Israel. In many cases, these organizations deliberately plant civilians, including children and the elderly, in locations likely to be targeted by the Israeli military — so as to manufacture atrocities. (Hamas’ willingness and even eagerness to use such “human shields” was articulated in 2008 by its interior minister, Fathi Hamad: “For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry, at which women excel, and so do all the people living on this land. The elderly excel at this, and so do the mujahideen and the children. This is why they have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly, and the mujahideen, in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine. It is as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: ‘We desire death like you desire life.’”)
Both Hamas and Hezbollah said that they would release their Israeli captives only in exchange for thousands of their own members who were incarcerated in Israeli prisons at that time. Israel replied that it would not engage in any prisoner exchanges, and that it would cease its bombardment of terrorist strongholds only if Hamas and Hezbollah agreed to suspend all rocket attacks into Israel and unconditionally released the Israeli soldiers.
In August 2006, after a month of combat, Israel and Hezbollah agreed to a cease-fire under the terms of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which called for “the immediate cessation by Hezbullah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations.” Israel’s battle against Hamas, meanwhile, had no formal ending but simply de-escalated. Before long, Hamas and other Gazan terrorists resumed their practice of firing rockets aimlessly, and with impunity, into southern Israel.
In November 2006, Hamas announced that it was “very satisfied” with reports that Israeli residents of communities near the Gaza Strip — most notably Sderot — were prepared to relocate because of the relentless barrage of rocket attacks that Hamas was aiming at their villages on a daily basis. “The importance of what is happening in Sderot proves to the Palestinians, especially those who say rockets bring no results, that rocket attacks do bring big benefits,” said Abu Abdullah, a key leader of Hamas’ military wing (the Izzedine al-Qassam Martyrs Brigades). “We promise we will keep hitting them because this process [of launching rockets at Jewish communities] is starting to bring results. We are working to improve our rockets to hit further and cause more Jews to evacuate.” Another Hamas spokesman, Abu Abaida, said: “There are no limits on our rocket attacks and we will prove that in coming days. We advise residents of Sderot to evacuate…. We keep working on [the rockets] to improve deadliness, force and distance.”
As Hamas and Fatah continued to vie for control over Gaza in early 2007, a number of Arab nations, headed by Saudi Arabia, led mediation efforts that resulted in Hamas and Fatah agreeing to share power in a Palestinian “unity government.” Under this arrangement, Ismail Haniyeh kept his position as prime minister and Hamas retained majority control of the cabinet. The unity government was sworn in on March 17, 2007.
In a March 25, 2007 speech, senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar gave voice to his organization’s ultimate goal of helping Islam gain dominion over the entire planet:
“We have two important foundations [promising that Islam will eventually dominate the earth]: one is Koranic and the other is prophetic. The Koranic: the divine promise made in the Al-Israa Sura is that we will liberate the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque … And the prophetic foundation is the message of the prophet Muhammad, that Islam will enter every house and will spread over the entire world.”
In April 2007, Hamas military leader Abu Abdullah emphasized his group’s unwavering commitment to destroying the state of Israel: “We don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist. We will never allow Jews to remain in our lands. … We have thousands of rockets ready to be shot.” Further, Abdullah warned that if Israel were to raid Gaza in retaliation for its rocket attacks, “the Zionists will be entering hell. We are preparing a major cemetery for them. We will step up attacks, including dispatching suicide bombers to Tel Aviv.” Moreover, he revealed that Hamas had used a recent cease-fire period as an opportunity to stockpile weaponry and to train for future attacks against Israel.
After his organization had launched some 150 missiles against Israel during one particular week in mid-May 2007, Hamas official Nizhar Riyah declared that “Hamas is determined to wipe Israel off the map and replace it with the state of Palestine.” He vowed to persevere “until the last Jew is expelled” from “all of Palestine.”
Also in mid-May 2007, simmering hostilities between Fatah and Hamas resurfaced. The following month, these clashes escalated into full-blown violence that lasted for six days. Fatah’s forces, trained and armed by the United States and other Western nations, were routed. According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Hamas’ violence was indiscriminate and demonstrated a willful disregard for the conventions of war. For example, Hamas fighters pushed a number of Fatah members from the roofs of tall buildings; killed people who were already badly injured; shot enemies at point-blank range to ensure permanent disabilities; and attacked private homes, apartment buildings, hospitals, ambulances, and medical crews.
By the time the fighting was over, Hamas had seized almost all of Fatah’s major bases in the Gaza Strip. As a result, Mahmoud Abbas announced on June 14 that he was dismissing his Hamas-led government and declared a state of emergency, thereby marking the end of the unity government that Hamas and Fatah had formed earlier that year. Hamas was now firmly in control of the region.
In the more populous West Bank, by contrast, Fatah’s position remained relatively secure; Hamas had been unable to establish its authority there because of Israel’s continued military presence.
In Gaza, Hamas governed through a combination of violence, authoritarianism, and Islamism. Some 1,000 people, almost all members of Fatah and the PA, were illegally arrested in the first months of Hamas rule by the so-called Executive Force, a newly formed Hamas police organization whose leader actually admitted to the use of torture and violence against his political enemies. According to one human-rights report, the nascent Hamas government also attacked members of the media and peaceful demonstrators who questioned its policies in any way. By November 2007, the British press reported that “only believers feel safe” in Gaza, and that “un-Islamic” dress sometimes resulted in beatings.
Another hallmark of Hamas’ rule was its gross mistreatment of the minority Christian community, mostly Greek Orthodox, which had lived in relative peace for centuries amid Gaza’s predominantly Sunni Muslim population. By one count, more than 50 attacks against such Christians took place in the first few months following the Hamas coup of June 2007.
In mid-September 2007, Israel designated Hamas-ruled Gaza as a hostile political entity and authorized a series of economic sanctions against the region, including restrictions on the supply of electricity and fuel, the closure of joint industrial areas, and the shutting down of crossings that connected Israel and the Gaza Strip. Hamas in turn characterized Israel’s actions as a “declaration of war.”
In the 2007 Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) trial (which looked into evidence of HLF’s fundraising on behalf of Hamas), the U.S. government released a list of approximately 300 of HLF’s “unindicted co-conspirators”.pdf+%22holy+land+foundation%22+and+list+of+%22unindicted+co-conspirators%22&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=2&gl=us) and “joint venturers.” Among these were groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Hamas, INFOCOM, the Islamic Association for Palestine, the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Arab Youth Association, the North American Islamic Trust, and the United Association for Studies and Research. The list also included many individuals (some of whom were deceased) affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and/or Hamas. Among these were Omar Ahmad, Abdurahman Alamoudi, Yousef al-Qaradawi, Abdallah Azzam, Jamal Badawi, Mohammad Jaghlit, Mousa Abu Marzook, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, and Ahmed Yassin.
During a television program that aired on Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV on February 28, 2008, Hamas cleric Wael Al-Zarad stated that the Muslims’ desire to slaughter Jews “will only subside with their [the Jews] annihilation, Allah willing.”
On December 27, 2008, Israel launched “Operation Cast Lead” (OCL), a military operation targeting Hamas and other terrorists in Gaza. Specifically, the operation was a response to the fact that between January 2001 and December 2008, Hamas and its affiliated terrorists in Gaza had fired some 8,165 rockets and mortars at civilian communities in southern Israel — with no end in sight.
On January 18, 2009 — after three weeks of combat — Hamas accepted the terms of a ceasefire that Israel had unilaterally declared the day before.
In May 2011, Hamas and Fatah signed a landmark reconciliation pact aimed at ending their bitter four-year rift. The deal called for the formation of an interim government to run both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with parliamentary and presidential elections to follow within a year.
In late 2011, Hamas added the phrase “a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood – Palestine” to its official name – i.e., “The Islamic Resistance Movement.” A senior Hamas source stated that his group was now officially part of the global Muslim Brotherhood organization.
Between January and mid-November of 2012, Hamas terrorists fired more than 700 rockets into southern Israel. Some 120 of those were launched during November 10-14. In response, Israel carried out a precision strike on a car carrying Hamas military chief Ahmad Jabari, mastermind of the 2006 kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Video of the strike shows it was designed to minimize civilian casualties. After killing Jabari, the Israeli Defense Forces struck 100 terrorist target locations in Hamas-controlled Gaza. Hamas, in turn, declared that Israel’s initial strike against Jabari had “opened the gates of hell,” and that its 35,000 fighters would soon be deployed in attacks against the Jews.
On November 15 and 16, 2012, Hamas militants fired two missiles toward Tel Aviv — the first time Israel’s largest city had come under such attack since the 1991 Gulf War. Neither of the missiles hit any population targets.
On November 16, 2012, Hamas launched a missile intended for the Israeli parliament building in Jerusalem — the first time any structure in that city had been targeted by missiles since 1970. The projectile, however, landed in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem, and caused no casualties.
At a March 10, 2014 ceremony in Gaza City, Hamas unveiled a full-sized statue of a large M75 rocket named in honor of Qassam Brigades founding member Ibrahim al-Maqadma, whom Israel had assassinated in 2003. “Hamas managed to take the battle to the heart of the Zionist entity after developing its rocket system, succeeding where many Arab armies had failed,” said a Hamas leader flanked by masked fighters at the statue’s unveiling. Another Hamas official, meanwhile, proclaimed that in any future confrontation with Israel his organization would use long-range weapons to target cities in the far north.
That same day, Israel displayed a shipment of arms — including long-range rockets with a range of up to 100 miles — that it had captured as they were being transported from Iran to Gaza.
On June 2, 2014, Palestinian leaders formed a new “government of national unity,” headed by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and backed by Hamas. The establishment of this new transitional government signaled the end of a seven-year feud between Hamas and Fatah, the Palestinian political factions that separately controlled the Gaza Strip and West Bank, respectively. According to the Washington Post, the Hamas-Fatah alliance “appears to skirt, barely, U.S. prohibitions on aid to a Palestinian government that has ‘undue’ Hamas presence or influence.”
“Today we declare the end of the split and regai[n] the unity of the homeland,” Fatah/PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas said in a recorded speech on Palestine TV. “This black page in our history has been closed forever.”
It was not immediately determined, however, whether Hamas and its military wing would permit the new unity government to run the security forces in the Gaza Strip, or conversely, whether Hamas would be allowed to operate more freely in the West Bank—e.g., to stage mass rallies or run social programs.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that he would never conduct diplomatic negotiations with a government “backed by Hamas, a terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of Israel.” Israeli Finance Minister Naftali Bennett characterized the new Palestinian government as “terrorists in suits.”
On July 6, 2014, Hamas released a new video calling for genocide against Israelis. Claiming that Israel’s leaders had chosen death, and advising those who lived in the southern Israeli town of Beer Sheva to flee, the video featured images of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, and Israeli Chief of General Staff of the IDF Benny Gantz juxtaposed with images of bloody Palestinian children who allegedly had been injured or killed by Israel. The video concluded with footage of rocket fire directed towards Israel, and showed men, women and children fleeing desperately for their lives.
On July 17, 2014, Israel, exasperated by the relentless barrage of potentially deadly rockets that Hamas terrorists were launching from Gaza deep into the Jewish state – and by Hamas’s rejection of an Egyptian cease-fire plan earlier that week – sent ground troops into Gaza for the purpose of degrading Hamas’s killing capacity. Most significantly, Israel aimed to locate and destroy the massive network of underground concrete tunnels which Hamas had built below heavily populated areas throughout Gaza. These tunnels were used to store, transport, and launch Hamas’s enormous stockpiles of missiles. Many of the tunnels also extended into Israeli territory, thereby providing Hamas militants with a means of entering Israel undetected and carrying out terror missions.
During Israel’s July 2014 war against Hamas, IDF forces in the Gaza Strip found a Hamas manual on “Urban Warfare,” which belonged to the Shuja’iya Brigade of Hamas’ military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades. In a section entitled “Limiting the Use of [Israeli] Weapons,” the manual explains that it is beneficial for jihadists to use civilians as human shields because the IDF invariably seeks to avoid harming noncombatants:
“The soldiers and commanders [of the IDF] must limit their use of weapons and tactics that lead to the harm and unnecessary loss of people and [destruction of] civilian facilities. It is difficult for them to get the most use out of their firearms, especially of supporting fire [e.g. artillery].”
Expanding on this theme, the Hamas manual explains that the “presence of [Palestinian] civilians are pockets of resistance” that present three major problems for Israeli troops: “Problems with opening fire”; “Problems in controlling the civilian population during operations and afterward”; and “Assurance of supplying medical care to civilians who need it.”
Lastly, the manual emphasizes that when the homes of Palestinian civilians are destroyed, Hamas benefits in terms of propaganda and world opinion: “The destruction of civilian homes: This increases the hatred of the citizens towards the attackers [the IDF] and increases their gathering [support] around the city defenders [i.e., Hamas].”
On September 14, 2014, the Gatestone Institute published a report quoting numerous Gaza residents who complained that Hamas, in its recently waged war against Israel, had forced its own civilians, against their will, to serve as human shields. Some examples:
One medical worker said:
“The Israeli army sends warnings to people [Gazans] to evacuate buildings before an attack. The Israelis either call or send a text message. Sometimes they call several times to make sure everyone has been evacuated. Hamas’s strict policy, though, was not to allow us to evacuate. Many people got killed, locked inside their homes by Hamas militants. Hamas’s official Al-Quds TV regularly issued warnings to Gazans not to evacuate their homes. Hamas militants would block the exits to the places residents were asked to evacuate. In the Shijaiya area, people received warnings from the Israelis and tried to evacuate the area, but Hamas militants blocked the exits and ordered people to return to their homes. Some of the people had no choice but to run towards the Israelis and ask for protection for their families. Hamas shot some of those people as they were running; the rest were forced to return to their homes and get bombed. This is how the Shijaiya massacre happened. More than 100 people were killed.”
A graduate student at an Egyptian university who was visiting his family in Gaza when the war broke out said:
“When people stopped listening to Hamas orders not to evacuate and began leaving their homes anyway, Hamas imposed a curfew: anyone walking out in the street was shot without being asked any questions. That way Hamas made sure people had to stay in their homes even if they were about to get bombed…. Hamas held the entire Gazan population as a human shield.”
A Gazan man who lost one of his legs in an Israeli raid was aked who he thought was responsible for his injury, and he replied:
“Hamas was. My father received a text-message from the Israeli army warning him that our area was going to be bombed, and Hamas prevented us from leaving. They said there was a curfew. A curfew, can you believe that? I swear to God, we will take revenge on Hamas. I swear to God I will stand on my other foot and fight against Hamas. Even if Israel leaves them alone, we will not. What had my two-year-old nephew done to be killed under the rubble of our home so Khaled Mashaal [Hamas leader based in Qatar] could be happy? We want change at any cost. I am not claiming the Israelis are innocent, but I know Hamas has fired rockets from every residential spot in Gaza. If that was not hiding behind civilians, then it was stupidity and recklessness. Nobody who is normal, in his right mind, in Gaza supports Hamas. People have lost parents, children and friends, and have nothing more to lose. I believe if given the chance and the weapons, they will stand against Hamas.”
A Gazan journalist, meanwhile, noted the hypocrisy and cowardice of the Hamas fighters:
“Hamas fired rockets from next to homes. Hamas was running from one home to another. Hamas lied when it claimed it was shooting from non-populated areas. To make things even worse for us, Hamas would fire from the balconies of homes and try to drag the Israelis into door-to-door battles and street-to-street fights — a death sentence for all the civilians here. They would fire rockets and then run away quickly, leaving us to face Israeli bombs for what they did. They are cowards. If Hamas militants are not afraid of dying, why do they run after they fire rockets from our homes? Why don’t they stay and die with us? Are they afraid to die and go to heaven? Isn’t that what they claim they wish?”
In January 2015, Breitbart.com reported that “over 10,000 Palestinian teenagers recently attended a terror camp hosted by the Gaza-based Al Qassam Brigades, which is the armed wing of the Hamas Palestinian terror group.” In the camp’s “Pioneers of the Resistance” program, Palestinians aged 15 to 21 were taught how to use weapons such as rifles and rockets, and how to construct tunnels for use in staging surprise attacks against Israel. According to Breitbart: “Hamas reportedly said that demand was so high that they had to restructure the camp to make room for all the applicants..”
Hamas publishes a biweekly, London-based children’s magazine titled Al-Fateh, which regularly characterizes Jews as “murderers of the prophets”; lauds parents who encourage their sons to kill Jews; and, according to the Middle East Media Research Center, incites youngsters to “jihad and martyrdom and glorification of terrorist operations and of their planners and perpetrators.” Each issue features an installment of “The Story of a Martyr,” presenting the “heroic deeds” of a Muslim who died in a suicide bombing or who was killed before committing such crimes by the Israeli Defense Forces. (Click here to view some examples of the text and illustrations contained in this Hamas production.)
Defenders of Hamas commonly assert that the organization provides valuable social services for the Palestinian people. Steven Plaut addresses this claim:
“Hamas does indeed operate social services, but mainly as a tool in asserting its power and control, and in order to finance its terrorism. The American State Department has traditionally drawn no distinction between Hamas terrorism and its social services: ‘As long as Hamas continues to rely on terrorism to achieve its political ends, we should not draw a distinction between its military and humanitarian arms, since funds provided to one can be used to support the other.’ Even the normally anti-Israel Human Rights Watch has concluded that Hamas social functions are part and parcel of its terrorist activity.”
In a secret election held in February 2017, Hamas chose the notoriously brutal Yahya Sinwar — a key member of the organization’s military wing — to replace Ismail Haniyeh as the head of Hamas operations in Gaza.
The truth is that the new Charter, though vaunted as a major shift for the group, is, in reality, little more than a public-relations exercise. Hamas leaders have got smart, but have not changed their spots.
The most obvious change lies in the wording concerning Jews and Israelis. Whereas the Charter Mark I of 1988 contained numerous examples of pure anti-Semitism, singling Jews out as repellent enemies of God and calling for their wholesale destruction, it has finally dawned on the leadership that racist, anti-Semitic and genocidal words do not fare well in many Western states, even in ones with an anti-Zionist agenda.
The result is now a presumed distinction between Jews and Zionists/Israelis. Thus, we read:
“Hamas differentiates between Jews as people of the holy book, and Judaism as a religion and the occupation and the Zionist Project as something separate, and it sees that the conflict is with the Zionist Project not with the Jewish people because of their religion. And Hamas does not have a conflict with the Jews because they are Jews, but Hamas has a conflict with the Zionists, occupiers and aggressors.” (New Charter 2017, Article 15)
However, this article follows one that is quite different:
“The Zionist Project is a racist, aggressive and separatist project based on violating others’ rights and is against Palestine’s people and its vision for freedom, liberation, sovereignty and the return of the refugees. And the Israeli state is the tool of this project and its foundation.” (New Charter 2017, Article 13)
Needless to say, it is alleged that Hamas cannot possibly be anti-Semitic — evidently trying to block out the 3,000 years of documented history that took place before World War II:
“Hamas sees that the Jewish problem and the ‘anti-semitism’ and the injustice against the Jewish people is a phenomenon related to European history, not to the history of Arabs and Muslims or their heritage.” (New Charter 2017, Article 16)
This is, of course, mere bluster that ignores the fact that outright anti-Semitism is to be found in the Qur’an, the Sacred Traditions (ahadith), shari’a law regarding the treatment of Jews and Christians as dhimmi inferiors to Muslims, or the countless persecutions and pogroms carried out against Jews in Muslim countries.
In Article 16 of the New Charter, propaganda dominates the narrative and distracts us from Hamas’s underlying commitment to traditional Islamic thinking about Jews and Judaism.
The difference between Hamas’s unchanged jihad ideology and the image it now wants to project may be found in Articles 8 and 9 of the New Charter:
“8. Hamas understands Islam in all its details, and it is appropriate for all places and times in its neutral spirituality, and Hamas believes that it is the religion of peace and forgiveness, and under its shadow all different religious followers live safe and in safety. As well as it believes that Palestine was and will stay as an example of coexistence, forgiveness and civilian innovation.” (New Charter 2017, Article 8)
“9. Hamas believes that the message of Islam came with morals of justice, truth, dignity and freedom, and is against injustice in all its shapes, and criminalizes the criminals whatever their sex, color, religion or nationality are. Islam is against all shapes of religious extremism, sectarian extremism and ethnic extremism, and it is the religion that teaches its followers to fight against the tyranny and help weak people and it teaches its followers to sacrifice their time, money and themselves in the defense of their dignity, land, people and holy places.” (New Charter 2017, Article 9)
Here, we see in a fuller form the same connectivity to religion that characterized the first Charter.
Despite the claim that Islam is “the religion of peace and forgiveness, and under its shadow all different religious followers live safe and in safety,” it soon becomes clear that Hamas’s intentions towards Israel and the rest of the non-Muslim world have not changed in the least. First, the New Charter declares the Balfour Declaration, the British Mandate, and the 1947 UN partition resolution to be “illegal from the beginning” (New Charter 2017, Article 17), meaning that there can be little room for manoeuver about Israel’s right to exist. That is driven home in the next article:
“We do not recognize the Zionist state. All shapes of occupation, settlements, Judaization and the forgery of truth are illegal. These rights do not dissolve with time.” (New Charter 2017, Article 18)
And that is followed by a return to the jihad doctrine:
“Hamas confirms that no peace in Palestine should be agreed on, based on injustice to the Palestinians or their land. Any arrangements based on that will not lead to peace, and the resistance and Jihad will remain as a legal right, a project and an honor for all our nations’ people.” (New Charter 2017, Article 21)
Article 19 of the New Charter repeats that there will never be peace so long as Israel still exists. It declares:
“We do not leave any part of the Palestinian’s land, under any circumstances, conditions or pressure, as long as the occupation remains. Hamas refuses any alternative which is not the whole liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea.” (New Charter 2017, Article 19)
The New Charter is mere window-dressing; even a casual reading of it should show that the new Hamas is the old Hamas wearing a different face to try to disguise the true intransigence and hatred that have always characterized it.
Each year, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other Palestinian extremist organizations run summer camps that indoctrinate Palestinian youth with anti-Semitic propaganda while training them in the use of weapons and jihadist combat tactics. Most of these camps are named in honor of Palestinian “martyrs” who died while committing terrorist attacks against Israeli Jews. Some 120,000 young people attended the Hamas camps alone in 2017.
Hamas’ most significant front group in North America is the Council on American-Islamic Relations.