Doctrine and History of Hamas

In a 2006 parliamentary election, Hamas caused a decisive loss to Fatah which had dominated Palestinian politics since its founding in the 1950.  Hamas is a terrorist Palestinian nationalist and Islamist movement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that is dedicated to the establishment of an independent Islamic state in historical Palestine.  Hamas in Gaza is led by Yahya Sinwar, Marwan Issa and Mohammed Deif. Among Hamas leaders living in Qatar are Ismail Haniyeh, head of the terrorist group’s political bureau, Mousa Abu Marzook and Khaled Mashaal. They live a life of luxury in the Gulf state even as most Palestinians in Gaza live in abject poverty.

Hamas is the Arabic acronym for “The Islamic Resistance Movement” or Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyya. It is located in the West bank and the Gaza Strip, and since 2007 it has controlled the Gaza Strip. The word Hamas also means “enthusiasm, heroism and zealotry’ and thus the resistance movement concept encompasses all three of these meanings.

Doctrine

Founded in 1987, Hamas opposed the secular approach of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, rejected attempts to cede any part of Palestine, and embraced the use of violence, including acts of terrorism, as a means to achieve its goals. It grew out of religious factions of the PLO and the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and quickly acquired a broad following. It is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union. Its leaders moved to Jordan, then to Syria, and then to Doha, Qatar. In its 1988 charter, Hamas maintained that Palestine is an Islamic homeland that can never be surrendered to non-Muslims and that waging holy war to wrest control of Palestine from Israel is a religious duty for Palestinian Muslims. The Hamas charter explicitly calls for the destruction of Israel—and the genocide of Jews—leaving no room for peaceful coexistence. These are actual commands in the 1988 Hamas governing charter:
  • Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it…
  • Israel,Judaism and Jews challenge Islam and the Muslim people. May the cowards never sleep.
  • Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious. It needs all sincere efforts until the enemy is vanquished.
  • The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews).

Founding

In 1987, at the beginning of the first Palestinian intifada (uprising), Hamas was legally registered in Israel as an Islamic Association (charitable organization) under the name “Al-Mujamma Al Islami” by Ahmed Yassin, the group’s spiritual leader, and it initially acted primarily as a social welfare agency catering to residents in the Gaza Strip (which was controlled by Israel from 1967 to 1994). Over time Hamas developed a good reputation in this capacity. It exerted its influence through mosques.

Since its creation in December 1987, Hamas has invoked militant interpretations of Islam to spearhead a Sunni extremist movement committed to destroying Israel. It propagates resistance in the religious context of jihad, or a holy struggle and martyrdom. “Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes,” Hamas said in its first statement in the late 1980s.

In 1988 Hamas published its lengthy Islamic Covenent or Charter, which clarifies its opposition to Israel’s existence in any form. It is worth noting that 1988 was also the year Yasser Arafat of the PLO publicly renounced terrorism. In fact, he merely passed the baton.

Hamas promotes Palestinian nationalism in an Islamic context. Its objective is to establish an Islamic Palestinian state throughout the entire territory of British Mandatory Palestine. The Hamas covenant states that the only solution to Palestinian statelessness is through Jihad/Holy War. Further, the covenant warns that any Muslim who leaves the struggle against Zionism, commits High Treason, (and consequently is subject to assassination). It states that  Islam will obliterate Israel, and that the primary means of achieving this is through escalation of the armed struggle via the participation of the Palestinians themselves, and the entire Islamic world. For further reading see Why Israel is at War With Hamas

In 2017, the European Court of Justice upheld their ruling classifying Hamas as terrorist. In 2018, the U.S. submitted a resolution to the U.N. condemning Hamas for “repeatedly firing rockets into Israel and for inciting violence, thereby putting civilians at risk”, and for its use of resources in Gaza to construct military infrastructure “including tunnels to infiltrate Israel and equipment to launch rockets into civilian areas.” The U.N. rejected this motion.

Origin in the Muslim Brotherhood

Hamas grew  out of theideology of the Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood that was founded in Egypt by Islamic scholar Hassan al-Banna in 1928. The Muslim Brotherhood’s self-stated aim is the establishment of a state, ruled by Sharia Law, under a caliphate. A caliph is a person considered a political-religious successor to the prophet Mohammed, and the leader of the entire Muslim world. The Brotherhood’s most famous slogan is “Islam is the solution.” Charity is a major aspect of its work.

Since its inception, the group’s founder accepted the utility of political violence and members of Brotherhood conducted assassinations and attempted assassinations on Egyptian state figures. One of the group’s most prominent thinkers, Sayyid Qutb, promoted, takfirism, (excommunication), a doctrine that permits “the stigmatisation of other Muslims as infidel or apostate, (unbelievers/kafirs) and of existing states as unIslamic, and the use of extreme violence in the pursuit of the perfect Islamic society”. This doctrine continues to inspire many Jihadist movements.  

The Brotherhood remained a fringe group until the conclusion of the 1967 Six-day War, in which Israel decisively defeated its attackers. Islamism then replaced secular Arab nationalism. Since 1970, the Muslim Brotherhood has claimed to be a peaceful, democratic organization; however, investigations have demonstrated the opposite. During the 18 months between March,1992 and September, 1993, 202 eminent Egyptians were assassinated in Islamist-motivated assaults. Prominent among those murdered was Farag Foda, a university Professor and human rights activist, who spoke against the application of Sharia law as a legal system. He was accused of blasphemy, a fatwah (Islamic ruling) was issued, and consequently he was killed.

Islamic Brotherhood car bombing in 2015.

Today, the primary state backers of the Muslim Brotherhood are Qatar and Turkey. In September 2013, Egypt banned the Brotherhood and its associations and seized its assets, and by December it was declared a terrorist organization. By 2015, the governments of Bahrain, Egypt, Syria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates deemed the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

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