Meet the New Hamas, Same as the Old Hamas
by Joseph S. Spoerl (August 2017)
In May 2017, Hamas released a "Document of General Principles and Policies" in which it attempts to recast its message to the world so as to make it more palatable to Westerners and others. It does this by, among other things, ostensibly eschewing the anti-Semitism that was such a strong feature of the original 1988 Hamas Charter (or Covenant)1.
In an interview with the New York Times, outgoing Hamas leader Khaled Meshal stated, “We are making it clear that ours is a liberation project—not about religion or the Jews.”2 Indeed, the new “Document of General Principles and Policies” makes the following statement: “Hamas affirms that its conflict is with the Zionist project not with the Jews because of their religion. Hamas does not wage a struggle against the Jews because they are Jewish but wages a struggle against the Zionists who occupy Palestine.”3
There are at least six reasons for not taking this claim seriously.
First, anti-Semitism is central to Hamas propaganda, as documented copiously in the Appendix to this article, and Hamas has not renounced or ceased producing such propaganda. For example, in April 2017, just as Hamas was about to release its May 2017 Document, Hamas member of the Palestinian legislature Marwan Abu Ras gave a Friday sermon at a mosque in the Gaza Strip in which he said, “History attests that in every era, the Jews were the most abhorred of people. Throughout history, the most hated race was the Jewish race . . . Why did [Hitler] hate the Jews? Because they are a people of treachery and betrayal . . . Therefore, we can never accept the Jews . . . ”4
Bear in mind that the speaker was a Hamas elected official and that Gaza Strip mosques are strictly monitored and controlled by Hamas and staffed by Hamas appointees. And when perusing the Appendix below, bear in mind that most of the items are taken from broadcasts on the official Hamas TV station, Al-Aqsa TV.
Secondly, Hamas has made it clear that it has not revoked its 1988 Charter, which remains its statement of foundational principles.5
Thirdly, strictly speaking, the Hamas Charter of 1988 focused its anti-Semitic language (mostly) on Zionists, for example, describing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as the blueprint for the Zionist project (Article 32) and accusing the Zionists of aiming to “annihilate Islam” (Article 28). The May 2017 Document continues in this vein, albeit in somewhat less florid language, asserting that “The Zionist project does not target the Palestinian people alone; it is the enemy of the Arabic and Islamic Ummah posing a grave threat to its security and interests. It is also hostile to the Ummah’s aspirations for unity, renaissance, and liberation and has been the major source of its troubles. The Zionist project also poses a danger to international security and peace and to mankind . . . "(#15). In short, Zionism is a global threat against Islam and, indeed, humanity: any Hamas supporter familiar with the 1988 Charter will get the point immediately. As in the 1988 Charter, the 2017 Document merely takes all the classical tropes of anti-Semitism and focuses them on Zionism, noting that “it is the Zionists who constantly identify Judaism and the Jews with their own colonial project and illegal entity” (#16). In effect, Hamas is saying that it is at war with all Jews except those who are anti-Zionist, thus it is not anti-Semitic. This can hardly be regarded as a serious repudiation of anti-Semitism.
Fourthly, the release of the May 2017 Document coincides with a tightening of the grip by hardliners on the Hamas Politbureau.6 These include former Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad, who told Al-Jazeera TV on September 16, 2016: “I address the American people: Is it conceivable that a handful of Jews control your policies, your military, your money, and everything . . . ? We have five million of the Zionist enemy here [in Israel], and they control the world. Perhaps there are ten million more of them in America. These ten million control over 280 million Americans.”7 Hammad’s use of the term “Zionist” in this statement as a synonym for “Jew” makes his anti-Semitism as clear as can be. And in an interview on Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV on December 14, 2010, Hammad made no pretense of focusing on “Zionists,” asserting: “The Jews have become abhorred and loathed outcasts, because they live off of corruption and the plundering of the peoples—not only the Arab and Islamic peoples, but all the peoples of the world.”8 The suggestion that leaders such as Fathi Hammad have abandoned anti-Semitism is hardly credible.
Fifthly, Hamas has a well-documented history of dissembling, especially when addressing non-Muslims. In 1993, as revealed by FBI surveillance, Hamas operatives met in Philadelphia to establish a new front in the United States, which they would subsequently call the Council on American-Islamic Relations or CAIR.9 The Hamas officials at the 1993 Philadelphia meeting called for outright dishonesty to mask the true agenda of CAIR. “I swear by Allah that war is deception,”10 said one, quoting the Prophet Muhammad. “Deceive, camouflage, pretend… Deceive your enemy . . . politics is a completion of war.”11 This kind of duplicity is a standard part of the Muslim Brotherhood modus operandi in Western countries (and, as its 1988 Charter makes clear, Hamas is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood—something not mentioned but also not denied in the May 2017 Document). In a 2004 investigative report on the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S.A., the Chicago Tribune noted: “Documents obtained by the Tribune and translated from Arabic show that the U.S. Brotherhood has been careful to obscure its beliefs from outsiders.”12 To better deceive their American audience, the Hamas operatives in Philadelphia in 1993 decided to create a new organization, CAIR, one whose “Islamic hue is not very conspicuous . . . Let’s not hoist a large Islamic flag and let’s not be barbaric-talking,”13 as one participant put it. Yet when addressing fellow Muslims, Hamas operatives speak their mind openly, as when Hamas military leader Sheikh Muhammad Siyam told an audience in Los Angeles in 1994, “I’m going to speak the truth to you. It’s simple. Finish off the Israelis! Kill them all! Exterminate them! No peace ever!”14 The May 2017 Document gives Hamas rhetorical flexibility: when addressing true believers, they can stress that the Hamas Charter of 1988 remains in full force; and when addressing gullible Westerners, they can invoke the May 2017 Document and insist (insincerely) that their dispute is only with “Zionists” not Jews qua Jews.
Finally, there is the unmistakable fact that the May 2017 “Document of General Principles and Policies” proclaims Hamas’ intention to commit politicide against the world’s only Jewish state. It makes it clear that “Palestine” encompasses the entire former British Mandate, including Israel proper as well as the West Bank and Gaza: “Palestine, which extends from the River Jordan in the east to the Mediterranean in the West . . . is an integral territorial unit” (#2); “Palestine is an Arab Islamic land” (#3). The goal of Hamas is “to liberate Palestine” so defined (#1); “There shall be no recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity” (#19); “Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea,” although it considers the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, including a full “right of return” for the Palestinian “refugees,” as a “formula for national consensus,” whatever that means (#20). Any establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, however, will be a mere step towards the full “liberation” of “Palestine,” and such a (partial) Palestinian state will be a staging ground for ceaseless war against Israel, since “Resistance and jihad for the liberation of Palestine will remain a legitimate right, a duty and an honour for all the sons and daughters of our people and our Ummah [i.e. the whole Muslim world]” (#23; cf. #25-7). Hamas also makes clear its ongoing commitment to building up its military capacity and waging terrorism against Israelis: “Resisting the occupation with all means and methods is a legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws . . . ” (#25) and “Hamas rejects any attempt to undermine the resistance and its arms. It also affirms the right of our people to develop the means and mechanisms of resistance” (#26).
In short, despite its new “Document of General Principles and Policies,” Hamas has not changed at all. It remains committed to the destruction of Israel by any means at its disposal, including indiscriminate attacks on Israeli civilians, and its world-view is still marked by deep Jew-hatred.
Appendix: Documenting Hamas Anti-Semitism
(Sources listed in reverse chronological order)
“Hamas Leader Mahmoud Al-Zahar: Trump Possibly a Jew; Money Is the Jewish Religion, Key to U.S. Decision-Making,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Clip No. 5758, November 9, 2016, http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/5758.htm.
“Hamas’ Fathi Hammad, Designated Global Terrorist by the U.S. State Department: This Will Lead to Global Instability… Will Affect World Peace,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Clip No. 5682, September 17, 2016, http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/5682.htm.
“Former Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad: ‘Plunge the Knives in the Chests and Bellies of the Enemies,’” Middle East Media Research Institute, Clip No. 5130, October 19, 2015, http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/5130.htm.
“Hamas Cleric and TV Host Abu Funun: We Will Not Leave a Single Jew, Dead or Alive, on Our Land,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Clip No. 5115, October 13, 2015, http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/5115.htm.
“Hamas MP Marwan Abu Ras: The Jews’ Conspiracies and Treachery Led to the Holocaust,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Clip No. 4769, January 23, 2015, http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/4769.htm.
“Palestinian Imam and Hamas TV Host Abu Funun Justifies Hitler: The Jews Spread Corruption Everywhere,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Clip No. 4702, December 28, 2014, http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/4702.htm.
“Article on Hamas Website: Our War Against the Occupation is A Religious War Against the Descendants of Apes and Pigs,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Dispatch No. 5885, November 18, 2014, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/8230.htm.
“Former Jordanian MP Abd Al-Mun’im Abu Zant: Jews Permit Cannibalism, Use Human Blood in Passover Matzos,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Clip No. 4498, September 2, 2014, http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/4498.htm.
“Hamas Sermon: We Pledged Before The Commanders Of The Jihad To Die For The Sake Of Allah; We Have Gathered The Zionists From All Corners Of The Globe So That It Will Be Easier To Slaughter And Kill Them,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Clip No. 4442, August 22, 2014, http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/4442.htm.
“Editor of Hamas Paper: Murder of Palestinian Teen in Jerusalem Reminiscent of Jews’ Custom of Baking Matzos With Blood,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Dispatch No. 5788, July 3, 2014, http://www.memri.org/report/en/print8061.htm.
“Columnist on Hamas-Affiliated Website: The Jews Have Conquered the German Spirit With the Lie of the Holocaust,“ Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Dispatch No. 5682, March 18, 2014, http://www.memri.org/report/en/print7888.htm.
“Former Hamas Official: In the Past, the Jews Slaughtered Christian Children on Passover; Today They Torment and Kill Palestinians Instead,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Dispatch No. 5295, May 6, 2013, http://www.memri.org/report/en/print7166.htm.
“Hamas MP and Cleric Yunis Al-Astal: The Jews Were Brought to Palestine for the ‘Great Massacre’ through which Allah Will ‘Relieve Humanity of Their Evil,’” Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Dispatch No. 3840, May 16, 2011, http://www.memri.org/clip_transcript/en/2934.htm.
“Osama Hamdan, Head of the Hamas Foreign Liaisons: Armed Confrontation Will Continue to Be ‘the Backbone of the Resistance,’ the Israelis Must Return to Their Countries of Origin,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Clip No. 2949, May 4, 2011, http://www.memritv.org/clip_transcript/en/2949.htm.
“Former Hamas Minister of Culture ‘Atallah Abu Al-Subh: ‘The Jews Are the Most Despicable and Contemptible Nation to Crawl upon the Face of the Earth,’” Middle East Media Research Institute, Clip No. 2897, April 8, 2011, http://www.memritv.org/clip_transcript/en/2897.htm.
“Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hamad: The Americans and the Jews Are Abhorred Worldwide; The Americans Are Led by the Jews, ‘Outcasts Who Live Off Corruption and Plundering,’” Middle East Media Research Institute, Clip No. 2734, December 14, 2010, http://www.memritv.org/clip_transcript/en/2734.htm.
“Hamas Leader Mahmoud al-Zahar Justifies Persecution of Jews in History and Promises that Jews ‘Are Headed to Annihilation,’” Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Dispatch No. 3373, November 12, 2010, http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/2676.htm.
“Hamas senior Mahmoud al-Zahar has recently given a vicious anti-Semitic speech to justify the elimination of Israel and the deportation of Jews from the ‘entire territory of Palestine’. The speech contains themes reminiscent of those found in Al-Zahar’s anti-Semitic book No Future Between Nations, found on board the Mavi Marmara,” The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, November 11, 2010, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/data/pdf/PDF_10_294_2.pdf.
"Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: Allah Imposed Hitler Upon the Jews to Punish Them – 'Allah Willing, the Next Time Will Be at the Hand of the Believers,'" Middle East Media Research Institute, Clip No. 2005, February 1, 2009, http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/2005.htm. [Al-Qaradhawi is considered the highest Islamic religious authority in the eyes of Hamas: see Martin Kramer, "Hamas: 'Glocal' Islamism," in Noah Pollack ed., Iran's Race for Regional Supremacy: Strategic Implications for the Middle East (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2008), p. 71, http://jcpa.org/text/iran2-june08.pdf.]
“Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi On Al-Jazeera Incites Against Jews, Arab Regimes, and the U.S.; Calls on Muslims to Boycott Starbucks and Others; Says ‘Oh Allah, Take This Oppressive, Jewish, Zionist Band of People…And Kill Them, Down to the Very Last One,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Dispatch No. 2183, January 12, 2009, http://www.memri.org/report/en/print3006.htm.
“Acting Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council Sheik Ahmad Bahr from Hamas, Declared during a Friday Sermon at a Sudan Mosque that America and Israel Will Be Annihilated and Called upon Allah to kill the Jews and Americans ‘to the Very Last One,’” Middle East Media Research Institute, Clip No. 1426, April 13, 2007, http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/1426.htm
“Sheik Yousef Al-Qaradhawi: The Jews of Today Bear Responsibility for their Forefathers’ Crime Against Jesus,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Clip No. 1249, August 26, 2006, http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1249.htm.
Esther Webman, Anti-Semitic Motifs in the Ideology of Hizballah and Hamas (Tel Aviv: The Project for the Study of Anti-Semitism at Tel Aviv University, 1993).
2Declan Walsh, “Hamas Leader Plays Final Hand: Trying To Lift Group’s Pariah Status,” The New York Times, May 2, 2017, https://nyti.ms/2pujYaf.
5The New York Times reports that Hamas “has not even formally repudiated the 1988 charter…”, Declan Walsh, “Hamas Leader Plays Final Hand: Trying to Lift Group’s Pariah Status,” The New York Times, May 2, 2017, https://nyti.ms/2pujYaf; the Middle East Media Research Institute reports that Hamas “leaders clarified that the document was not replacing that Hamas Charter…”, C. Jacobs, “Hamas Policy Document: Palestinian State In 1967 Borders Is ‘Formula For Joint National Agreement’ Between Hamas, PLO – Yet Armed Struggle Will Continue, And Palestine Extends From River To Sea,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Inquiry and Analysis Series No. 1313, May 5, 2017, https://www.memri.org/reports/hamas-policy-document; Kate Havard and Grant Rumley write that “this new document neither replaces the charter nor abrogates the group’s founding document,” “Hamas’s New Document: More of the Same,” Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, FDD Policy Brief, 2nd May 2017, http://www.defenddemocracy.org/media-hit/kate-havard-hamass-new-document-more-of-the-same/; see also Ahron Shapiro, “Five stand-outs about Hamas’ new policy manifesto,” 5 May 2017, Australia/Israel Jewish Affairs Council, http://www.aijac.org.au/news/article/five-stand-outs-about-hamas-new-policy-manifesto.
9Lorenzo Vidino, The New Muslim Brotherhood In the West (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), pp. 177-186.
10Ibid., p. 182.
11Ibid., p. 182.
13Vidino, The New Muslim Brotherhood in the West, pp. 182-183.
Joseph S. Spoerl is Professor of Philosophy and Chairman of Philosophy at Saint Anselm College. His research interests include Ethics, Business Ethics, Modern Philosophy, Critical Thinking, Formal Logic, and more, and teaches classes in those subjects.
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