HAMAS: The Haters of Israel
The first Palestinian uprising began in December 1987 while I was working for CBN television news in Jerusalem. Violence erupted in the Gaza Strip and quickly spread to Arab portions of Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. The intense rioting and Israeli army reaction instantly became the main feature of our nightly newscasts, as was the case around the globe.
The little town of Bethlehem scaled back traditional Christmas celebrations that year as the conflict rapidly reached it. Thousands of Christians visiting for the holiday season, along with many Jewish people who had come to celebrate Hanukkah, found their schedules radically altered as tour guides, family, and friends scrambled to keep them out of harm’s way. Jerusalem’s historic, walled Old City became off limits to most visitors as Arab shops closed to observe a prolonged general strike ordered by Yasser Arafat.
Yet it was not Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) that was leading the escalating revolt, but a relatively new group called the Islamic Resistance Movement whose acronym in Arabic is Hamas. In that ancient Semitic language, hamas means “enthusiastic zeal”; but in Hebrew it is one of several words denoting animated violence, particularly the pillaging of vanquished foes.
Hamas was actually just a new version of one of the oldest regional Islamic-fundamentalist political groups, the Cairo-based Muslim Brotherhood Movement. Though banned in Egypt for decades, it still managed to operate clandestinely. Hamas was merely its Palestinian branch.
Two prominent Muslim clerics living in the Gaza Strip, Sheik Ahmed Yassin and Muhammad Taha, were behind the 1987 Hamas creation. They took full credit for the escalating uprising against Israeli army rule in both the Gaza Strip and Jordan’s former West Bank, saying that only an Islamic-based Palestinian movement could succeed in ousting “Zionist forces from occupied Arab-Muslim land, with Allah’s blessing.”
The aging Arafat outwardly welcomed the new player on the Palestinian political stage. However, he worried privately that the extremist movement would grow in street popularity and end up resisting not only Israeli rule but his own political authority as well, which was largely based on his widely accepted claim to be the “father of the Palestinian nation.” Indeed, that is exactly what took place.
Charting Its Course
In August 1988, Hamas emulated the PLO by publishing a lengthy “founding charter.” The document echoed the anti-Jewish ravings of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf but in a Muslim fundamentalist framework.
The charter called on all Palestinians to be ready to become shahids, or martyrs, for the cause of destroying Israel and replacing it with an Arab state based solely on the Qur’an’s civil and religious laws.
Here are a few other highlights from the Hamas charter:
- Article Six makes clear that the group’s ultimate goal is nothing less than to destroy Israel and replace it with an Arab-Muslim fundamentalist state. It boasts that Hamas is “working to unfurl the banner of Allah over every centimeter of Palestine.”
- Article Seven quotes one of the most well-known anti-Jewish, genocidal, prophetic verses from the Islamic Hadith, or oral tradition, that carries nearly the same weight in the Muslim faith as the Qur’an: “The day will come when Muslims will fight the Jews and kill them, to the degree that the Jew will hide behind the rocks and trees, which will cry out to the Muslim and tell him, ‘Servant of Allah, a Jew is hiding behind me. Come and kill him!’”
- Article Eleven forbids any Palestinian peace negotiations or treaties with Israel: “Palestine is Islamic land assigned to the Muslims until the end of time. It may not be renounced or conceded, whether in whole or in part.”
- Article Thirteen amplifies this, stating there is “no solution to the Palestinian problem except through jihad.”
- Articles Fourteen through Nineteen insist that Muslim educators and parents are duty-bound to instruct the Palestinian masses, especially children, in the ways of jihad.
- Article Twenty-Two is the one that most closely echoes Hitler in grossly exaggerating and demonizing international Jewish power, wealth, and influence. It claims, “The enemy has amassed astounding and influential wealth, which has been exploited to…gain control of the world media, news agencies, the press, broadcasting stations, etc.” It ludicrously goes on to claim that nefarious Jews were “behind the French and Communist Revolutions” and have set up “clandestine organizations to destroy society and serve the interests of Zionism.” Such groups are said to include “the Freemasons, the Rotary and the Lion’s Club.”
As hate-filled and ridiculous as it was, the Hamas charter did not seriously bother most Israeli officials, who were convinced the new movement would be fairly harmless. Indeed, many officials and Middle East commentators pointed to the Sunni Muslim group’s growing network of health clinics and schools as a sign that Hamas was actually quite benign.
On the other hand, I felt that Hamas would probably become powerful and dangerous and might eventually rival, or even surpass, the PLO’s hegemony on the Palestinian street.
My view, spelled out in my first book, Holy War for the Promised Land, was definitely not the main one around in those days. It was partially based on the 1979 Shiite Iranian revolution that brought Ayatollah Khomeini’s anti-Israel and anti-Western diatribes and Islamic-fundamentalist teachings to the world stage, creating major waves around the Middle East—and not only in Shiite circles.
But more than that, I surmised the sad fact that Hamas had accurately quoted several of the harshly anti-Jewish teachings found in the Qur’an and the Hadith , which would give the group a leg up in the end. It was Egypt’s assassinated President Anwar Sadat who had seemingly violated those sacred Islamic principles by making peace with “the Zionist entity.” If Arafat did the same (as he later did, at least on paper), he would become easy fodder for the Hamas propaganda machine, I believed. And so it was.
Hamas had little trouble overturning Arafat’s 1993 signature on the American-backed Oslo peace accords that had been secretly negotiated with Israeli officials in Norway. All it took was a series of hideous terror attacks on Israeli public buses and other civilian targets, which began in April 1994. By the time Benjamin Netanyahu became Israel’s prime minister in May 1996, the treaty was effectively dead despite Israel’s transfer of most of the Gaza Strip and several Palestinian cities in Judea and Samaria to Arafat’s control.
The peace process’s final death knell came in January 2006 when Hamas triumphed in the Palestinian elections—ironically held in accordance with the very Oslo accords the terrorist group totally rejected!
To add vast insult to severe injury, Hamas then responded to Israel’s 2005 Gaza Strip pullout by staging a violent coup in June 2007 against PLO-aligned Palestinian Authority security forces stationed in the small coastal zone.
What will come next is anybody’s guess. But one thing seems certain: The radical Hamas movement—now completely aligned with and supported by Shiite Iran, the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, Syria, and Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaida and similar Sunni-Muslim Arab groups—will not soon disappear. This means that Israel will continue to have no choice but to fight the violent pillagers who work day and night to wipe out the world’s only Jewish state.