Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Hamas

Hamas is a Palestinian Islamist group classified by the US State Department as a terrorist organization, whose stated goal is to destroy Israel and replace it with an Islamic theocracy, and to overthrow Jordan. European Union foreign ministers stated on September 6, 2003 that all wings of the Hamas movement are terrorist organizations. The organization's political head is Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi.

Hamas formed in late 1987 as an outgrowth of the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Various Hamas elements have used both political and violent means, including terrorism, to pursue the goal of establishing an Islamic Palestinian state in place of Israel. Loosely structured, with some elements working clandestinely and others working openly through mosques and social service institutions to recruit members, raise money, organize activities, and distribute propaganda, Hamas's strength is concentrated in the Gaza Strip and a few areas of the West Bank. Hamas also has engaged in peaceful political activity, such as running candidates in West Bank Chamber of Commerce elections.

Table of contents
1 The Name
2 Beliefs
3 History
4 Activities
5 See also
6 External links

The Name

Hamas is an abbreviation of Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya (Arabic: the Islamic Resistance Movement), and the name itself is colloquial Arabic for "enthusiasm". Its military wing often bears different names, such as:

Beliefs

The founding charter of Hamas, written in 1988, states that its goal is to "raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine", i.e. to eliminate the State of Israel, and any secular Palestinian Authority, and replace it with an Islamist theocracy.

The charter cites a number of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories; it claims that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are genuine; and that the Freemasons, Lions Club, and the Rotarians all secretly "work in the interest of Zionism." Hamas members further allege that the Jewish people are collectively responsible for the French Revolution, "Western colonialism", Communism, and both World Wars.

Top Hamas leaders are promoters of holocaust denial. Rantissi holds that the Holocaust never occurred, that Zionists were behind the action of Nazis, and that Zionists funded Nazism.

History

Hamas was funded directly and indirectly during the 1970s and 1980s by various states including Saudi Arabia and Syria. The political/charitable arm of Hamas was officially registered and recognised within Israel at this time. Most experts agree that while Israel never supported Hamas directly, it did allow it to exist to oppose the secular Fatah movement of Yasser Arafat. The group abstained from politics throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, concentrating on moral and social issues such as attacks on corruption, administration of awqaf (trusts) and organizing community projects. Towards the mid-1980s, however, the movement underwent a takeover by the militant Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. For a while he preached immediate violence, and was arrested by Israel for that. However he was released when he promised to stop the preaching, and the movement was allowed to continue.

The acronym "Hamas" first appeared in 1987 in a leaflet accusing Israeli intelligence services of undermining the moral fibre of Palestinian youth as part of their recruitment of "collaborators". The use of force by Hamas appeared almost contemporaneously with the first Intifada, beginning with "punishments against collaborators", progressing to Israeli military targets and eventually terrorist actions targeted at civilians. As its methods have changed over the last thirty years, so has its rhetoric, now effectively claiming that Israeli civilians are "military targets" by virtue of living in a highly militarized state with conscription.

According to the semi-official Hamas biography "Truth and existence", Hamas evolved through four main stages:

  1. 1967-1976: Construction of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Gaza Strip in the face of "oppressive" Israeli rule.
  2. 1976-1981: Geographical expansion through participation in professional associations in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and institution-building, notably al-Mujamma` al-islami, al-Jam`iyya al-islamiyya, and the Islamic University in Gaza.
  3. 1981-1987: Political influence through establishment of the mechanisms of action and preparation for armed struggle.
  4. 1987: Founding of Hamas as the combatant arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine and the launching of a continuing "jihad".
Since Hamas underwent a take-over in the mid-1980s (before that time being an organization with an extremely limited political scope), many experts might agree that Hamas's "real" history begins only from that time.

Whilst this reflects the activities of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, their colleagues in the West Bank had a very different development, with less emphasis at the beginning on the creation or control of public institutions. The Muslim Brotherhood movement in the West Bank constituted an integral part of the Jordanian Islamic movement, which for many years had been aligned with the Hashemite regime. Furthermore, the Muslim Brotherhood in the West Bank represented a higher socio-economic profile - merchants, landowners, and middle-class officials and professionals. By the mid-1980s, the Muslim Brotherhood held a significant portion of the positions in West Bank religious institutions.

Pro-Israel commentators have recently suggested that there is a close relationship between the leadership of the PLO and Hamas.

Activities

Hamas terrorists, especially those in the Izz el-Din al-Qassam Brigades, have conducted many attacks -- including large-scale suicide bombings -- against Israeli civilian and military targets. Hamas has also attacked suspected Palestinian collaborators, and Fatah rivals.

Recently, Hamas has used Qassam rockets to hit Israeli towns in the Negev, such as Sderot. The introduction of the Qassam-2 rocket has allowed Hamas to attack large Israeli cities such as Ashkelon, bringing great concern to the Israeli populace and many attempts by the Israeli military to stop the proliferation and use of the rockets.

In addition to its military and terrorist activities, Hamas has many relief and education programs. These programs are viewed variously as part of an integrated para-state policy, as propaganda and recruitment exercises, or both.

Unknown number of hardcore members; tens of thousands of supporters and sympathizers. Receives funding from Palestinian expatriates, from Iran, and from private benefactors in Saudi Arabia and in other "moderate" Arab states. Some fundraising and propaganda activity take place in Western Europe, North America and South America. Like Hezbollah, Hamas has been known to use illicit drug sales to raise funds for its operations.

The charitable trust Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development was accused in December 2001 of funding Hamas.

Hamas was accused of owning the website Qassam.net.

See also

External links