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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 by Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi, members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed, Hamas describes itself as “one of the wings of the Muslim Brother[hood].” As a single Arabic word rather than an acronym, “Hamas” means “zeal.” The organization’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 PresidentMahmoud 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].'”
Hamas also has a close working relationship with Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based terror organization that serves as one of Hamas’ major suppliers of weaponry.
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:
- says that jihad, or holy war, “becomes an individual duty binding on every Muslim man and woman”
- explicitly abjures negotiated settlements as mechanisms for peaceful coexistence: “There is no other solution for the Palestinian problem other than jihad. All the initiatives and international conferences are a waste of time and a futile game.”
- mandates that jihad be directed explicitly against the reviled Jews: “The Nazism of the Jews does not skip women and children, it scares everyone. They make war against people’s livelihood, plunder their moneys and threaten their honor.”
- calls for the fulfillment of the Qur’anic scripture which reads: “The prophet [Mohammad] said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!”
For additional significant excerpts from the Hamas Charter, click here.
To view the Charter in its entirety, click here.
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 leadinghuman-rights issue of the day….
…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.”
Hamas’ current worldwide leader is Khaled Mash’al, who first became a member of the Hamas Political Bureau in 1996.
Hamas’ most significant front group in North America is the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
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