Hamas recently released a new statement of “General Principles and Policies” reportedly aimed at moderating its image to gain international recognition. The statement, however, is mostly a restatement of its previous positions, with the major change being an effort to disguise its hostility to Jews by using the word “Zionists” as a euphemism. Rather than meet the international conditions for acceptance, the organization doubles down on its refusal to cease terror, recognize Israel’s right to exist, or abide by past Israeli-Palestinian agreements. What follows is an analysis of the seminal clauses of the Hamas statement.
The Land of Palestine:
This is a clear statement that Hamas seeks the destruction of Israel. Hamas already controls the Gaza Strip. The group does not seek to liberate the West Bank, but all of Palestine from the river to the Sea. It rewrites history by suggesting Palestinians were expelled and banished from their land rather than acknowledge that most fled to avoid being caught in the crossfire of fighting or at the encouragement of their leaders from 1947-1949.
- Palestine is an Arab Islamic land. It is a blessed sacred land that has a special place in the heart of every Arab and every Muslim.
As noted above, Palestine has no special status in Islam and no particular connection to Arabs living outside the area.
The Palestinian People:
- The Palestinians are the Arabs who lived in Palestine until 1947, irrespective of whether they were expelled from it, or stayed in it; and every person that was born to an Arab Palestinian father after that date, whether inside or outside Palestine, is a Palestinian.
The Palestinians are Arabs who lived in Palestine beginning roughly 1,000 years ago. They did not begin to develop a national consciousness until the early 20th century and the Palestinian national movement seeking statehood is primarily a post-1967 phenomenon.
Islam and Palestine:
- Palestine is at the heart of the Arab and Islamic Ummah and enjoys a special status. Within Palestine there exists Jerusalem, whose precincts are blessed by Allah. Palestine is the Holy Land, which Allah has blessed for humanity. It is the Muslims’ first Qiblah and the destination of the journey performed at night by Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. It is the location from where he ascended to the upper heavens. It is the birthplace of Jesus Christ, peace be upon him. Its soil contains the remains of thousands of Prophets, Companions and Mujahidin. It is the land of people who are determined to defend the truth – within Jerusalem and its surroundings – who are not deterred or intimidated by those who oppose them and by those who betray them, and they will continue their mission until the Promise of Allah is fulfilled.
As noted above, Palestine is not holy in the Islamic tradition. The document notably mentions Jesus but excludes any mention of the Jewish connection to the land, ignoring even Moses, who is revered as a prophet in Islam.
- By virtue of its justly balanced middle way and moderate spirit, Islam – for Hamas – provides a comprehensive way of life and an order that is fit for purpose at all times and in all places. Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance. It provides an umbrella for the followers of other creeds and religions who can practice their beliefs in security and safety. Hamas also believes that Palestine has always been and will always be a model of coexistence, tolerance and civilizational innovation.
The terrorist activities of Hamas, its bigotry toward Jews, gays and Christians, and mistreatment of women undermine are contrary to the values of peace and tolerance expressed by Muslims who do not share Hamas’ extremist ideology.
- Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine. Its religious, historic and civilizational status is fundamental to the Arabs, Muslims and the world at large. Its Islamic and Christian holy places belong exclusively to the Palestinian people and to the Arab and Islamic Ummah. Not one stone of Jerusalem can be surrendered or relinquished. The measures undertaken by the occupiers in Jerusalem, such as Judaization, settlement building, and establishing facts on the ground are fundamentally null and void.
A state of Palestine has never existed. Jerusalem has never been the capital of any state under than Israel or the ancient Jewish kingdoms. The city has no special status for the Arabs and only the religious shrines are of significance to Muslims. Hamas seeks to rewrite history by excluding the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, which even Muslims recognize dates back roughly 3,000 years. While some peace advocates have suggested East Jerusalem could become a future capital of a Palestinian state, Hamas explicitly rules out any compromise that would allow Jerusalem to remain Israel’s capital.
- The blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque belongs exclusively to our people and our Ummah, and the occupation has no right to it whatsoever. The occupation’s plots, measures and attempts to Judaize Al-Aqsa and divide it are null, void and illegitimate.
Israel makes no claims to Islamic holy places. Muslim authorities are responsible for their administration.
The Refugees and the Right of Return:
- The Palestinian cause in its essence is a cause of an occupied land and a displaced people. The right of the Palestinian refugees and the displaced to return to their homes from which they were banished or were banned from returning to – whether in the lands occupied in 1948 or in 1967 (that is the whole of Palestine), is a natural right, both individual and collective. This right is confirmed by all divine laws as well as by the basic principles of human rights and international law. It is an inalienable right and cannot be dispensed with by any party, whether Palestinian, Arab or international.
The demand that Palestinian refugees be allowed to return to land that is now Israel is a nonstarter for negotiations. Even Palestinian negotiators have acknowledged this is an unreasonable demand. Most Palestinians fled in 1947-1949 and should be resettled either in a future Palestinian state or in neighboring Arab states which, until now, have denied them citizenship (except for Jordan). Hamas sees the refugees as a fifth-column that would destroy Israel. The Palestinian population would outnumber the Jews if all the Arabs recognized as refugees by the UN were to move to Israel. The reference to 1948 lands demonstrates the organization is not interested in a state in the West Bank, but the replacement of Israel with a radical Islamic state.
- Hamas rejects all attempts to erase the rights of the refugees, including the attempts to settle them outside Palestine and through the projects of the alternative homeland. Compensation to the Palestinian refugees for the harm they have suffered as a consequence of banishing them and occupying their land is an absolute right that goes hand in hand with their right to return. They are to receive compensation upon their return and this does not negate or diminish their right to return.
Hamas understands that Israel will never accept their demands regarding refugees. Israel has agreed to accept a certain number of refugees on a humanitarian basis, and Palestinian negotiators have at times expressed a willingness to compromise on this issue. Hamas wants to use the refugee issue as a means of ensuring the Palestinian Authority does not sign a peace agreement with Israel.
The Zionist Project:
- The Zionist project is a racist, aggressive, colonial and expansionist project based on seizing the properties of others; it is hostile to the Palestinian people and to their aspiration for freedom, liberation, return and self-determination. The Israeli entity is the plaything of the Zionist project and its base of aggression.
Zionism is the belief that the Jewish people are a nation entitled to self-determination in their homeland, which is Israel. Hamas insists that only Palestinians have a right to self-determination. Zionism has nothing to do with race and Zionists have never had any colonial ambitions. The idea that Israel is expansionist is belied by the fact that it withdrew from the entire Gaza Strip and roughly 40 percent of the West Bank. Israeli negotiators have expressed a willingness to withdraw from as much as 97 percent of the West Bank as part of a peace agreement.
- The Zionist project does not target the Palestinian people alone; it is the enemy of the Arab 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 and its interests and stability.
Israel has peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt and its relations with other Arab/Muslim countries have improved in recent years. Israel has no hostile intentions toward Arabs or Muslims. However, certain Arab and Muslim countries, as well as radical Muslims from groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah, seek Israel’s destruction.
- 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. Yet, it is the Zionists who constantly identify Judaism and the Jews with their own colonial project and illegal entity.
Hamas uses the word Zionist as a synonym for Jew. It is not a prerequisite, but most Zionists are Jews. Hamas believes in a worldwide Jewish conspiracy.
- Hamas rejects the persecution of any human being or the undermining of his or her rights on nationalist, religious or sectarian grounds. Hamas is of the view that the Jewish problem, anti-Semitism and the persecution of the Jews are phenomena fundamentally linked to European history and not to the history of the Arabs and the Muslims or to their heritage. The Zionist movement, which was able with the help of Western powers to occupy Palestine, is the most dangerous form of settlement occupation which has already disappeared from much of the world and must disappear from Palestine.
Hamas is rewriting history and ignoring the well-documented instances of Arab and Muslim persecution of Jews through the centuries. Jews have a special status in Islam known as dhimmis. In many Muslim countries, Jews were treated as second-class citizens with a range of restrictions on their rights and actions. Hamas considers it inconceivable that Jews should rule over Muslims or have a state anywhere in what they consider holy Islamic territory.
The position toward Occupation and Political Solutions:
- The following are considered null and void: the Balfour Declaration, the British Mandate Document, the UN Palestine Partition Resolution, and whatever resolutions and measures that derive from them or are similar to them. The establishment of “Israel” is entirely illegal and contravenes the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and goes against their will and the will of the Ummah; it is also in violation of human rights that are guaranteed by international conventions, foremost among them is the right to self-determination.
Further evidence Hamas seeks the destruction of Israel. The group does not recognize Israel or accept the international community’s endorsement of the establishment of a Jewish state.
- There shall be no recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity. Whatever has befallen the land of Palestine in terms of occupation, settlement building, Judaization or changes to its features or falsification of facts is illegitimate. Rights never lapse.
Hamas does not accept the existence of Israel. Recognition of Israel is one of three requirements the international community established as prerequisites for including Hamas in negotiations.
- Hamas believes that no part of the land of Palestine shall be compromised or conceded, irrespective of the causes, the circumstances and the pressures and no matter how long the occupation lasts. Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea. However, without compromising its rejection of the Zionist entity and without relinquishing any Palestinian rights, Hamas considers the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of the 4th of June 1967, with the return of the refugees and the displaced to their homes from which they were expelled, to be a formula of national consensus.
Hamas acknowledges a consensus regarding the establishment of a state in the West Bank, but reiterates its goal remains the destruction of Israel and the creation of an Islamic state from the river to the sea.
- Hamas affirms that the Oslo Accords and their addenda contravene the governing rules of international law in that they generate commitments that violate the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. Therefore, the Movement rejects these agreements and all that flows from them, such as the obligations that are detrimental to the interests of our people, especially security coordination (collaboration).
Hamas rejects any peace agreement with Israel and wants to undo the beneficial cooperative activities between Israelis and Palestinians made possible by the Oslo Accords.
- Hamas stresses that transgression against the Palestinian people, usurping their land and banishing them from their homeland cannot be called peace. Any settlements reached on this basis will not lead to peace. Resistance and jihad for the liberation of Palestine will remain a legitimate right, a duty and an honor for all the sons and daughters of our people and our Ummah.
Hamas rejects another condition — ending terrorism — set by the international community for including the group in peace talks. Hamas reiterates its longstanding commitment to a holy war against Israel and insistence that all Muslims have a duty to join this jihad.
Resistance and Liberation:
- Resisting the occupation with all means and methods is a legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws and by international norms and laws. At the heart of these lies armed resistance, which is regarded as the strategic choice for protecting the principles and the rights of the Palestinian people.
Hamas claims a divine right to engage in terrorism.
- 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. Managing resistance, in terms of escalation or de-escalation, or in terms of diversifying the means and methods, is an integral part of the process of managing the conflict and should not be at the expense of the principle of resistance.
This clause is directed at its Palestinian rivals, making clear that Hamas will not give up terrorism regardless of any decisions by others to pursue non-violent means of achieving Palestinian objectives.
The Palestinian Political System:
- A real state of Palestine is a state that has been liberated. There is no alternative to a fully sovereign Palestinian State on the entire national Palestinian soil, with Jerusalem as its capital.
A reiteration that Hamas will not accept any solution to the Palestinian issue short of the destruction of Israel and the establishment of a Palestinian state on its ashes.
- Hamas believes in, and adheres to, managing its Palestinian relations on the basis of pluralism, democracy, national partnership, acceptance of the other and the adoption of dialogue. The aim is to bolster the unity of ranks and joint action for the purpose of accomplishing national goals and fulfilling the aspirations of the Palestinian people.
Hamas is guided by Islamic law, not by pluralism or democracy.
- The PLO is a national framework for the Palestinian people inside and outside of Palestine. It should therefore be preserved, developed and rebuilt on democratic foundations so as to secure the participation of all the constituents and forces of the Palestinian people, in a manner that safeguards Palestinian rights.
Hamas is at war with the PLO and seeks to take over its leadership.
- Hamas stresses the necessity of building Palestinian national institutions on sound democratic principles, foremost among them are free and fair elections. Such process should be on the basis of national partnership and in accordance with a clear program and a clear strategy that adhere to the rights, including the right of resistance, and which fulfil the aspirations of the Palestinian people.
Hamas is only interested in free elections if the group believes it can win.
- Hamas affirms that the role of the Palestinian Authority should be to serve the Palestinian people and safeguard their security, their rights and their national project.
Hamas staged a coup against the Palestinian Authority to take over the Gaza Strip. It seeks to do the same in the West Bank.
- Hamas stresses the necessity of maintaining the independence of Palestinian national decision-making. Outside forces should not be allowed to intervene. At the same time, Hamas affirms the responsibility of the Arabs and the Muslims and their duty and role in the liberation of Palestine from Zionist occupation.
Hamas is not interested in the views of outsiders unless they are willing to contribute to the destruction of Israel.
- The role of Palestinian women is fundamental in the process of building the present and the future, just as it has always been in the process of making Palestinian history. It is a pivotal role in the project of resistance, liberation and building the political system.
Palestinian women are viewed by Hamas as weapons in the war against Israel. Their rights are circumscribed by the group’s interpretation of the role of women in Islam.
The Arab and Islamic Ummah:
- Hamas believes that the Palestinian issue is the central cause for the Arab and Islamic Ummah.
The Arab and Islamic world has a wide variety of concerns that are unrelated to the Palestinians. Individual states are worried about threats to their internal security and stability. Sunni states are concerned with the threat to the region posed by Iran. Fighting Islamic extremists is a central cause for states throughout the region. Arab and Muslim states continue to give rhetorical and limited financial support to the Palestinian issue, but it has been eclipsed by issues more important to their survival.
- Hamas believes in the unity of the Ummah with all its diverse constituents and is aware of the need to avoid anything that could fragment the Ummah and undermine its unity.
Hamas is interested in the domination of Hamas. Its war against its rivals demonstrates its lack of concern with unity.
The Humanitarian and International Aspect:
- The Palestinian issue is one that has major humanitarian and international dimensions. Supporting and backing this cause is a humanitarian and civilizational task that is required by the prerequisites of truth, justice and common humanitarian values.
Much of the humanitarian suffering in the Gaza Strip is a direct result of the actions of Hamas. It ensures its members are well taken care of at the expense of other residents. Its actions have created shortages of food, water and power.