Aron White

Understanding Hamas on their own terms

Psychologists say that one of the heuristics, or psychological short-cuts, we use in understanding the world is the “false consensus” effect. We often assume other people view the world the same way we do, when in fact they don`t.

This is true about the West`s understanding of the Palestinians and Hamas. In an article in the Guardian last week, Seamus Milne wrote that

The idea that Israel is defending itself against unprovoked attacks from outside its borders is an absurdity. Despite Israel’s withdrawal of settlements and bases in 2005, Gaza remains occupied both in reality and international law, its border, coastal waters, resources, airspace and power supply controlled by Israel.

So the Palestinians of Gaza are an occupied people, like those in the West Bank, who have the right to resist, by force if they choose – though not deliberately to target civilians.”

Now there are a number of very cogent points in Mr Milne`s criticism. There certainly are still many restrictions on Gazan`s movement, imports etc. which have a terrible impact on Gazan`s lives. However, what is absolutely clear is that Hamas` war with Israel has nothing to do with that, or any other element of Western discourse about the Palestinians.

Hamas are not aiming to found a Palestinian State upon 1947, 1967 or any other borders. Hamas` charter of 1988 says that “Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims” The “occupation” of Gaza is meaningless to them (The word Gaza does not appear in their charter) – they are against Israel, period.

Hamas do not have a stated aim to build the Gazan economy. The only mention of the word “economy” in their charter is the importance of saving money at home to be able to funnel into the war effort.

Hamas are not interested in negotiations or compromises. Their charter states that “[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement.” 

The West may have it`s views, often well argued and cogently presented, about the rights of the Palestinian people and their current treatment. But let`s remember that Hamas are reading from a different script – one not remotely palatable to any Western journalist.

About the Author
Aron White, 22, is currently studying and teaching in Yeshivat HaKotel, whilst studying for a degree in Politics and International Relations through LSE.