The Israeli occupation has never missed an opportunity to brand Hamas a fundamentalist, terrorist, racist, anti-Semitic organization. True to the Mossad motto which states 'By way of deception, though shall do war,' it has excelled at taking select articles from the Islamic party’s charter and using them, out of context, to justify its claims.
The Israelis have, for example, translated the charter to several languages, English and French included, intentionally perverting the substance of its tenets to suit their purposes. Those aims were to market its fraudulent translation to as many Western politicians, academics and media channels as possible; and therefore make it easier to claim security concerns as the basis for their legal infractions. The fear-mongering is designed to horrify the West so much that it turns a blind eye to the crimes against humanity which contravene international law.
Throughout my tenure as an adviser to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in the tenth and eleventh administrations (the unity government), and even after the events of June 2007 when I was assigned as a deputy minister to the foreign ministry, journalists and politicians consistently asked the same questions around the charter and the extent to which the government was beholden to it or intent on applying the articles within it.
Despite my consistent clarification that Hamas must be evaluated on its official actions and political positions, it is evident that the Israeli propaganda machine has over a two year period successfully brainwashed those it has targeted. Many observers have become incapable of making an impartial assessment of the significant transformations the movement has undergone; and instead have parroted the Israeli position, adopting the obstinacy of what a local colloquialism notes “is a goat, even if it has wings.”
The Reality and the Tale
The Islamic Resistance Movement, known by its Arabic acronym Hamas, was born in December 1987 with the first Intifada, or Uprising. Initially, the group mounted demonstrations against Israeli belligerence; and in order to maintain the momentum of the newly created protest culture, the group’s leadership needed a platform to crystallize its views and give the “resistance generation” broad strokes direction on the principles and challenges within which they would operate against the occupation. Those early, revolutionary days represent the context within which the concept of a charter was formed.
That document was a practical response to an oppressive occupation. It reflected the views of one of the movement’s elder leaders; and it was ratified during the unique circumstances of the Uprising in 1988 as a necessary framework for dealing with a relentless occupation. There was little opportunity, at that time, to pore over the minutia of either its religious and political terminology or the broader perspective of international law.
An internal committee reviewed the possibility of amending the charter during the nineties and ratifying it as a binding manifesto; yet the primary concern, that of being seen as following the Fatah route of offering up concessions on a silver platter, led the group’s leadership to shelve such measures. Instead, new ideas were proposed that reflected the movement’s openness to the international community and its willingness to adopt a more realistic political view. This flexibility was evident in official speeches; and more recently in the election platform put forward by the Change & Reform Party (al-taghyeer wal islah).
Despite the group’s evolution, it is an inescapable fact that the charter represents a milestone in the struggle against an irredentist occupation. At any rate, historical statements remain a testament to the past; and the charter, as a document written over two decades ago, retains its authoritative value. However, it is not a constitution drafted as law; and cannot be construed to demand literal interpretation. In fact, the movement has to a certain degree moved on from its content simply by participating in the political process, accepting a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and publicly declaring a readiness to explore political solutions with the international community. The claim of an intransigent organization simply does not tally with the reality of a group opening up to its regional environment; and one which participated in a national parliament borne of the Oslo Accords, having won a majority vote through participatory elections in 2006.
The Vision and the Policy
Logic dictates Hamas has demonstrated the flexibility to deal with changing realities while remaining true to its principles; and it as shown an openness to be actively engaged when appropriate. Regardless of the past, our position is crystallized as follows:
1. Historic rights remain inalienable, preserved by each generation; and the resolve shall continue until those rights are restored. The issue is bound only by capacity and the regional balance of power. Our people have never repudiated the fact that Jews and Christians are an integral part of the Palestinian people and its land – the land of all prophets. Yet we reject a situation where one encroaches on the possessions and holy sites of another, supported by external powers and claims of divine promise. This is not only a Hamas refutation; but that of the entire Palestinian population.
2. There is a stark difference between acquiescing to pressure then accepting conditions, hoping for better circumstances for your people, and gaining your rights in a manner that preserves your integrity and protects the sanctity of your lands and holy sites. Attempts to put Hamas on the Fatah path (coaxing then gain successive compromise) would place it in the former camp, which is untenable. The movement’s decision-making process is based on a consultative apparatus, one that is designed to protect the inviolability of the Palestinian cause and the historical rights of its people; and hence we can only consider solutions that reflect the people’s will.
3. Our current conflict with the occupation is a political one. Yet virtually all liberation movements rely on the language of religion to inspire their peoples, given that such discourse offers the greatest clarity and motive to make sacrifices for liberty. For our part, we do not shy away from shedding light on the historical milestones that underscore our struggle against the fundamentalism inherent in Zionism. We do so in a way that will undermine the dream of Eretz Israel; and place us firmly on a path to a just peace.
4. Hamas is a national liberation movement with an Islamic identity; and it recognizes that the conflict sometimes takes on religious form in ways that cannot be ignored. Palestine is a trust that cannot be discharged; and there are rights that have been usurped that must be restored, peacefully or through war. There are no political parties that can simply cede these rights without reverting to a national referendum which would collectively decide on the right course to preserve the greater good of the Palestinian people.
5. The cornerstone of this issue is that Palestinian rights will not dissipate as a result of stonewalling. Whether or not the conflict has a religious dimension, the people’s rights must be restituted either through peaceful settlement or through open conflict for generations to come, awaiting a change in the balance of power that will allow a final, equitable solution to emerge.
6. Hamas’ view is that this conflict is multi-dimensional: religious, political, legal, ethical and security-related. Yet at its core is the matter of rights that have been abrogated. These must be restored; and the international community has attested to this imperative thru numerous declarations, including United Nations Resolution 194 which recognizes the right of Palestinian refugees to return and be compensated for their losses.
7. For our part, we acknowledge that these are sacred lands which were the cradle of three monotheistic messages – Jewish, Christian and Muslim. The followers of these faiths have been on this land for centuries; and therefore their presence on this land, in general, has never, and will not, end.
8. The Palestinian people have never harbored ill will towards the Jewish presence on this land, only for the Zionist aberration that seeks to expropriate it, dominate it, cast out indigenous “gentiles”, and invite mass immigration from across the globe through formal Aliyah (Jewish immigration) programs.
9. The prospect of coexistence among the original inhabitants of this land is possible after those who have been wronged receive restitution. Yet any submission to the status quo, negating the harm that has been done over the past 60 years, is unacceptable under any circumstance.
These, then, are the general principles upon which the Islamists of Palestine operate, regardless of the comments some may have over a charter written at a specific, tumultuous point almost a quarter of a century ago; and when the language of conflict from all parties was open to a wide array of political and religious phraseology. The pragmatism of Hamas’ current position is self-evident when evaluated without the partiality of propaganda. It is up to the Israelis and the international community to recognize it as such or doom the holy land to further strife until the next generation come of age.
Dr. Ahmed Yousef is the Former senior Political Adviser to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.
*the views expressed in the Opinion section are those of the authors