Palestinian Islamist political group founded in 1987, extending its activities to social programs in Palestinian territories, as well as military actions against Israel.
Hamas style propaganda; kids first. Still, it must be noted, that Hamas has actually never used kids as suicide bombers as this image suggests.
Ahmad Yassin, leader until 2004.
|Abd al-Aziz ar-Rantissi
Hamas does not operate with formal leadership since 2004. Between April 2004 and December 2005, leadership was not official. Since 2005, Haniya may well be only one of at least 3 leaders.
Hamas won the 2006 elections, making their candidate, Ismail Haniya prime minister, but since 2007 he has governed only Gaza Strip; Salam Fayyad being prime minister for West Bank.
Hamas is not the official name of the organization, which is Haraka al-Muqawama al-Islamiya, which translates into English as 'Islamic Resistance Movement'. Hamas is both an approximate acronym, as well as a name with a specific meaning, 'zeal' in Arabic.
Hamas defines its ideology in a charter, across 36 articles. The actual content of the charter is thin, most of it are expressions of emotions and semi-factual information aiming at causing emotions with the reader. There are numerous references to religious texts, both the Koran and the hadiths.
Article 8 states that "Allah is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Koran its constitution. Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes." The establishment and continued existence of Israel is something evil that need to be fought relentlessly, yet Hamas bluntly states that "...any land the Muslims have conquered by force..." shall remain under Muslim control (Article 11).
Several times, Hamas equates Zionism with Nazism. Still, there is one point where Nazi propaganda penetrates the charter (Article 32). Hamas uses as proof of the great Zionist plan that this is "...embodied in the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion"..." These protocols are since long proven a forgery, only Neo-Nazis promote them as genuine in recent decades.
Hamas aims not to reach its goals by negotiations. Article 13 clearly states that "Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of [Hamas]...There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad." Article 11 declares that no party has the right to give up any Palestinian land, and by their definition this includes the state of Israel (except occupied Golan Heights).
Hamas' ideology is a mix of mainly Palestinian nationalism, a moderate Islamist understanding of Islam and some Arab pan-nationalism. Hamas wishes to promote a world without civilian, secular organizations. All aspects of life and society, big or small, are to be guided by the regulations of Islam.
Hamas' charter has racist tendencies, and is brutally anti-Jewish, and then not limited to the question of Israel. Jews are said to have been "...behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about..." and even behind World War 1, which apparently the Jews initiated simply to topple the "Islamic Caliphate" (Ottoman Empire). And since the Jews are to blame for World War 1, Hamas even throws in the responsibility for World War 2, (Article 22), from which Jews are supposed to have gained most!
Hamas attitudes to non-Muslims is expressed ambiguously throughout the charter, but Article 31 comes fairly clear: "It is the duty of the followers of other religions to stop disputing the sovereignty of Islam in [the Middle East]..." In its understanding of how the world works and of historical facts the Hamas Charter appears naive and badly-informed: Rotary Clubs are equated with espionage organizations (Article 17), and
Hamas mentions on a few occasions how families and society should be run, like that it is the responsibility of a mothers to conduct good control of family finances. The responsibilities in society is defined in Article 21: "Mutual social responsibility means extending assistance, financial or moral, to all those who are in need and joining in the execution of some of the work." But Hamas never comes close to defining a family or economical program, rather it promotes Islam and its values, but does not go clear on what these involves. Rather, Hamas stresses that scholars should study Islam thoroughly to establish its values and regulations, and that these should be transferred to the young in schools and to the teach the masses in what is a good conduct of life. Although Hamas clearly stresses this to secure that no random politics will emerge from their side, Hamas' opponents can easily argue that a Hamas with full political powers can soon come up with a few unpleasant surprise or two. The reason why Hamas promotes true and unlimited Islam as a good thing, relies upon the established myth that there ever has been highly successful Muslim societies (see Islam / Golden Age).
Hamas states in Article 31 that it is "...a humanistic movement. It takes care of human rights and is guided by Islamic tolerance when dealing with the followers of other religions." Still, this applies only to "Islam, Christianity and Judaism". It could be alleged that Hamas need not identify its relationship to other religions, as these are the only ones present in Palestine and Israel. Also Human Rights in Islam is not to be confused with "human rights" as defined in Western societies.
Hamas grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood, specifically from a branch active in Gaza that was primarily involved in religious, social and educational work. The Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood continues to have good interrelationships, and the two groups could be considered to be one entity. The Hamas Charter defines Hamas as a wing of the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood.
The first leader was Shaykh Ahmad Yassin, who held the position despite bad health until his assassination in 2004.
The Intifada, the Palestinian public resistance that started in 1987, the same year as the founding of Hamas, helped make Hamas one of the most important groups in Palestine.
Hamas is also involved in a wide range of social programs for poor Palestinians, programs providing welfare and education, vocational training, health care and also jobs for unemployed. Their main centre of activity is the Gaza Strip, where they have provided a better welfare system than what the Palestinian authorities have offered. Many observers claim that this type of activity is the real focus of Hamas' activities, rather than the political/violent one.
Hamas has strong support among Palestinians, even if these numbers fluctuate continually depending on the change in social conditions and politics in Palestine. With the Israeli killings of stone-throwing Palestinians in late 2000, Hamas emerged as stronger than ever. From this time on, Hamas had become strong enough to represent a real threat to the PLO's authority and power.
In 2006, Hamas won a clear majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council, much to the surprise of foreign observers.
Hamas has become known for its suicide bombers and activists. These come from a special branch of Hamas, called Allotment of the Power of Religion, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam. Members of this brigade believe that death in the name of God is the greatest sacrifice that can be offered.
In addition to attacks on Israelis, jihad of Hamas has involved some actions against moderate Palestinians (especially members of PLO).
Hamas came up front in the world press in 2001, with a bomb in a bus in Tel Aviv that killed 22 civilians. Hundreds of Hamas activists were put in Israeli detention.
As political leaders of Gaza since 2006, Hamas has been able to lauch a kind of state war on Israel.
1987: Founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood based in Gaza, fronted by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi and Mohammad Taha.
1994 May: Establishment of the Palestinian National Authority to which Hamas objects and threats with civil war, at the same time as they continue to attack Israel.
2000: Israeli soldiers kill stone-throwing Palestinians, rendering the Palestinian authorities irrelevant for Palestinian security. Many more Palestinians start supporting Hamas.
2001 June 1. 22 killed in Tel Aviv by a suicide bomber of Hamas.
August 9: 15 killed in Jerusalem by a suicide bomber of Hamas.
2002 May 7: 16 killed in Rishon LeZion by a suicide bomber of Hamas.
2003 March 5: 17 killed, 55 injured by a suicide bomber of Hamas.
June 11: 17 killed in Jerusalem by a suicide bomber dressed up as an orthodox Jew.
August 19: 23 killed, 100 injured in Jerusalem by a suicide bomber.
2004 March 14: 10 killed, 16 injured in Ashdod by two suicide bombers of Hamas.
March 22: Shaykh Ahmad Yassin is killed by Israeli soldiers, at the command of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel. Abdul Aziz al-Rantissi becomes the new leader.
April 17: Abdul Aziz al-Rantissi is assassinated by the Israeli army at the command of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
April 18: A new leader is selected, but for security reasons, his identity is kept secret. According to Israeli authorities, the un-named leader is Mahmoud al-Zahar.
2005 September: Israel withdraws completely from the Gaza Strip, allowing Hamas more unofficial control and influence over the area than before.
2006 January 26: Hamas is declared winner of the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council. They get 42.9% of the votes and 76 of 132 seats.
2008 June 19: A cease-fire is signed between Hamas and Israel.
December 20: Hamas declares it will not prolong the cease-fire. Hamas blames Israel for having closed borders for little but humanitarian aid, and begins shooting off rockets into Israeli territory.
December 26: Israel opens several border points to Gaza, but Hamas' attacks on Israel continues.
December 27: Israel launches a wave of airstrikes on Gaza Strip, killing hundreds within few hours. Many civilians are killed, due to Hamas strategy of placing military installations among civilian homes. Within two weeks more than 800 Palestinian are killed, but the number of civilian is unusually low for any war, and especially for a war fought against military placed around civilian homes.