Since July 8, 2014, there has been an escalation of violence around the Gaza Strip. To fully understand the conflict, it is helpful to know the political and military organization that sparked the hostilities and remains the primary obstacle to peace in the area. Here are nine things you should know about Hamas.
1. Hamas is a militant nationalist-Islamist movement founded in 1987 as a spinoff of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Along with Fatah, it is one of the two major political parties in the occupied territories. Hamas candidates won Palestinian elections in 2006, but their government was dismissed in 2007, resulting in the political bifurcation of the West Bank and Gaza. While Fatah reasserted its authority in the West Bank, Hamas has continued to rule over the Gaza Strip, a coastal enclave of 1.7 million Palestinians.
2. Hamas has been officially designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom, Canada, the European Union, Jordan, Egypt, and Japan. However, several other countries — including Iran, Russia, China, and many Arab nations — have refused to designate the group as terrorists.
3. The slogan of Hamas is “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.”
4. The Hamas Charter (or Hamas Covenant) “reveals its identity, outlines its stand, explains its aims, speaks about its hopes.” Hamas considers nationalism part of its religious belief and the most noble goal is “waging Jihad against the enemy and confronting him when he sets foot on the land of the Muslims.” The charter claims that “so-called peaceful solutions” are contrary to the movement’s beliefs. For Hamas, “There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. The initiatives, proposals and International Conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility.”
5. According to the Hamas Charter, the “wealth” of the Jews allowed them to “take over control of the world media such as news agencies, the press, publication houses, broadcasting and the like.” Additionally, the document claims Jews were behind the French Revolution, the Communist Revolution, “most of the revolutions we hear about here and there”, all wars throughout history, and the establishment of the United Nations. The Jews are also credited with founding “destructive spying organizations” such as the Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, and Lions Clubs.
6. Hamas has been open about their denial of the Holocaust. They claim that teaching the Holocaust in UN schools in Gaza is a “war crime.” The Hamas charter also refers to the “Nazism of the Jews.”
7. A 2007 study of Palestinian suicide bombings found that 39.9 percent of the suicide attacks were carried out by Hamas. Currently, 46 percent of people in Gaza support the use of suicide bombing, a drop from 70 percent in 2007.
8. Since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations has fired more than 11,000 rockets into Israel. To curb retaliation, Israel claims that Hamas uses civilians as “human shields” since Israeli policy is to limit civilian casualties whenever possible. As the New York Times notes, Hamas has “encouraged residents not to flee their homes when alerted by Israel to a pending strike and, having prepared extensively for war, did not build civilian bomb shelters.”
9. The ultimate military goal of Hamas is genocide of the Jewish people. As stated in their charter: “Hamas has been looking forward to implement Allah’s promise whatever time it might take. The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, 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!”