Hamas, the Arabic acronym for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya that means The Islamic Resistance Movement, began in 1967 as a wing of the Muslim Brotherhood chapter in Palestine. Under the leadership of its founder Sheikh Ahmad Yassin the organization was initially focused on promoting Islamic views and values, the establishment and maintenance of charity organizations, religious schools, and social clubs in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (Pope “The Rise of Hamas”).
During the 1970s and 1980s the Muslim Brotherhood expanded its organizational infrastructure among the refugees of the Gaza Strip and was successful in gaining popularity and support due to its impressive social work and religious propaganda. At that time Israeli military authorities sought to repress the secular nationalist organizations such as Arafat’s Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) who overtly called for liberation from foreign occupation.
Many analysts point out that Israel, wanting to use the Muslim Brotherhood as a counterbalance to the PLO and dilute support for the latter, gave direct and indirect financial aid to the former through donations to schools, universities, and mosques for several years. But, according to U. S. intelligence officials, the main funds came from the oil-rich Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries (Sale “Analysis: Hamas history tied to Israel”).
During the two decades that preceded the first Intifada (1987 – 1993), Hamas managed to build a full-fledged social, educational, religious, and cultural infrastructure both in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and gained an important political stronghold there. Hamas was successful even though it did not initially support the nationalist idea of liberation of Palestine. Unlike the PLO which overtly called for the armed struggle with Israel, Hamas focused on providing assistance to people in the refugee camps in their every day life and instead of theories and dreams of liberation did practical things.
(“Hamas (Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyya)”). “Page # 2” Hamas as it is known today emerged when the first Intifada in the occupied territories broke out in December 1987. Shortly after that the organization issued its official charter. In 1989 the Israeli authorities outlawed Hamas and imprisoned Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Yassin was then freed by Prime Minister Netanyahu for “humanitarian reasons”, expelled to Jordan from where he returned to Gaza as a hero in 1997 (Sale “Analysis: Hamas history tied to Israel”).
Hamas’ goals The ideology of Hamas is a combination of Palestinian nationalism and Islamic religious ideals. Some analysts believe that Hamas supreme objective is to transform Palestinian national struggle into a fundamentally religious one (Levitt “Teaching Terror: How Hamas Radicalizes Palestinian Society”). The basic Hamas’ goals are stated in The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement which was published in August 1988.
The Covenant consists of 36 separate articles whose principal idea is the destruction of the State of Israel through Jihad, Islamic Holy War. The preamble to the Covenant reads that Israel will continue to exist until Islam destroys it. Hamas proclaims the land of Palestine an Islamic Waqf, Holy Possession, which is consecrated for the next Muslim generations and no part of which can be renounced or abandoned. Hamas’ intention is to force Israel from the land of Palestine as it was known prior to 1947.
The only way to bring that mission about is the use of armed force (“The Covenant of the Hamas – Main Points”). International initiatives, proposals or any other so-called peaceful solutions aimed at solving the Palestinian problem are seen by Hamas as a pure waste of time and also an attempt to appoint the infidels as judges in the Islamic lands (“The Covenant of the Hamas – Main Points”). Hamas considers itself as the spearhead of the fight against World Zionism and incites other Islamic groups in the Arab world to do the same.
Israeli civilians are viewed by Hamas as military targets (due to Israel’s universal military conscription) to be killed and their money and property are for the taking (Schumer “Hamas: The Organizations, Goals and Tactics of a Militant Palestinian Organization”). “Page # 3” One of the most important tasks in Hamas’ program is its provision of social welfare to the Palestinian people through health care, education and various social organizations. Hamas regards itself as a part of Palestinian nationhood and feels responsible for its well-being (Pope “The Rise of Hamas”).