What is Hamas?


One of the major Islamic evangelist movements in the Middle East started in 1928 in Egypt with the name of the Muslim Brotherhood. The movement was formed with social and religious motives initially and focused on the educational and social reforming of the Palestinian Arab areas. The situation changed following the intifada in West Bank and Gaza in 1987 when the Muslim Brotherhood was challenged regarding their fundamental beliefs as Palestinian population turned their focus on the uprising. In such a situation where leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood felt that they are being detached from the activities of the PLO and Islamic Jihad, they founded a new organization in the same year as a response and named it Hamas.

The Hamas Covenant, which was drawn up in 1988, laid down that the organization recognizes the contributions of the PLO and its efforts to work for a Palestinian state fighting Israel. However, it did not recognize the PLO superior than themselves in representing Palestinian Arabs and Islam. Hamas held the view that only jihad and armed struggle can liberate Palestinian land from Israel and not negotiations. Stated in Hamas Covenant: “There is no other solution for the Palestinian problem other than jihad. All the initiatives and international conferences are a waste of time and a futile game.”   Hamas gives a clear vision of the Palestinian state which runs from Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River and is based on the principals of Islam, opposing to the view of a small, indeterminate state given by the PLO. Hamas also enjoyed a position more balanced in the 1990 Gulf Crisis than the PLO and received major aids from Saudi Arabia as PLO sided with Iraq, leaving an inclination of Saudi Arabia towards Hamas who were critical of the secular Iraqi rule.   More distances came between the PLO and Hamas after the Oslo peace process started. Iran supported Hamas in its efforts to carry on the Islamic movements. During the time Israel expelled Hamas activists to Southern Lebanon, relations between Hamas and Hezbollah were strengthened. There was a slight improvement in the relationships between the PLO and Hamas during 1993 when the PLO refrained from involving in peace talks with Israel. However, it turned out to be only a temporary improvement as the PLO signed Oslo Agreement in 1993.   Aimed at achieving a higher political standing in Palestine, Hamas found its position deteriorating with the peace process negotiations of the period 1993-1995. It brought them down to the dilemma where they had to choose between joining in the negotiations which challenged their origins or continue to oppose the negotiations which would damage their image in front of the emerging Palestinian state. Eventually agreements were signed between the PLO and Hamas which solved the problem for both and turning their rivalry in collaboration.   Hamas and other such groups like Islamic Jihad began to work side by side with the Palestinian Authority security forces fighting against Israel in Al-Aqsa Intifada in September of 2000. Yasser Arafat announced three days of mourning when the founder of Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, was killed by the Israeli helicopter in March 2004. Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Ahmed Qureia, commented: “This is one of the biggest crimes that the Israeli government has committed.”               Hamas still remains one of the most popular and influential organizations in the Middle East. After winning the Palestinian parliamentary elections of 2006, it has emerged as a major force in the region. Although it has been classified as a terrorist organization by the European Union, United States and Israel, political analysts believe that Hamas is the vital link in solving Arab-Israeli conflict.

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