"Who do you want to see?" asked the Salafi Jihadists holding their AK-47s at the gate.
"Hamas leaders," I replied.
"Why Hamas? Why not our Jihadi brothers?" the guard asked.
"Well, Hamas are in government in Gaza."
"They won't be in future," he responded. "They have sold out and become agents of the Israelis, and in years to come we will govern Gaza. Be sure to meet our brothers here in the camp, too."
The guard then gave me directions to a safe house where someone could take me to Hamas.
This was last summer. I was visiting a Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut for book research. It took me two more days to locate Hamas leadership. Inside the camp, just as in Gaza, Hamas had a wide network of schools, financiers, mosques, makeshift hospitals, readily available doctors, banking services, and support for orphans and widows. We in the West deem Hamas a terrorist organization. Yes, one part of it is committed to terrorism, killing innocent civilians in the pursuit of political aims, but we are mistaken if we continue to limit our definition by one aspect of Hamas.
Unless we better understand Hamas, we cannot help halt the killings of Israelis and Arabs in the Middle East. Hamas is not a monolith, nor is it only a terrorist group: It is a social movement, with a mass membership, a popular message of resistance that resonates across the Muslim world, and a political party with which we must negotiate.