from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

What Does Hamas Want?

December 9, 2012

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Frequently I have found that when I mention the odious Hamas "Charter" as the best insight into the group’s current goals, the response is that the Charter is nearly 25 years old and doesn’t mean much nowadays.

In that context the words of Hamas’s two top leaders in the past few weeks deserve attention.

On November 26, Mahmoud al-Zahhar (a Hamas co-founder and influential leader) said this "Anyone who wants to liberate Palestine by complaining [to the International Criminal Court] – I will send him handkerchiefs to wipe his tears. Whoever wants to really liberate Palestine should pick up a gun."

Khaled Meshal is the top political leader of Hamas, and entered Gaza for the first time this weekend. Here are some of his remarks to a mass rally celebrating Hamas’s 25th anniversary:

Palestine, from the river to the sea, from north to south, is our land. Not an inch of it can be conceded. We cannot recognize the legitimacy of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. There is no legitimacy to occupation, and therefore no legitimacy for Israel, no matter how long it will take. Liberating Palestine, all of Palestine, is a duty, a right and a goal....we will liberate [Jerusalem] inch by inch, stone by stone, Islamic and Christian holy places. Israel has no right in Jerusalem....

As to the recent UN vote giving "Palestine" the status of "non-member state," Meshal said:

Liberation first, then the state. The real state is the product of liberation, not the product of negotiations. Holy war and armed resistance are the real and right path to liberation and recovery of rights.

All these remarks suggest that the mentality that produced the Charter, a venomous anti-Semitic document that makes compromise impossible, remains dominant. For that reason, I wonder why anyone who seeks peace would promote reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas and seek to bring Hamas into the governing of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority. Given Hamas’s goals, such a role for the terrorist group would make Israeli-Palestinian cooperation impossible--not just peace negotiations but the day to day cooperation that exists with respect to the West Bank.

The words of Meshal and al-Zahhar are also a reminder of why Hamas persists, year after year, in firing rockets, mortars, and missiles at civilian targets in Israel. Hamas commits terrorist acts because it is wedded to violence and terror, and believes them fully justified in pursuing its goal of driving the Jews out of what they call "Israel" and Hamas calls "Palestine." Meshal’s claim that "not an inch of it can be conceded" and Al-Zahhar’s urging to "pick up a gun" demonstrate yet again what Hamas wants and how it plans to get there.

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