Hamas Charters and Anti-Semitism

  November 10, 2021   Read time 3 min
Hamas Charters and Anti-Semitism
It is true that many ‘anti-Jewish’ statements do exist in the Hamas Charter of 1988. Not only is it also true that years later these statements are irrelevant to the present Hamas party, the Charter itself has become largely obsolete.

The Charter was written in early 1988 by one individual and was made public without appropriate general Hamas consultation, revision or consensus, to the regret of Hamas’s leaders in later years. The author of the Charter was one of the ‘old guard’ of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Gaza Strip, completely cut off from the outside world. All kinds of confusions and conflations between Judaism and Zionism found their way into the Charter, to the disservice of Hamas ever since, as this document has managed to brand it with charges of ‘anti-Semitism’ and a naïve world-view.

Hamas leaders and spokespeople have rarely referred to the Charter or quoted from it, evidence that it has come to be seen as a burden rather than an intellectual platform that embraces the movement’s principles. The sophisticated language of the Hamas discourse on the eve of its assuming power after the 2006 elections, and the language and discourse of the Charter of 1988, almost appear to describe two completely different movements.

Indeed, just two years after the publication of the 1988 Charter loaded with anti-Jewish rhetoric, Hamas published documents in 1990 distancing itself from what had been included in the Charter. Emphasizing that its struggle has been merely against Zionists and Zionism, not against the Jews and Judaism, it drew a clear distinction between the two: The non-Zionist Jew is one who belongs to the Jewish culture, whether as a believer in the Jewish faith or simply by accident of birth, but … [who] takes no part in aggressive actions against our land and our nation …. Hamas will not adopt a hostile position in practice against anyone because of his ideas or his creed but will adopt such a position if those ideas and creed are translated into hostile or damaging actions against our people.

Discussing this differentiation with the author, one of Hamas’s leaders went so far as to say that ‘being Jewish, Zionist or Israeli is irrelevant, what is relevant for me is the notion of occupation and aggression. Even if this occupation was imposed by an Arab or Islamic state and the soldiers were Arabs or Muslims I would resist and fight back.’ On the ground however, in Palestinian cities and refugee camps in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, ordinary people, including Hamas members, do use the terms ‘Jew’, ‘Zionist’ and ‘Israeli’ interchangeably. On the surface, mixing up these terms blurs the differences: clearly not every Jew is a Zionist, and not every Israeli is a Zionist. However regrettably imprecise the use of any of these terms interchangeably might be in common parlance, it is somewhat irrelevant in the face of the ongoing presence of an aggressive, illegal and Israeli occupier, which whatever distinctions are made is identifiably Jewish (Zionist/Israeli). It is the aggression and occupation that is most relevant, whichever way it gets labelled in the heat of day-today confrontation.

Though this should be borne in mind, a type of undeniable anti-Jewishness has come to cut across Palestinian and Arab societies. It is not based on religious, racial or cultural hatred, as in the western rubric ‘anti-Semitism’. The roots of any anti-Jewishness in Arab society are entirely political, in response to aggression, and any other form of anti-Jewishness would be completely refuted from the perspective of Islamic theology. Military actions taken against ‘Jewish’ targets are taken against them as representatives of an illegal, aggressive occupier, and have nothing whatsoever to do with their creed, race or non-Islamic culture.

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