Hamas a mixture of Terror and Religion

    April 2001 Passover Edition            
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Hamas: Terror and Religion


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Terror and Religion, the Mixture of Hamas

Hamas is a Hebrew word and an Islamist Fudamentalist terror organization. In Hebrew, the word Hamas means violent criminals or violent crimes. In the Arab world, it is an accronym for a terrorist group. Its their name to their group, not our name for them, yet the meaning is the same: Religious fanaticism who believes that the murder of the enemies of the religion, (the Hamas movement) is a justifiable act.

Hamas, the main Islamist movement in the Palestinian territories, was born after the previous intifada erupted in 1987. The organisation opposes the Oslo peace process and ultimately wants to establish an Islamic state of Palestine in the whole of the territory originally mandated as Palestine. This means that it is against the Palenstine Authority. It demands a complete Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories. Hamas is involved in building schools and hospitals in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and in helping the community in social and religious ways.

The grass-roots organisation - with a political and a military wing - has an unknown number of hard-core members but tens of thousands of supporters and sympathisers. The military wing of Hamas - known as the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades - has carried out a series of bloody attacks against Israeli targets.

In February and March 1996, Hamas carried out several bus bombings, killing nearly 60 Israelis. It was also blamed for attacks in 1997 in Jerusalem which killed 15 people, and brought the peace process grinding to a halt. Yasser Arafat's PA - the government-in-waiting if a Palestinian state is established - views Hamas as a serious rival, yet the Palestinian leader has tried to co-opt the movement into mainstream politics. He realizes that he can not overcome the religious fanaticism with out a bloody internal civil war.

But his insistence that Hamas recognise the PA as the only national authority in the Palestinian territories and cease military operations against Israel has been resisted. Hamas argues that to accept the PA would be to recognise the Oslo accords - which Islamist groups saw as nothing more than a security deal between the PA, Israel and the US, with the ultimate aim of wiping them out. Despite a fierce offensive against the group in 1996, when the PA arrested some 1,000 Palestinians and took over mosques in Gaza, the PA has been careful not to drive Hamas underground. The PA has released those Hamas activists that it arested. It is these activists, together with the PA, who carry out the terrorist activities through out Israel.

Hamas is particularly strong in Gaza, where the economic conditions are worse than the West Bank. The spiritual head of the group is Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. The 64-year-old quadriplegic was released from prison in Israel in 1997, as King Hussein of Jordan's price for freeing Israeli Mossad agents after a bungled attempt to assassinate Hamas leader in Jordan, Khaled Meshal.


The following are quotes from the Hamas website at: http://www.palestine-info.net/Hamas/

"Hamas believes that the best way to handle the conflict with the Zionist enemy is to mobilize the potentialities of the Palestinian people in the struggle against the Zionist presence in Palestine and to keep the firebrand burning until the time when the conditions to win the battle have been realized, and wait until all the potentialities and resources of the Arab and Islamic nation are mobilized under a common political will and purpose. Until that happens and there is belief in the sanctity of the Palestinian cause and its Islamic importance and an awareness of the ultimate goals and dangers of the Zionist project in Palestine, Hamas believes that no part of Palestine should be compromised, that the Zionist occupation of Palestine should not be recognized and that it is imperative for the people of Palestine, as well as all Arabs and Muslims, to prepare themselves to fight the Zionists until they leave Palestine the way they migrated to it.


In resisting the occupation, Hamas directs its action against military targets and does its best to ensure that its resistance would not cause losses among civilians. It is true that in some cases resistance carried out by the movement resulted in some civilian losses, but these losses were in self-defense and came in retaliation to the massacres committed against innocent Palestinian civilians as was the case with the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in Hebron when Palestinians were shot dead at the hands of settlers and the soldiers of the occupation.

Anxious to see no civilians on either side fall victim to the conflict, Hamas took several initiatives proposing that both sides stop targeting civilians and that they be excluded from the scope of conflict. However, the Zionists rejected these initiatives and by doing so they showed their terrorist nature and their indifference to saving innocent Palestinians from bloodshed.

Hamas believes that the "Self-rule Authority" is an outcome of the agreements of the co-existence with the Zionist enemy. It holds that the Zionists have agreed to the establishment of this authority to achieve a number of short and long-term objectives.

The Authority, which is supported by 30,000 armed men forming a police force that holds different titles, is committed to implementing the obligations provided for in the agreements. At the top of these obligations is to confront resistance operations and to strike the resistance factions under the pretext of protecting the settlement process and the Authority's agreement with Israel.

Being hostage to the Oslo Agreements, the Authority serves as a legal cover for the occupation and its practices. Merely by the way of an example, when the Authority approved the opening of by-passes for the settlers, it gave the Zionist settlements a legal status.

Hamas maintains that the Zionists have avoided confronting the movement and its Jihadi program by hiding behind the Self-Rule Authority. The movement is also aware that if it entered into a military confrontation with the Self-Rule Authority, it would achieve one of the Zionist's greatest objectives and ambitions. Out of this awareness, Hamas did not allow itself to be dragged into a dispute with the Authority despite the Authority's repressive practices and its human rights violations in the Self-Rule areas, which included the assassination of Mujahideen, opening fire on citizens while praying, rounding up hundreds of Palestinians on the charges of supporting the resistance factions and torturing prisoners to death.


Hamas considers the Oslo Accords as an alluding formula for liquidating the Palestinian cause and for protecting the Zionists at the expense of the rights of the Palestinian people. It remains opposed to these accords and seeks to abort them by means of the popular resistance without resorting to violence against the Authority and its symbols."


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Hamas activity in the course of the intifada can be characterized as follows:

The concentration of a major part of its activity around the mosques. As spiritual centers which enjoyed relative immunity from the Israeli authorities, these served as convenient locations. Moreover, many Hamas operatives serve as religious functionaries in the mosques. Hamas uses the mosques as recruitment centers to broaden its ranks, as a focus for extremist incitement, disturbances and demonstrations, as a center for the distribution of leaflets, and as a venue for organizing terrorist attacks.

The publication and distribution of leaflets, which serve as a tool for incitement to riot, defining strategy, and instructing the general public,including setting days for memorials and general strikes. The Hamas leaflets are radical in content and virulent in their wording. Most include verses from the Koran and play on extremist Islamic religious feeling. The major themes are:

1) Preaching Jihad as a means to establish an Islamic state in all of Palestine, while rthe right of the State of Israel ("the Zionist entity") to exist.  

2) A call to continue and escalate the violent struggle.

c. The use of "shock troops" ("Al-Suad Al-Ramaya" -- the "throwing arm") for the violent enforcement of Hamas directives, such as the boycott of Israeli goods, preventing workers from the territories from going to work in Israel, and enforcing strikes.

During the period prior to the intifada, Hamas members (in its earlier form of the "Al-Majama Al-Islami") operated primarily against local Palestinians, such as moral offenders and criminal elements, in order to purge Muslim society and to prepare it for Jihad against Israel. After the outbreak of the intifada, the same people and new recruits began to assassinate Palestinians. In the course of the intifada, Hamas operatives have admitted to 43 such attacks, in which 46 Palestinians were killed. On the basis of intelligence information, about 40 more murders of Palestinians can be attributed to Hamas members.

In the course of the intifada, Hamas operatives also began to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli targets, escalating in nature. At first they resorted primarily to explosive charges and other 'popular' means (firebombs, arson and other property damage). In the course of 1989, they kidnapped and murdered two soldiers (Avi Sasportas and Ilan Sa'adon). In December 1990, three Israelis employed in a Jaffa factory were murdered. In 1992, Hamas operatives displayed even greater daring, especially members of the Iz Al-Din Al-Kassam squads, who fired on security personnel at short range, stabbed two Jews to death in a packing plant in the Gaza District, kidnapped and killed Nissim Toledano, and finally murdered a GSS handler in a safehouse in Jerusalem. These Hamas 'successes' naturally encouraged members of other organization to try and emulate and even surpass them.

In the past year, the number of attacks carried out by Hamas members has risen dramatically, making it the second most important terrorist organization, after FATAH, and the leading organization in the murder of Israelis by gunfire. From the beginning of the intifada (December 9, 1987) until December 1992, 20 Israelis and one Jewish tourist were killed in Hamas attacks. During this period, they also assassinated close to 100 Palestinian residents of the territories.

In the course of the intifada, Hamas gained momentum, expanding its activity also in Judea and Samaria to become the dominant Islamic Fundamentalist organization in the territories. It defined its highest priority as actual Jihad (holy war) for the liberation of Palestine and the establishment of an Islamic Palestine "from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River". By its participation in street violence and murder, it boosted its appeal in the eyes of the Palestinians, further enhancing its growth potential and enabling it to play a central role in the intifada. As a result of its subversive and terrorist activity, Hamas was outlawed in September 1989.

Today, Hamas is the second most powerful group in the territories, after FATAH. Its influence is felt in all aspects of daily life, and it serves as a lodestone for extremist elements. It is currently the strongest opposition group to the peace process, and is sometimes viewed as threatening the hegemony of the secular nationalists.


In the course of the past year, Hamas has become the leading perpetrator of terrorist activity, second only to FATAH. Hamas engages in terrorist activity throughout the territories as well as inside the Green Line. It also engages in violent clashes with Palestinian rivals, such as the recent confrontation with FATAH members in the Gaza District in July 1992. Throughout the intifada, there have been many such encounters, in which Hamas rallied hundreds of people into the streets, some of them armed with guns.

The leaflets written and prepared by the Hamas leadership as well as the sermons preached by its operatives in the mosques have played an important role in these attacks. Thus, periodical Hamas leaflets calling for a "revolution of knives" have been found on the persons of Hamas members who stabbed Israelis. Recent Hamas leaflets call for the use of guns against both security personnel and civilians.

Hamas enjoys strong financial backing. In fact, tts rivals claim that this is major reason for its strength. Hamas receives financial support from unofficial bodies in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, and recently also from Iran. The amount of money which reaches Hamas operatives in Judea, Samaria and Gaza annually is estimated at one million dollars. These funds are distributed among the various groups and associations identified with the movement, and from them filter down to the operatives in the field.

With Hamas enjoying popular support for its extremist positions, and with its main thrust at the grass-roots Arab education, the prognosis for peace is extremely thin. Unless the Palestinian Authorities actually stop the extremist hate mongering, can peace have a chance?


from the April 2001 Passover Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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