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Hamas: From an Islamic Resistance Movement to Palestinian government

Astris Essed


July 28, 2006

Al-Jazeerah, July 28, 2006


"Power in defense of freedom is greater than power on behalf of tyranny and oppression."
Quote Malcolm X
At the Palestinian elections of 25-1-2006, Hamas has obtained a startling victory.
From the 132 seats of parliament, Hamas, which for the first time was participating in the parliamentary elections, obtained 74 seats, in contrary with the then reigning Fatah-party, which obtained merely 43 seats.
The further 13 seats were obtained by different smaller political parties, as well as independent candidates.
This great victory for Hamas was no surprise because of  the fundamental Hamas political and military resistance against the Israeli occupation and the Hamas social activities on behalf of the impoverished population of especially Gaza
In spite of this,  leading American-European politicians, as well as the newsmedia, didn't only show great astonishment,  they also demanded, that Hamas, as the price for financial support, would stop armed resistance (or what the Israelis and their supporters call "renouncing violence") against the Israeli occupation and also acknowledge  the State of Israel. 
When the newly-formed Hamas-government refused to agree with those American-European demands, the American and Canadian governments, as well the EU decided to freeze the financial support to the Palestinian Authority, a measure, which went at the cost of the already seriously impoverished Palestinian civilian population, since at least 45 % of the population [there are also reports about a higher poverty-rate varying untill 70 %] is living below the poverty-rate and 15% is even living in extreme poverty.
Especially the educational and medical conditions are seriously deteriorated since this boycott.
Moreover, 942.000 Palestinians or 25% of the total Palestinian population is living from salaries, which are being paid by the Palestinian Authority However, due to those American-European measures, those payments can't be done anymore,  with all humanitarian consequences for the families involved.
Not only those boycott-measures are morally highly reprehensible in regard with the humanitarian consequences for the Palestinian civilian-population, they also can lead to amounting tensions within the Palestinian society.
With regard to those measures, many international NGO's, as well as a number of UN-organisations, have uttered sharp criticism to those American-European boycott-measures.
Another consequence of the boycott-measure can be, that the Hamas-government, as a result of the freezing of EU financial support, shall receive increased financial aid from the governments of the Arab and Islamic countries, with as a consequence the lessening of EU political influence regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Recently a number of Arab governments, and Iran, has either given, or promised, financial aid to the Hamas-government.

Probably aware of the above-mentioned political consequences of her possible diminishing influence regarding the Middle-East, the EU, as has been represented by EU Commissioner Louis Michel, former Belgian minister of foreign affairs has set aside a sum of 34 million euro in the form of emergency-aid to the Palestinian territories, which are going to be delivered outside the official Hamas-channels
Also the World Bank, which is fearing further humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territories, is exploring, in direct cooperation with the Quartet [the EU, USA, the Russian Federation and the UN], to resume the financial aid to the Palestinian population, outside Hamas-channels, and probably by way of the  NGO's, which are active in the area.
Double standards:
The main motives of the American-European boycott of the financial aid to the Palestinian Authority lies in the refusal of Hamas, to renounce the violence against Israel and to acknowledge the State of Israel.
A further argument regarding the boycott is the fact, that Hamas has had a main part in the incitement to suicide attacks against Israeli civilians and is still continuing this strategy.
Although it is evident, that suicide-attacks as military attacks on civilians and civilian objects are not only inhumane, but also illegal according International Law, it is seldom mentioned by the EU and the American-European government, that these attacks are a matter of cause and effects, since they are the result of the now 39 years of Israeli occupation, despite of the in 1967 unanimously accepted UN-Security Resolution 242, by which Israel was summoned, to withdraw its troops from the in the june-war conquered territories, among else the Palestinian territories.
Also the boycotting countries are ignoring the fact, that the attacks of Hamas are not only consisting of suicide-attacks, but also of the internationally legitimated military attacks on the Israeli occupation-army.
Repeatedly Hamas has declared, as well before as after her election-victory, her willingness to stop armed resistance when Israel is prepared to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories [its international obligation under UN Security Council Resolution nr 242], to dismantle its settlements in the Palestinian territories, which are illegal according International Law [see also 2 UN-Security Council Resolutions dd 1979], to dismantle the Wall, which is being built accross occupied Palestinian territories [see verdict ICJ dd 9-7-2004], and is acknowledging the Palestinian right of return, which is confirmed by the General Assembly Resolution 194, dd 1948
All these Hamas demands are being based on International Law, which has been confirmed by the above-named resolutions and therefore abslutely legitimate. 
Striking however is, that the American-European boycotting governments are demanding Hamas-disarmament on the one hand, while at the other hand, no clear demands are being made on Israel, regarding the implementation of the above mentioned UN-resolutions, which were voted for by the same American-European States.
Also this double standard-policy is being applied with regard to Israeli and Palestinian violence
Although the condemnation of suicide-attacks against Israeli civilians is correct and justified, there is however a strong undervaluation of the serious character of the Israeli human rights violations and war-crimes, which have been committed by especially the Israeli army from the beginning of the occupation in 1967.
It is also significant to mention, that from EU-side there is no real political pressure on Israel to end the occupation and withdraw from the Palestinian territories.

Seeing from that perspective, the American-European criticism of Hamas is lacking moral credibility and is testifying very selective indignation

A The ideology of Hamas and the American-European political conception with regard to the alleged claim about ''destruction'' of the State of Israel
It is a common standard, that in nearly all American-European newsmedia, as well in statements of politicians, the Hamas-ideology is being associated with the ''destruction'' of the State of Israel
Before trying to unmask this stubborn American-European assumption I want to throw some light on the political history of the Hamas Movement.
History of the Hamas Movement:
The word, Hamas, is an abbreviation of Harakat al-muqwama al-islmiyya, which means Islamic Resistance Movement. It had been founded in 1987 as a religious-nationalistic resistance organisation with Shaikh Yassin as the spiritual leader.

He was killed in an Israeli airstrike in march 2004, which, being an extra-judicial execution,  not only killed him but also  7 other Palestinian civilians.

However, since the beginning of the eighties, there was a predecessor of Hamas, also under the leadership of Shaikh Yassin, which was mainly an Islamic Revival Movement, which was mostly directed on social and charitable goals.

Although of course opposed to the occupation, it didn't stimulate the resistance, since it considered the Israeli occupation as a punishment of God because of Palestinian lack of religious devotion.
In other words, this revival movement was meant to make the Palestinian population return to the basics of Islam, as explained by the movement, in their daily life.
Even when the official Hamas organisation had been founded in 1987, initially there was no real resistance against the occupation, despite the anti-Zionistic Charter of 1988.
Only later the Hamas organisation became part of the resistance, resulting in military attacks against the Israeli occupation army and from 1994 in suicide-attacks against Israeli civilians.
The immediate cause was the massacre by the Jewish-Israeli extreme rightwing Dr Baruch Goldstein on 29 Palestinians, who were praying in the Ibrahimi Mosque (also known as the Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hebron.
Hamas Charter:
Analysis of the Hamas Charter, that is consisting of 36 articles, reveals that the basis is being formed upon as well the resistance against the Israeli occupation, as well  the assumption of the dismantlement of the Zionist State of Israel, to be replaced by an islamic Palestinian State with equal rights for all the inhabitants and religious freedom regarding Jews and Christians.
Seeing from this perspective, the Charter has an anti-colonialist conception because of the fundamental criticism on  the colonialist character of the foundation of the State of Israel in historical Palestine, first being a colony of the Turkish-Ottoman Empire and after World War I , a British Mandate-area.
According to the wish of the European Zionist movement,  the foundation of a ''Jewish'' State in historical Palestine took place, based on General Assembly Resolution number 181, in 1947, which contained the division of Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab states, without any consultation of the autochtone Palestinian population.
It is of importance to mention here, that the objections of the Palestinians were not against the settlement of Jewish people in Palestine, but against the division of their country into two different States.
Yet apart from that, Hamas is justly protesting against the present Zionist State, which is for an important part based on discriminatory laws and measures, which are at the cost of the so-called ''Israeli Arabs'', especially regarding educational and medical provisions.
One of the most striking example of those discriminatory laws of State is the fact, that any Jewish man or woman  in the world has the right to settle in Israel, while the right of return of the Palestinian descendants of the 750,000 refugees who were evicted from their homeland by Zionist militias, which was confirmed in General Assembly Resolution 194, in 1948, is not being acknowledged by Israel.
Notwithstanding anyone's opinion about this anti-Zionist point of view and the Hamas-assumption about the undesirable foundation of an Islamic State, it is evident, that the expulsion or even killing of Israeli-Jewish inhabitants of Israel, which is often suggested by the American-European politicians and newsmedia, is out of order.
Although in the Charter is being referred to ''the Jews'', a thorough reading makes clear, that it is a reference to the Israeli Zionist regime and the Israeli occupation, not to the Jews as an ethnic-religious group.
Also in Hamas bulletins, the word ''Jews'' is not used. Rather, the words ''Zionistic enemy'' or the ''Zionist entity'' are usually used.

B Suicide-attacks:
Mentioning Hamas, mostly the emphasis is being laid on the suicide-attacks against Israeli civilians, for which it  bears responsibility. It is evident, that those actions are not only inhumane, but also they are serious violations of the International Humanitarian Law, that states, that in each military conflict a clear distinction is to be made between combatants [soldiers or fighters] and non-combatants [civilians].
From that point of view it is completely right, that those attacks are being condemned severely by the International Community.
Although it is important to realize, that the cause of  those suicide attacks is rooted in the  Israeli occupation since 1967, which resulted in oppression, humiliations and mostly unpunished war crimes, it is no justification whatsoever for any resistance group for also to commit war crimes.
According to International Law it is illegal, to respond one violation of human rights by committing a reciprocal violation, even with regard to an occupation
On the other hand, any military action against an occupation-army is internationally legitimated as a right of an occupied population to resist against the occupying power.

However, there is too little international press attention for the fact, that an important part of Hamas strategy is also the use of this legitimated resistance method.

It is however striking, that as Israel as well as the USA ,  qualify those military attacks against the occupation-army, as ''terrorist'', ignoring the internationally legitimated character.

Recently yet Mr Solana, Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union for foreign affairs, has confirmed the right on resistance against a foreign occupation.

C The Israeli liquidation-policy:
Also internationally reprehensible are the Israeli liquidations of the leaders and activists of the Palestinian resistance-movements, like Hamas.

Those liquidations started in the beginning of the seventies of the former century and were being practiced by successive Israeli governments
They took the form of  frontal shootings of cars, the exploding of mobile telephones  and nowadays mostly, the airstrikes, whether on civilian targets like refugee-camps, flat-apartments, houses, or marketplaces. 
As commonly known, those attacks are severe violations of International Law, which states, that every human being has a right on a fair and independent trial.

Moreover, because of those still daily-committed liquidations, in many cases also civilians, who just pass by, as well co-habitants of houses, apartments and refugee-camps are being killed.

In those cases war-crimes are being committed, since the presence of civilians at civilian goals [streets, market-places, cars, apartments and refugee-camps] is highly expectable
However, despite the high humanitarian risk for the civilian-population, recently the Israeli prime-minister Olmert has made clear, that those airstrikes are to continue, despite of the loss of Palestinian civilian lives
It is a striking example of Western selective indignation, that although the Hamas-led suicide attacks are leading to the freezing of the financial help to the Palestinian Authority, but with regard to those Israeli extrajudicial executions, as well the indiscriminate military attacks on Gaza, no sanction measures are being taken against Israel.
Regarding the fact that Israel being the occupying country bears the lion's share in the escalation of the present conflict, especially the EU, which claims to defend the Palestinian humanitarian interests, is held accountable for this hypocritical point of view.

D Social-charitable Hamas activities
A hitherto undervalued aspect regarding the activities of Hamas are the social-charitable activities of Hamas on behalf of especially the serious impoverished population in Gaza.
Ironically by doing this, Hamas is fulfilling the international-judicial obligation of the Israeli occupation-power to take care for the occupied Palestinian population.
According one of the most important articles of the 4th Geneva Convention, an occupying power is head-responsible for the safety, the wellbeing and the welfare of the occupied population, the so-called ''protected persons''
International reports about the humanitarian situation in Gaza have learnt, that the Israeli occupation-authorities have failed to fulfill this obligation regarding the occupied Palestinian population.
The impoverished situation of the Palestinian population is still being intensified by the Israeli military attacks in Gaza and the West-Bank, which have resulted mostly in serious human rights violations and war-crimes.
So especially in Gaza [but also in the West-Bank] mass-house demolitions took place, which is forbidden according article 53, 4th Geneva Convention.
Also especially in Gaza several times the border with Israel had been closed.
Due to this measure the Palestinians, who work in Israel, are thus loosing their daily necessities of life.
Recently Israel has, as a retaliatory measure for the abduction or imprisonment [the news sources are giving different messages regarding to that], not only closed the border with Gaza, but also bombed parts of the infrastructure [bridges and main roads], which caused considerable damage and has cut of the water anf electricity-supplies of the population.
A thus token retaliatory measure is as a collective punishment a serious breach of International Law [article 33, 4th Geneva Convention is forbidding any collective punishment.
When such Israeli measures were taken in the past, Hamas has supplied the most impoverished part of the population.

Mostly the financial donors of Hamas were donors, stemming from the Arab world.

However, in contrary with the Palestinian Authority, Hamas wasn't corrupt at all.
Of course, this led to a great popularity of Hamas and the striking outcome of the elections.
In this article I've tried to make clear, that not only the American-European freezing of the financial help to the Palestinian Authority is immoral, because it is at the cost of the impoverished Palestinian population, also it is a double standard to condemn the Hamas violence and to consider the Israeli violence, due to the Israeli occupation, as a minor issue.
No resistance-organisation whatsoever can be expected to lay down the arms, while the occupation and oppression is being continued with the most extreme measures.
However it is evident, that also a resistance-movement must be based on the obligations according to International Law.
However, without closing the eyes for the very reprehensible suicide-attacks against Israeli civilians, in which Hamas played an important part, the Hamas fundamental stand against the Israeli occupation and settlements policy has to be respected, as well its fundamental resistance against the Zionist State of Israel.
Therefore, I sincerely hope, that Hamas will not yield to the growing American-European political pressure to make the Israeli occupation and settlements policy points of negotiation.
However, when Hamas really wants to be respected by friend and foe, it has to refrain from the attacks on Israeli civilians or civilian-goals.
Every human being, whether Palestinian or Israeli, has the right on the same humane treatment and to my opinion, being occupied is no justification to violate those inalienable rights.

Astrid Essed
The Netherlands


Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

The 3th Geneva Convention, relative to the treatment of prisoners of war:

The 4th Geneva Convention, relative to the protections of civilian persons in time of war:





Israeli human rights violations:





Hamas human rights violations:




Israeli discriminatory measures against Palestinian-Arab children in the Israeli education-system:


Israeli discriminatory laws:



:: Article nr. 25151 sent on 29-jul-2006 03:16 ECT


Link: www.aljazeerah.info/Opinion%20editorials/2006%20Opinion%20Editorials/July/28%20o

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