Background: Radical Islamism in the Middle East Throughout the course of history, particularly over the last century, the Middle East has been identified as a growing source of hostility and violence due to its extensive involvement in religious conflict, ethnic rivalry, territorial dispute, and war. Poor governance, as well as the absence of an effective civil society and the lack of the rule of law, has led to the demise of several states within the region.
Such instability has fostered the growth of religious extremism and brutality while insurgent groups and established terrorist organizations have converted these territories into safe havens to facilitate their radical operations. As a result, almost every country in the Middle East has been affected by militant Islamist movements. While the Arab-Israeli peace accord was a hindrance to Islamist ideology, the Iranian Revolution and the great opposition of the Afghani mujahedeen against the invading Soviet army has revived the movement.
History and Formation of Hamas Hamas, the acronym for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya (the Islamic Resistance Movement), was created in response to the intifada, which signified the beginning of true political resurgence among the Islamic forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip combating Israeli invasion and national secular forces led by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).
Up until that time, the most influential Islamic movement in the region, the Muslim Brotherhood, avoided forceful resistance against the Israeli occupation, which impeded their ability to progress as a popular force; however, the unprecedented events that took place in Palestine and the internal pressures of the movement compelled the Brotherhood to take part in the resistance by forming an interrelated organization. On 8 December 1987, a motor accident in the Gaza Strip involving an Israeli truck and small vehicles transporting Palestinian workers, several of whom were killed, triggered the riots that spread and evolved into what became known as the intifada. ” The next day, leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood met to arrange a means in which the events could be used to incite religious and nationalist sentiments, and promise the spread of wide public demonstrations. In consequence, the Brotherhood’s response to the ntifada was the subject of tensions within the organization—“In the West Bank, especially, the younger strata of the Brotherhood were eager to participate in the uprising against the occupation, while the traditional leaders initially had a reserved, wait-and-see attitude. ” Despite such discrepancy, top tier members of the Muslim Brotherhood decided to create an ostensibly distinct organization to take responsibility for its involvement in the intifada: Hamas.
Hamas was derived as a product of speculation- if the intifada was unsuccessful, then the movement could disclaim Hamas and avoid Israeli retribution; on the other hand, if the intifada persisted, then the Brotherhood could reap the benefits by claiming ties to the faction. The Islamic Resistance Movement became an official branch of the Muslim Brotherhood on account of its charter that was issued in August 1988.
Due to its active involvement in the intifada and the increasing consciousness of its affiliation with the Brotherhood, Hamas has matured into a credible Islamist movement that has the ability to attract new followers and supporters who have not held prior membership with the Muslim Brotherhood. After awhile, Hamas surpassed its parent organization by causing a state of imbalance in the political forces that had influence over the region for decades; thus, Hamas posed an unrelenting challenge to the secular forces of the PLO and evolved into a force that could not be ignored.
Hamas emerged as the first significant challenge to the dominant nationalist trend in the occupied territories. Ideology, Aims and Strategies “Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors. The Islamic World is burning. It is incumbent upon each one of us to pour some water, little as it may be, with a view of extinguishing as much of the fire as he can, without awaiting action by the others. The ideology of Hamas, as well as its aims and strategies, are outlined in the charter it issued to the public on August 18, 1988, which explains the concept behind the movement, its rationale, and its position on a wide range of issues concerning the role of women, social welfare, the PLO, nationalist movements, other Islamic movements, and so on. The Islamic Resistance Movement adopted its belief system from one of the darkest times in history: the Holocaust.
Hamas possesses a radical Islamist ideology of blatant anti-Semitism in which it openly calls for “the killing of Jews, destroying the state of Israel and replacing Israel with a radical Islamist theocracy. ” In spite of this, Hamas derives its guidelines from the Islamic religion; the movement refers to the Qur’an for its thinking, understanding and views about existence, life and humanity, inspiration, and conduct. On account of the movement’s Islamic core, Hamas invites all Muslims who share similar beliefs and judgment to join in its ranks to fulfill their religious obligation to Allah.
Since Hamas is an interrelated branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, there is a lot of overlap in the viewpoints between the two movements concerning the same key issues, as stated in article two of the charter. While the primary goal of both factions is to transform society into an Islamic state, Hamas places a heavy emphasis on the Palestinian problem and the use of violence, particularly jihad. With regard to Palestine, Hamas proclaims that “the land of Palestine has been an Islamic Waqf throughout the generations and until the Day of Resurrection, no one can renounce it, part of it, or abandon it. The movement does not see the struggle for Palestine as a political clash between the two contending nations of Israelis and Palestinians; it does not see it as a fight against foreign occupiers for national self-determination. Instead, Hamas believes that the only way to solve the Palestinian problem is to destroy the state of Israel and establish an Islamic state in its place. In addition, article thirteen of the movement’s charter cites the three circles involved in the struggle against Zionism: the Palestinian, the Arab, and the Islamic, and their role in the liberation of Palestine.
With reference to peace negotiations and strategies, the charter asserts, “the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion. ” As indicated by the movement’s charter, jihad is the only way to solve the Palestine problem: “When our enemies usurp some Islamic lands, Jihad becomes a duty binding on all Muslims. In order to face the usurpation of Palestine by the Jews, we have no escape from raising the banner of Jihad.
This would require the propagation of Islamic consciousness among the masses on all local, Arab and Islamic levels. ” Therefore, “the peace initiatives, proposals and International Conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility. ” In accordance with their beliefs, Hamas opposed the 1991 peace conference that was held in Madrid, and continues to protest Palestinian involvement in the current Arab-Israeli negotiations in which they demand immediate withdrawal. Such opposition is fueled by the many hardships that Palestinians are forced to undergo in the occupied territories.
It is also tempered by the internal Palestinian balance of power seeing as it gives preferentiality to the PLO, as well as the lack of available alternatives. In contrast to their vocal disapproval, Hamas does not wish to be deemed as an obstructive force given that there may be a chance of finding a plausible solution. As for the relations between Hamas and the nationalist movement, the charter stresses the parallelism between the two groups given their common troubles and destiny, plus their shared Israeli enemy. The charter also cites the PLO as “ a father, a brother, a relative, or a friend” to the Islamic movement.
On the other hand, Hamas denounces the secular course of the PLO, as well as its structural leadership. Moreover, the movement condemns the notion of an established Palestinian state that would peacefully coexist with the state of Israel. Hamas has previously condemned the PLO for acknowledging Israeli existence and accepting the United Nations Security Resolutions 242 and 338. While Hamas doesn’t openly doubt the PLO’s status of being the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, the movement doesn’t make any specific claims of being an available alternative either.
In its place, Hamas frequently mentions the Islamic religion and its ability to act as an outlet for failed nationalists and secular ideologies. Taken as a whole, the call for an established Palestinian Islamic society and the movement’s rejection of the PLO’s political agenda indicate a rivalry, rather a power struggle for leadership between Hamas and the PLO. Organization and Leadership While Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood may be separate Islamic resistance movements, the two factions share a separate yet intertwined organizational structure.
In order to ensure the functionality and success of any organization, it is necessary to establish guidelines and an honored rank of command. Since the “enlisted troop levels” and the division of labor is determined within the leadership, they are considered to be “internal” affairs. The initial leadership of Hamas was organized by Shaykh Ahmad Yasin, and six other founding chiefs: Abd al-‘Aziz al-Rantisi (age 40), Ibrahim al-Yazuri (age 45), Shaykh Salih Shihada (age 40), ‘Isa al-Nashshar (age 35), Muhammad Sham’a (age 50) and ‘Abd al-Fattah Dukhan (age 50).
As the movement progressed, a number of control teams and divisions were formed to manage political matters, security, military operations, and the media. The general leadership of Hamas is delegated to a Consultative Council known as the majlis shura, whose members live within and beyond the borders of the occupied territories. With this in mind, Hamas has remained a relatively simple Islamic movement in comparison to the complex organizational structure of the PLO.
From the beginning, the organizational structure and leadership of Hamas has suffered a loss in its ranks due to deportations and imprisonment which has caused the movement to reorganize its central chain of command, branch levels, and committees. The Jordanian police have arrested a number of Hamas members on account of their involvement with the arms trade, more specifically, the smuggling and trafficking of arms to the West Bank for military operations against Israel. Following the arrest and fifteen year prison sentence of Shaykh Yasin, ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Rantisi became the new leader of Hamas in the Gaza Stip.
In the West Bank, Husayn Abu Kuwik, Fadil Salih, and Hasan Yusuf took command; however, Israeli officials deported these leaders in December 1992. Outside of the occupied territories, the well-known leaders are Musa Abu Marzuq, head of the movement’s external political division, Muhammad Nazzal, representative in Jordan, and ‘Imad al-Alami, representative in Tehran. The large-scale deportations in 1992 had a significant impact on the political framework of Hamas, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood. Not only id the deportations remove top-tier leaders, but they also extradited second and third level leaders and other Islamic activists, leaving the occupied territories deprived of major leaders. On the other hand, the overwhelming effect of the mass deportations was somewhat alleviated since the leadership inside the territories has always acquired its guidance and strategic decisions from its extensive leadership abroad, specifically from leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood Society in Jordan and Egypt.
It is unclear if the military wing of Hamas was affected since it appears that Israeli authorities were unsuccessful in arresting any of their leaders. On top of being an Islamic resistance movement, Hamas has become the leading political alternative to the radical Sunni Islamist group, Fatah, through its key subdivisions. On account to its new political function, the movement requires a number of members to uphold and maintain official positions. Many of these members are born from lower or middle class refugee families, with university level educations and white-collar occupations.
On average, these members range anywhere from forty to fifty years old with a strong knowledge of religion and culture. The organizational structure of Hamas is divided into three bases inside and beyond the borders of the occupied territories, in addition to different communities that allow the movement to operate. The outside political division of Hamas – al-Maktab al-Siyasiya- is governed by Khaled Meshal. The external political faction consists of eight to ten members who control the allocation of funds, daily affairs, and international relations of the organization.
Many of these members live in exile in Syria and are selected by the Consultative Council. The internal division of Hamas -the Shura Council- is comprised of fifty elected officials who live within and beyond the borders of the occupied territories. The members of the Shura Council are nominated by local representatives and are responsible for “outlining the overall strategy of the Hamas movement. ” Taken as a whole, the political faction of Hamas joins together to form committees to be in command of the internal affairs, charity organizations, educational institutions, and military.
Since Hamas exists within the West Bank and Gaza Strip, its leadership is divided to cover the two regions. The primary responsibility of each branch is to “control the muscles of the movement” while “controlling the financial resources and external contacts;” this structure is also used as a strategy to gain popular support. When analyzing the two divisions, the leadership of the Gaza Strip holds a stronger ground in the overall structure of the organization. The social support wings and military division of the movement are mutually dependent upon each other and therefore inseparable.
Before the time of Shaykh Ahmad Yasin’s assassination, the movement concealed its units within its body. Leader Shaykh Yasin rejected the notion of creating a separate military faction; “We cannot separate the wing from the body. If we do so, the body will not be able to fly. Hamas is one body. ” However, the strong relationship between the military faction and political structure of Hamas has become distant over time, and so, a military wing- the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades- was established to support the goals of the movement in 1992 by Yahya Ayyash.
Despite the shift in coordination between the two factions, the political wing continues to outline the framework for the military division while the latter decides the time, location, and methods of execution. Conclusion Hamas is a significant Islamic resistance movement in the Middle East that primarily operates in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Its goal is to create an Islamic Palestinian state as outlined by the will of Allah, using jihad as its path, the Prophet as its model, and the Qur’an as its charter.
The growing dependency on Israel, the shortage of sufficient housing, lack of proper education, and failing school facilities paved the way for the founding of Hamas. Shaykh Ahmad Yasin took advantage of these problems and established a movement with political and military capabilities to satisfy the needs of the Palestinian people and serve as a credible alternative to the nationalist secular forces of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The movement receives financial backing from a number of sources: Iran, private sponsors, Muslim charities in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states, Palestinian emigrants, and American donors. 5% of the movement’s $70 million budget comes from donors abroad; the residual amount is raised among Palestinians throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Iran is the primary financial supporter of Hamas; it credits the movement an estimated $20-30 million dollars per year. Saudi Arabia is the second largest financial supporter of Hamas, allotting an annual rate of $12-14 million. Many members of the Saudi Arabian Council of Ministers and the Shura Council have speculated that a sizeable number of Saudi funded Palestinian institutions may be run or managed by the political division of Hamas.
While Syria may not provide Hamas with financial support, it serves as a focal center for Hamas operations. The Syrian Assad regime offers support and protection to the Hamas leadership operations that are based in Damascus. Hamas also takes part in fundraising and propaganda activities, which in turn, serves as an outlet for recruitment. The “enlisted troops” of Hamas are scattered throughout society in an effort to recruit members, organize activities, and issue propaganda; they are commonly found working openly through mosques and social service institutions.
Because of the movement’s involvement in deadly attacks against the Israeli military as well as its civilians, the United States, the European Union, Israel, and a number of other countries have classified Hamas as a radical Islamist terrorist organization who frequently achieves its goals by means of violence and aggression. While the movement places a heavy emphasis on the role of jihad, Hamas is also involved in the Arab political sphere by taking part in local presidential elections.
Despite the negative contentions regarding the movement, Hamas has gained popularity among the Palestinian populace and now holds an influential position in Palestinian bureaucracy. Works Cited Abu-Amr, Ziad. “Hamas: A Historical and Political Background. ” Journal of Palestine Studies 22. 4 (1993): 5-19. JSTOR. University California Press, 1993. Web. 6 May 2012. http://www. jstor. org. proxyau. wrlc. org/stable/pdfplus/2538077. pdf? acceptTC=true& Council on Foreign Relations: Hamas. ” Council on Foreign Relations. 20 Oct. 2011. Web. 08 May 2012. http://www. cfr. rg/israel/hamas/p8968 ? arub, Khalid. Hamas: A Beginner’s Guide. Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto, 2006. Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Jordan: Hamas: its activities, its strength, its recruiting methods, and the government’s position regarding it, 28 October 1998, JOR30287. FE, available at: http://www. unhcr. org/refworld/docid/3df4be5018. html [accessed 8 May 2012] Levitt, Matthew. “Hamas: From Cradle to Grave. ” Middle East Quarterly. Vol. XI, Number 1, Winter 2004. “Palestine Center – The Charter of the Hamas. ” Palestine Center. Jerusalem Fund, 1988. Web. 07 May 2012. http://www. hejerusalemfund. org/www. thejerusalemfund. org/carryover/ documents/charter. html Santis, Yitzhak. “Hamas: Its Ideology and Record. ” Jewish Community Relations Council. July 2008. Web. 06 May 2012. http://www. jcrc. org/downloads/hotissues/7. 08_jcrc_Hamas. pdf Silver, Alexandra. “Hamas’ Leaders. ” Council on Foreign Relations. 10 Feb. 2006. Web. 06 May 2012. http://www. cfr. org/palestinian-authority/hamas-leaders/p981 ——————————————– [ 1 ]. Ziad Abu-Amr. “Hamas: A Historical and Political Background. ” Journal of Palestine Studies 22. 4 (1993): 5-19.
JSTOR. University California Press, 1993. p. 5. [ 2 ]. Ibid, p. 5. [ 3 ]. Ibid, p. 10. [ 4 ]. Ibid, p. 11. [ 5 ]. Council on Foreign Relations: Hamas. ” Council on Foreign Relations. [ 6 ]. “Palestine Center – The Charter of the Hamas. ” Palestine Center. Jerusalem Fund, 1988.. [ 7 ]. Yitzhak Santis. “Hamas: Its Ideology and Record. ” Jewish Community Relations Council. p. 1. [ 8 ]. Ibid. [ 9 ]. “Palestine Center – The Charter of the Hamas. ” Palestine Center. Jerusalem Fund, 1988. Article 1. [ 10 ]. Ibid, Article 4. [ 11 ]. Ziad Abu-Amr. “Hamas: A Historical and Political Background. Journal of Palestine Studies 22. 4 (1993): 5-19. JSTOR. University California Press, 1993. p. 12. [ 12 ]. “Palestine Center – The Charter of the Hamas. ” Palestine Center. Jerusalem Fund, 1988. Article 11. [ 13 ]. Ziad Abu-Amr. “Hamas: A Historical and Political Background. ” Journal of Palestine Studies 22. 4 (1993): 5-19. JSTOR. University California Press, 1993. p. 12. [ 14 ]. Ibid, p. 12. [ 15 ]. Ibid, p. 12. [ 16 ]. Ibid. [ 17 ]. Council on Foreign Relations: Hamas. ” Council on Foreign Relations. [ 18 ]. Ibid. [ 19 ]. Ziad Abu-Amr. “Hamas: A Historical and Political Background. Journal of Palestine Studies 22. 4 (1993): 5-19. JSTOR. University California Press, 1993. p. 14. [ 20 ]. Ibid. [ 21 ]. Alexandra Silver. “Hamas’ Leaders. ” Council on Foreign Relations. [ 22 ]. Ziad Abu-Amr. “Hamas: A Historical and Political Background. ” Journal of Palestine Studies 22. 4 (1993): 5-19. JSTOR. University California Press, 1993. p. 10. [ 23 ]. P. 13. [ 24 ]. Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Jordan: Hamas: its activities, its strength, its recruiting methods, and the government’s position regarding it, 28 October 1998, JOR30287.
FE. [ 25 ]. Ziad Abu-Amr. “Hamas: A Historical and Political Background. ” Journal of Palestine Studies 22. 4 (1993): 5-19. JSTOR. University California Press, 1993. p. 13. [ 26 ]. JSTOR, p. 14. [ 27 ]. Ibid. [ 28 ]. Ibid. [ 29 ]. Alexandra Silver. “Hamas’ Leaders. ” Council on Foreign Relations. [ 30 ]. Ibid. [ 31 ]. Matthew Levitt. “Hamas: From Cradle to Grave. ” Middle East Quarterly. Vol. XI, Number 1, Winter 2004. p. 41. [ 32 ]. Council on Foreign Relations: Hamas. ” Council on Foreign Relations. [ 33 ]. Khalid ? arub.
Hamas: A Beginner’s Guide. Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto, 2006. [ 34 ]. Matthew Levitt. “Hamas: From Cradle to Grave. ” Middle East Quarterly. Vol. XI, Number 1, Winter 2004. p. 42. [ 35 ]. Council on Foreign Relations: Hamas. ” Council on Foreign Relations. [ 36 ]. “Palestine Center – The Charter of the Hamas. ” Palestine Center. Jerusalem Fund, 1988. [ 37 ]. Matthew Levitt. “Hamas: From Cradle to Grave. ” Middle East Quarterly. Vol. XI, Number 1, Winter 2004. p. 42. [ 38 ]. “Hamas Fact Sheet. ” Hamas Fact Sheet. 30 Jan. 2006. Web. 08 May 2012. [ 39 ]. Ibid.