Chapter 1 (Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Middle East in the Service of Jihad)
Hamas, an Islamist group in a secular, conflict-fatigued society, retains support through various means. It utilizes its reputation for honesty, grassroots activism, and social services to gain public favor, contrasting with Fatah’s corruption. Hamas blends political, charitable, and terrorist activities, often overlapping in function and personnel. Leaders insist on Hamas’ unity, combining political involvement with ongoing terror tactics. Its social and charitable wings, while providing essential services, also support terrorism by funding, glorifying violence, and aiding operatives. Hamas’ electoral success in 2006 partly resulted from its dual role as a social service provider and opposition to the Palestinian Authority, amidst economic and health crises in Palestinian territories. Despite international efforts to distinguish between its social and militant activities, evidence shows a close integration, with political and social structures directly supporting terrorist operations. This complex network contributes to Hamas’ operational and electoral success, challenging efforts to isolate its militant aspects while addressing humanitarian needs in Palestinian areas.
Hamas, founded in 1987, is a Palestinian Islamist group emerging from the Muslim Brotherhood. It aims to replace Israel with an Islamist state in historic Palestine. Hamas uses three strategies: social welfare to gain grassroots support, political activity competing with the PLO and PA, and guerrilla/terrorist attacks against Israelis. It opposes secularization in Arab society, striving for international recognition as the Palestinian representative. Hamas emphasizes violent jihad in its ideology, also participating in political processes while maintaining its militant activities. It consists of social, political, and military wings, overseen by a Shura council, coordinating various activities including media and military operations.
Hamas, founded by Hassan Yusef and others, has a Shura council with representatives from Gaza, the West Bank, abroad, and jailed members. Initially operating underground, its social and political wings were openly active in Gaza under Israeli license. Its military wing, covert and divided into regional networks, communicated through couriers. The external leadership, initially in the U.S., later in Jordan and Syria, plays a dominant role. Hamas has factions, including a Gazan group led by Marzook and a West Bank group in Kuwait, led by Mishal. Hamas’s early structure had distinct branches for social welfare, military, security, and media. Its military wing, evolving over time, started targeting Israelis in 1987 and formed the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades in 1991, shifting towards suicide bombings and attacks on civilians.
Since its founding in 1987, Hamas has escalated its attacks, starting with small-scale violence and evolving to suicide bombings and rocket attacks. Their tactics aim to terrorize the Israeli population indiscriminately, impacting civilians globally. In the second Intifada (2000–2004), Hamas intensified its attacks, conducting 425 terrorist acts, killing 377, and injuring over 2,000. In 2004 alone, Hamas executed 555 attacks. They also formed a popular army in Gaza, separate from the Qassam Brigades, enhancing their military capabilities. Hamas collaborates with other Palestinian militant groups, but remains a dominant force in attacks against Israel.
In the wake of Israel’s 1967 occupation of West Bank and Gaza, Islamist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad gained prominence. Secular groups, influenced by socialist ideologies, declined or adopted Islamist identities. Post-Oslo Accords (1994–2000), these groups executed sporadic, low-intensity attacks, while Hamas and Islamic Jihad increased suicide bombings. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a Fatah offshoot, emerged post-2000, conducting roadside shootings and bombings. Post-2000, Palestinian groups, particularly Hamas and Islamic Jihad, coordinated more closely, influenced by Iran’s support. Documents reveal this coordination, including shared weapons and technical expertise. While Hamas collaborates in attacks, it uniquely focuses on social, political activism through its dawa organizations, essential for recruitment and funding, yet distinct from its militant activities. Islamic dawa encompasses a range of outreach activities, including charity and social services. Salafi Islam, emphasizing a return to early Islamic practices, views dawa as protecting the Islamic community from non-Islamic influences.
Salafi Islam promotes a pure Islamic practice, emphasizing individual piety and self-purification. This ideology, common in modern militant Islamist organizations like Hamas, focuses on transforming society through religious education and moral reform. The Muslim Brotherhood, influential to Hamas, uses social services to radicalize and recruit youth. Hamas’s dawa is politically active, supporting candidates and leveraging social welfare for electoral gain. Sayyid Qutb’s ideology, blending dawa and militant jihad, influences militant behavior more than political training. Western democracies are concerned about dawa’s anti-democratic, anti-Western undertones, fearing it could evolve into violent jihad. The Muslim World League, engaged in global dawa, faces counterterrorism investigations for ties to Hamas and al-Qaeda. Dawa activities, while inherently non-violent, are exploited by groups like Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood to support terrorist operations, blending charity with militant extremism. Hamas, rooted in the Muslim Brotherhood since 1967, acknowledges this heritage in its charter. Top of Form
Islamic Jihad, supported by Iran, focused on spectacular terrorist attacks against Israel, aiming to inspire a popular revolt. Starting in the mid-1980s, its military wing, the Jerusalem Brigades, carried out attacks, including a notable one in Jerusalem in 1986. After deportation to Lebanon, Shiqaqi, Islamic Jihad’s leader, established headquarters in Damascus, aligning closely with Iran and training with Hezbollah. Islamic Jihad and Hamas, initially rivals due to ideological differences and approaches to social activity versus militancy, began cooperating post-Oslo Accords, coordinating terrorist activities with Iran and Hezbollah’s facilitation. Competition arose over social welfare activities, but Islamic Jihad focused less on this than Hamas. Following Shiqaqi’s assassination in 1995, Islamic Jihad’s activities briefly declined but resurged in 2000, heavily funded by Iran but lacking Hamas’s social network and political activism. The United States saw the development of Hamas-linked organizations responsible for various support activities for the group, highlighting the transformation of the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood into Hamas. In the late 1980s, Hamas operatives in the U.S. hid their association with Hamas, using code names like “Samah” or “The Movement.” While most Palestinian Islamists identify with the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas diverges by advocating immediate violent jihad, unlike the Brotherhood’s gradualist approach. Hamas, founded in 1987, is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood but with a focus on violent anti-Israel activities. It has always been linked to the Brotherhood, even plotting terrorist attacks before its official formation. Hamas rejects peace with Israel, aiming to destroy it under jihadist principles and Islamize Palestinian society. Its leadership, both internal and external, orchestrates military, social, and political tactics towards this goal. Post-election, Hamas leaders maintained their rhetoric, intent on attacks against Israel and increasing Islamic influence in Palestinian society. Dawa (social welfare) activities are central to Hamas, supporting its paramilitary goals and recruiting support.