A version of this article appeared in the Daily Telegraph – 5 May 2017
To much fanfare, Hamas, the fanatic Islamist terror group that rules the Gaza Strip, released a new policy manifesto earlier this week.
Some reports over the last few days have suggested the terror group has “softened” or “slightly moderated” its stance on Israel, and will accept the West Bank and Gaza as the territorial basis for a future Palestinian state.
But if you look at the actual wording of the document, as well as what Hamas officials are saying, this is just not true.
Hamas leaders have been clear the new policy document neither replaces or amends Hamas’ homicidal and antisemitic founding charter nor accepts Israel’s existence.
As Australia’s ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma tweeted on Wednesday, the document “does not reject terrorism, does not accept Oslo, does not accept Israel in any borders. Hardly a recipe for peace.”
A thorough read of the manifesto makes it clear this is the same Hamas that blew up Israeli buses at random and murdered Israeli citizens in cafes during the Second Intifada and then launched more than 11,000 rockets at Israeli towns since Israel withdrew entirely from Gaza in 2005. They regret none of it, and fully plan to continue with terrorist activity.
Item 20 of the document may state that Hamas “considers the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of the 4th of June 1967 … to be a formula of national consensus”. But, just before this text in the very same item, Hamas makes it clear its goals remain unchanged regardless of any “consensus”: “Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea.”
Further, item 25 recommits the group to its murderous ways: “Resisting the occupation with all means and methods is a legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws and by international norms and laws. At the heart of these lies armed resistance.”
Much has also been made of language in the document that says Hamas is in conflict with “the Zionist project” or “occupation” as opposed “to Jews because of their religion”. But this is meaningless given Hamas’ openly antisemitic founding charter, which Hamas itself has said still stands. That document contains lines such as “Our fight with the Jews is very extensive and very grave” and “The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them” and blames the Jews for orchestrating the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and both World War I and World War II. Meanwhile, in Gaza, Hamas spokespeople spout the vilest of antisemitic libels daily.
Indeed, the new document appears merely to be a public relations exercise aimed at appeasing critics while Hamas – listed as a terrorist organisation in whole or part by Australia, the United States and the European Union, among others – continues its unsavoury activities unabated.
On one hand, it is an appeal to the wider Arab world, which has long been concerned about Hamas’ association with the notorious Muslim Brotherhood, which many of the region’s states, particularly Egypt, see as a threat. With Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ rival Fatah movement riddled with corruption and rapidly losing public support on the Palestinian street, the Hamas political leadership is attempting to distance itself from the Brotherhood so it can be seen as a legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
Secondly, and of more relevance in Australia, the terror group is hoping a softened image will help increase its appeal with well-meaning people in the Western World who want a better future for the Palestinians.
But anyone who is concerned for the Palestinians should understand that the Hamas terrorist organisation is not concerned about the welfare of those it purports to represent. The new statement doesn’t change its systematic human rights violations since it violently seized totalitarian control of Gaza in 2007, such as suppressing free speech, jailing dissidents, executing homosexuals and using Palestinians as human shields. The new statement doesn’t change the fact that since 2014, the terror group has been actively diverting humanitarian aid given to help Gazans toward rebuilding its arsenal and digging terror tunnels into Israel to prepare for more bloody conflict.
This document is not a new and moderate direction from an aspiring responsible actor; it is an exercise in deceit by a murderous terror group. Anyone who genuinely supports the cause of peace should not allow themselves to be fooled.
Gareth Narunsky is National Media Liaison at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC).