The Hamas is an Islamist movement which the creation of an independent nation-state Palestine aims, and for that with a military sub-organization against Israel fights.
Hamas was founded in 1987 when the Palestinians fought the Israeli settlement and occupation policy in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in a large wave of protests. This wave of protests is known today as the first intifada. The Arabic word “Intifada” means “to shake off” – and this goal of “shaking off Israel” is what Hamas tries to achieve both militarily and as a political party in partly recognized ways.
The Middle East conflict regularly causes demonstrations in Germany. For example, on important memorial days for the Palestinians. You may then see Palestinian flags and symbols on the streets. The background is the conflict between the Palestinians and the State of Israel. A large proportion of the Palestinians perceive Israel as an unfair occupying power that exercises control over an area that they believe historically belongs to them – and from which many of them have had to flee.
Well over ten million Palestinians live in the world, be it in the Palestinian territories, as citizens in Israel itself, or in other countries of the world, some as officially recognized refugees. All these people have different interests and therefore support different organizations and associations when it comes to the historical region of Palestine, which they consider to be their home. A particularly large and powerful of these associations, which also has a certain military clout and uses it, is Hamas.
Basic features of Hamas
In the everyday life of many people in the Palestinian autonomous territories, Hamas has acted primarily as a social and charitable movement since the late 1980s, which financed schools, orphanages and soup kitchens, for example.
As a movement, Hamas has represented and still represents values that are particularly religious and that many experts have even classified as fundamentalist. This is already clear in their name. “Hamas” is an acronym composed of the first letters of the full name of the movement “Harakat al-muqawama al-islamija”. Translated into German, this means: “Islamic Resistance Movement”. At the same time, the Arabic word “Hamas” can be translated as “zeal”, “enthusiasm” or “fighting spirit”.
The Islamist orientation of Hamas means a great contrast to the other important force in the Palestinian autonomous territories, the even older and secularly oriented Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), to which the Palestinian political party Fatah belongs. That is why Hamas and Fatah, although they are fundamentally on one side in their basic conflict with Israel, are also fierce competitors. On the one hand, Hamas has a very uncompromising attitude towards Israel, including when it comes to recognizing the State of Israel. This inner-Palestinian conflict is also about the distribution of money, which flows, for example, in the form of international aid payments to the Palestinians, and about the filling of official posts and offices.
Hamas also has its own military sub-organization, the Qassam Brigades, which attacks with rockets. The nature of the attacks has been harshly criticized internationally, especially when civilians die or are injured on the Israeli side. As an association, Hamas is currently (as of 2021) on the terrorist list of the European Union with explicit mention of its brigades and is sanctioned accordingly.
Hamas therefore has many functions: it acts as an aid organization, it is a political party, and it also has its own militia. But how did it come about?
Foundation and early days
After the beginning of the first Intifada, Hamas was founded as a separate organization on December 14, 1987 by the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which originated in Egypt. So they could use their already existing influence in Palestine, which z. Organize better religious education and support for political issues of the Palestinians. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin (* 1938 or 1936, † 2004) was the spiritual leader until his targeted killing by the Israeli security forces in March 2004.
In August 1988 Hamas passed a ” charter ” as a founding program. It stated that Palestine was an Islamic homeland that could never be turned over to non-Muslims, and that it was a religious duty for Muslims to wage a holy war (“jihad”) to wrest control of Palestine from Israel. This position not only earned Hamas a lot of criticism. It also brought them into conflict with the Palestine Liberation Organization, which in 1988 tacitly recognized Israel’s right to exist by recognizing a UN resolution. From 1993 onwards, the PLO also signed a number of agreements with Israel, which later went down in history as the Oslo Peace Process.
The Oslo Peace Process Hide table
The Oslo Accords gave many people hope for a possible peace in the Middle East. The Palestinian politician and later Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jasir Arafat negotiated the relevant agreements on behalf of the PLO and with the mediating participation of the USA with representatives of Israel. In Washington at that time there was a historic handshake between Yasser Arafat and the then Israeli Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin.
Hamas, on the other hand, was strictly opposed to rapprochement. She viewed any negotiation of regulations that deal with the partition of Palestine as blasphemy. Hamas thus developed into the largest opposition movement against the PLO and its way of negotiating with the Israelis about the independence of the Palestinians. This intra-Palestinian conflict continues to this day in the competitive situation between Hamas and Fatah.
After the negotiations on the Oslo peace process failed in 2000, the violent conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, which went down in history as the second intifada, broke out for several years. Hamas also took part militarily with its Qassam brigades. Only after more than four years could this conflict be officially ended by means of a ceasefire.
Election success and subsequent time
After the end of the second intifada, Hamas stepped up as a political party that takes part in existing processes. While she had boycotted the first elections in the autonomous area on January 20th, 1996, she stood in the second parliamentary elections for the Autonomous Council on January 25th, 2006 under the motto “For reform and change”. Hamas won an absolute majority of the seats. This success was facilitated by a regional electoral system and the dissatisfaction of the population with corruption and nepotism within the PLO. The leading Hamas politician Ismail Hanija (* 1962 or 1963) was tasked with forming a government.
Haniya’s government was confronted with a boycott by Israel and Western countries, and the repeatedly flaring up internal Palestinian conflicts between Hamas and Fatah even culminated in a civil war in 2007. Nevertheless, Hamas and Fatah agreed on a reconciliation agreement in May 2011 through Egyptian mediation.
Nonetheless, even years later, the unity government of both parties has not yet been achieved, so that the de facto division of the Palestinian government authority, which was cemented in the 2007 conflict, continues. In short, this means: Hamas rules in the Gaza Strip and Fatah in the West Bank.
With regard to a possible peace process with Israel, Hamas took a gradually more moderate stance than had been the case before in the years following the second intifada. A corresponding policy and position paper that was adapted to the 1988 “Charter” was finally published in 2017.
Nonetheless, in the years since the first two intifadas there have been serious conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians, particularly Hamas. For example, in 2008, 2012, 2014 and most recently in 2021 there were particularly bloody military clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.