Hamas leaders in their own words

Published: 31 January 2006
Briefing Number 166

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Summary: Since the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections on 26 January 2006, world attention has focused on the beliefs and tactics of the movement. Many have suggested that Hamas will become more “pragmatic” now that it is in power.

This Briefing highlights recent statements by the four most senior figures in Hamas, Khaled Mashal, Mahmoud al-Zahar, Muhammed Deif, and Ismail Haniya, as well as Hamas politician Salah Al-Bardawil. Our sources are mainly Arab-language news agencies and websites.

Their words express complete rejection and hatred of Israel, affirmation of the Hamas Charter, and an extreme religious ideology. If Hamas is to become “pragmatic” these statements show what a very long journey they will have to take.

In the London-based Times newspaper, these Hamas leaders were briefly profiled on 27 January 2006. None of the words we quote in this Briefing were mentioned by the Times.

Khaled Mashal
The leader of Hamas, currently living in Damascus

“….This assembly holds special significance, since it takes place after Gaza was liberated against the will of the Zionist aggressors. Who knows when we will celebrate the liberation of Gaza, Jerusalem, Haifa, Jaffa and the rest of Palestine. Hamas, together with the Palestinian people, will implement its policy using a new language, without feeling any urge to meet with the enemy or negotiate with it.

Was Gaza liberated through negotiations? Hamas will continue to wield its weapons and to claim its right to resist. Resistance will [continue to] be a strategic option until the last piece of Palestinian land is liberated, and until the last refugee returns….”

- 31 December 2005, part of speech at a conference in Damascus, reported on INRA (www.inra.ir/ar/news/view).

Dr Mahmoud al-Zahar
Leader of Hamas in Gaza

“….We are part of Allah’s promise that Islam will enter Palestine and every home in the world, with a revelation of the power of Allah the Omnipotent, and a revelation of the inferiority of the infidels. Hamas is leading this plan in Gaza, the West Bank and the 1948 territories, and the Muslim brotherhood is leading it everywhere else. This is part of Allah’s predestination….”

- 11 October 2005, from Interview in Arabic with www.elaph.com

“….We do not recognise the Israeli enemy, nor his right to be our neighbour, nor to stay (on the land), nor his ownership of any inch of land…. We are interested in restoring our full rights to return all the people of Palestine to the land of Palestine. Our principles are clear: Palestine is a land of Waqf (Islamic trust) which cannot be given up….”

- 17 January 2006, interview with Palestinian TV, reported on Newsday

Beyond Images comment: In a lengthy interview with the Times newspaper on January 28 2006, Dr al-Zahar was not challenged on either of these statements, or on similar statements he has made in recent months.

Muhammed Deif
Leader of the Izz al-Din Al Qassam Brigade, the so-called “military wing” of Hamas

“… I thank Allah the exalted for His support in the Jihad of our people and for the liberation of the beloved Gaza Strip, and I ask him to liberate Jerusalem and the West Bank, Acre, Safed, Haifa, Jaffa, Nazareth, Ashkelon and all of Palestine…

… Residents of occupied Palestine of 1948, in my name and in the name of all Gaza strip residents, I ask you for your assistance to us and to our Jihad…. We shall not rest until our entire holy land is liberated….

… To the Zionists who plundered our land… you conquered our land, and behold you leave it in disgrace. Indeed, the dictionary of your distorted language includes the expression ‘go to Gaza’ which means ‘go to hell’ and today you are exiting from the hell, but we promise you that tomorrow all of Palestine will become hell for you, with Allah’s help….”

- 27 August 2005, extracts from a tape recording released by the information bureau of Hamas’ Izz-al Din Qassam Brigades, and posted on their website www.alqassam.ws

Beyond Images comment: Deif currently lives in Gaza, and remains in charge of the “military wing” of Hamas. The Izz-al Din Qassam Brigades has carried out over 50 suicide bombings against Israel, killing over 400 people.

Ismail Haniya
The head of the Hamas list of candidates in the Palestinian elections, and a frequent spokesman for Hamas

“….The constants and the strategy of Hamas do not change according to circumstances. Hamas will stay faithful to jihad, to resistance, to guns, to Palestine and to Jerusalem….”

- 20 January 2006, Gaza election rally, reported by Gulf Daily News, Bahrain

“… Hamas supports the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 – as an interim solution…”

Beyond images comment: This statement of Haniya embodies the essence of the Hamas approach: it has temporarily moderated its tactics, by embracing a Palestinian state in the West Bank, while retaining its extremist strategy.

Salah al-Bardawil
Hamas politician and election candidate

“… Hamas has never proposed to change or amend its charter. The platform [for the 2006 election] presents a realistic view that reflects Hamas goals for the next four years. Had we spoken of eliminating and eradicating Israel within that period, we would have been deceiving our people and repeating false slogans. But this does not stand in contradiction to the fact that we place emphasis on the elimination and non-recognition of Israel…”

- 14 January 2006, quoted on www.islamonline.org

Beyond Images comment: al-Bardawil’s comment highlights the two-faced nature of Hamas approach. The fact they did not mention the elimination of Israel in their election platform does not mean that they are changing their ideology. Its omission was simply a tactic to avoid an issue which might have harmed their short-term credibility on the “street”. Hamas adherence to the position in the Hamas Charter is undiminished.