‘Hamas now accepts Israel….’.
Really? Mahmoud al Zahar exposes the doublespeak

Published: 23 July 2010
Briefing Number 264

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Summary:   This Briefing contains extracts from an interview which senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar gave with Arab language, Lebanese TV channel Future News, on 15 June 2010. 

In the interview Al-Zahar describes his vision of long-term conflict with the Israeli “enemy”. And he says: “our ultimate plan is Palestine in its entirety”.   

Al Zahar’s words once again expose the myth – which is gaining ground in the West - that Hamas has come round to accepting Israel within the 1967 lines.   

Far from it.  The overriding goal and ideological raison d’etre of Hamas is not peacefully to build Palestinian society, but to violently eliminate Israeli society.     

Hamas leader Khaled Masha’al has stated that acceptance of the 1967 lines is a “trick within the resistance”.  And Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has stated that the 1967 lines are an “interim solution”.  We provide the sources below – which needless to say are from Arabic language media.

Hamas is engaging in doublespeak – sounding moderate to Western diplomats and journalists, while expressing hard-line views in Arabic.  The trouble is, most Western commentators appear to be falling for it. 
This new Briefing demonstrates that at its core, Hamas remains fanatical, uncompromising and rejectionist. It is committed to long-term confrontation with the Israeli “enemy”. 

Hamas wants Palestine in its entirety….

“Our plan for this stage is to liberate any inch of Palestinian land, and to establish a state on it.  Our ultimate plan is Palestine in its entirety….”

- Mahmoud al-Zahar, Hamas, 15 June 2010 

Does Hamas accept Israel? The Economist says the answer is yes…….

It is claimed more and more often that Hamas has come round to accepting Israel within the 1967 lines.  For example, the Economist newspaper (which is considered by many to be balanced towards Israel, or indeed favourable) reported as follows on 16 July 2010 in the course of a story about Gaza:

“Mr Masha’al [the Damascus-based leader of Hamas] has reiterated many times in the past few years that he accepts two states either side of the boundary drawn before the Israel-Arab war of 1967”. 

And The Economist then quotes Masha’al himself saying: “We’ve given positive signals that we are ready to be realistic and to deal pragmatically with the current situation….”” 

The Economist does not cast doubt on this statement.

Reports similar to this report have become extremely commonplace.  Following this argument, it is wrong of the West and of Israel to continue to freeze Hamas out of international diplomacy. Hamas is now pragmatic, and the West must engage with it.

Misreading Hamas goals and ideology….

But this misreads Hamas goals and ideology.  Hamas is ideologically committed to a world without Israel.  Their spokesmen make statements in Western media to try to sound benign and reasonable, but they save their extreme rejectionism for Arab language media.

It’s a classic situation of ‘doublespeak’. 

The latest illustration of this has just taken place with senior Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Zahar.  Al-Zahar is a co-founder of Hamas, and is now number three in the organisation behind Khaled Masha’al (see above) and Ismail Haniyeh (the Hamas ‘Prime Minister’ in Gaza). 

Al-Zahar served for years as the ‘foreign minister’ of Hamas, and was more recently the Hamas leader in charge of dealings over the possible release of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit.  Al-Zahar is frequently interviewed, politely and deferentially, by Western journalists.
Here are extracts from an Arabic-language interview which al-Zahar gave on Lebanese TV station Future News, on 15 June 2010.  The interview extracts were published by Middle East media monitoring group MEMRI (www.memri.org) in their Special Despatch 3080, on 6 July 2010.   

Mahmoud al-Zahar from Hamas on ‘Future News’, 15 June 2010

“We have liberated Gaza, but have we recognised Israel? Have we given up our lands occupied in 1948?  We demand the liberation of the West Bank, and the establishment of a state in the West Bank and Gaza, with Jerusalem as its capital – but without recognising [Israel].  This is the key – without recognising the Israeli enemy on a single inch of land….

This is our plan for this stage – to liberate the West Bank and Gaza, without recognising Israel’s right to a single inch of land, and without giving up the right of return for a single Palestinian refugee. 

Our plan for this stage is to liberate any inch of Palestinian land, and to establish a state on it.  Our ultimate plan is Palestine in its entirety.  I say this loud and clear so that nobody will accuse me of employing political tactics.  We will not recognise the Israeli enemy….

… If we could liberate the Negev now we would continue our military activity [the continued “military activities” Al-Zahar refers to are rocket and missile attacks on Sderot, Ashkelon, and other Israeli targets in the Negev – Beyond Images], but our capabilities dictate that after we got rid of the Israeli presence in Gaza, we must finish off the remnants of that occupation, and move on to the West Bank….”

Accepting the 1967 borders is a “trick” within the resistance – Khaled Mashal

To the Economist, Khaled Mashal (quoted above) sounded reasonable and in favour of acceptance of Israel.  But Masha’al too has revealed the same line of thinking as al-Zahar. Again it was in Arabic.  At a convention hosted by the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram in April 2005, Mashal stated:

“In the eyes of Hamas, tahdieh (ie calm, ceasefires etc) is a trick within the resistance plans….. I cannot be satisfied with the 1967 borders alone….”

- reported by MEMRI (www.memri.org) – report number 894      

This is the top Hamas leader, whom the Economist claims has accepted Israel and a two-state solution…..

Masha’al is playing ‘doublespeak’.

The 1967 borders are an “interim solution” - the views of Hamas ‘Prime Minister’ in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh

Al-Zahar’s 2010 interview with Future News echoes the views of Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh, which were expressed – again in an Arab language daily – in the run-up to the elections of January 2006 which saw Hamas enter the Palestinian legislative assembly in Gaza:

“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…..”

- reported by Gulf Daily News, Bahrain, 20 January 2006 

So the 1967 lines are an ‘interim solution’.  Commentators who claim that Hamas has accepted Israel are simply falling for their doublespeak.

Mahmoud al-Zahar – consistency with his own views

Finally, Al Zahar himself consistently rejects Israel in violent and uncompromising terms – in Arabic.  In October 2006 he said as follows:

“Israel is a vile entity that has been planted on our soil, and has no historical, religious or cultural legitimacy.  We cannot normalise our relations with this entity…. The Zionists have come, they will leave.  We say no to recognising Israel, regardless of the price we may have to pay for this refusal….”

  1. quoted in Al-Ayyam, Palestinian Authority newspaper, 21 October 2006

And here is another statement by Al-Zahar:

“We do not and will not recognise a state called Israel.  Israel has no right to any inch of Palestinian land…. This is a holy land. It is not the property of the Palestinians or the Arabs.  This land is the property of all Muslims in all parts of the world….”

from interview with London-based Asharq al-awsat, as reported in the Jerusalem Post, 12 November 2006


Mahmoud al-Zahar, Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Masha’al have all expressed their complete rejection of Israel.  They have admitted that acceptance of the 1967 lines is a “deception” (Masha’al) or an “interim solution” (Haniyeh) or that they want Palestine “in its entirety” (Al-Zahar).

But these statements are in Arabic.  And meanwhile, in the Western media and diplomatic circles, the credibility of Hamas rises.

This is a classic case of doublespeak.      

Some related Beyond Images Briefings

Israeli and Hamas leaders describe their visions: moral equivalents ….or moral opposites?  (Briefing 265 published on 22 July 2010)

“Hamas has come round to the idea of Israel…” (Briefing 230, 19 January 2009) 

Israel attacks, Hamas attacks: moral equivalence….? A ‘cycle of violence’….?
(Briefing 212, 9 March 2008)

“We want all of Palestine….” (Briefing 186, 12 November 2006)

‘The Hamas Charter: extracts’ (Briefing 165, 15 January 2006)

‘Hamas: our aim is to eliminate Israel….’ (Briefing 154, 6 September 2005)
See generally: website homepage /All Beyond Images Briefings / Hamas