Hamas leaders’ extremism, in 2011

Published: 2 September 2011
Briefing Number 295

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Summary:  This Briefing contains a selection of recent statements from senior figures in Hamas in Gaza.  Their words refute any suggestion that Hamas has become more pragmatic, or more moderate.  In Arabic, they are as extremist as ever.  And this extremism is at the very root of the continuing plight of the Palestinian people of Gaza. 

The statements, each made in July 2011, are by Usama Hamdan, responsible for Hamas international relations; Mahmoud Al-Zahar, former foreign minister of Hamas; and Khalil al-Hayeh, a member of the Hamas political bureau.

Key message: In English and in front of the international media, Hamas continue to try sounding moderate. But in Arabic, the pretence is lost.  However tactically moderate they might wish to appear, they are strategically extreme in their rejectionism, and in their support for terrorism as a tool to “resist” Israel.     

The context for the Hamas statements in this Briefing

During summer 2011, Hamas leaders made many extreme public statements. Why?

One reason, commentators suggested, was in order to hinder the efforts of the Palestinian Authority to obtain a declaration of statehood at the United Nations.  Hamas opposes such a declaration, arguing that it would involve implied recognition of Israel, and could mean the surrender of certain Palestinian rights.  The more hardline Hamas sounds, the harder it is for the Palestinian Authority – its ‘partner’ in the Palestinian ‘unity’ agreement - to pursue recognition of statehood.

Please note: the statements we quote do not mark a hardening of Hamas positions.   They are simply the public articulation of deeply-held and long-held beliefs.  See the other Beyond Images cited below for more evidence of the consistency of Hamas beliefs over a long period of time.
The latest quotes we provide here are taken from a report dated 4 August 2011 called ‘Senior Hamas figures reiterate extremist positions’ which was published by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center in Israel (www.terrorism-info.org).  All the statements are translated from Arabic.

Usama Hamdan, responsible for Hamas international relations:

“The conflict will never come to an end until Israel comes to an end.... We have clearly said that we will never recognise Israel, and today I say more than that: Israel completely doesn’t exist in our political or intellectual dictionary.....”

- Hamas Al-Aqsa TV, 24 July 2011

“Liberation of Palestine” will be achieved only through “resistance” (a euphemism for violence against civilians).  “Resistance” will continue “until the liberation of the lands of Palestine from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan river.....”

- El-Amal website, 25 July 2011

Mahmoud al-Zahar, ‘elder statesman’ figure in Hamas, and their former ‘foreign minister’:

“We do not recognise Israel, and it is very simple.  We do not recognise Israel as controlling even one centimeter [of the land of Palestine], because it is an artificial state....”

- Qudsnews website, 30 July 2011, quoting an interview given by al-Zahar to a German news agency

Khalil al-Hayeh, a member of the Hamas political bureau

“The Palestinian people are still bowed under the occupation, and there is nothing to be done but to end it by means of the resistance.....”

- Website of Hamas daily Felesteen, 31 July 2011

Some related Beyond Images resources

Briefing 264 – 23 July 2010
‘Hamas now accepts Israel...’: Really? Mahmoud al-Zahar exposes the doublespeak

Briefing 230 – 19 January 2009
“Hamas has come round to the idea of Israel within the 1967 borders....”

Briefing 229 – 17 January 2009
What do Hamas and Hizbollah want?  What they mean by ‘resistance’ to Israel

Briefing 186 – 12 November 2006
“We want all of Palestine”: Hamas goals remain unchanged

Briefing 169 – 27 March 2006
“Armed resistance”? Hamas bombings of Israeli civilians

Briefing 165 – 15 January 2006
The Hamas Charter: extracts

Briefing 74 – 10 December 2003
“The Jews could have a state in Europe”: The goals of Hamas, by its founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin