March 19, 2009 Special Dispatch No. 2266

Palestinian Academic: Hamas Must Amend Its Charter

March 19, 2009
Palestinians | Special Dispatch No. 2266

The London daily Al-Hayat published an article by Palestinian academic and journalist Dr. Khaled Al-Hroub, director of the CambridgeUniversity Arab Media Project, in which he calls on Hamas to amend its charter. Al-Hroub argues that the charter, which is replete with hostility towards the Jews, harms Hamas' image and the Palestinian cause as a whole.

Following are excerpts from the article: [1]

The Hamas Charter Is Not Sacred - It Can Be Amended

"The Hamas charter must be amended, since it harms the Palestinians and Hamas [itself]. We must not accept it or continue to keep silent about it. The Hamas charter is not a sacred text, and the [Hamas] leaders, members and supporters must not be so touchy about [the idea of] amending it.

"When Hamas was a small organization, it could do things that today it must no longer do. From a Palestinian as well as from an international perspective, it is unacceptable for a Palestinian political movement [i.e. Hamas] to strive to become a legitimate [Palestinian] representative - and to compete for this [with the PLO] - while continuing to espouse an impossible and indefensible document like [this] charter...

"The Hamas can and must… either amend it to the core, or remove the sections that declare war on the Jews [just because] they follow a [different] faith. We are not deluding ourselves that changing the charter will immediately and profoundly transform the world's attitude towards Hamas and the Palestinians. But it will show that our conscience obliges us to make this change, since we believe that the Palestinian struggle must be anchored in deeply humanistic principles..."

The Charter Incorporates Concepts of European Antisemitism

"Why must we amend the Hamas charter, how should we amend it, and how will it benefit the Hamas and the Palestinians to do so?

"The charter must be amended because it does not [accurately] reflect the essence of the Palestinian struggle against the Zionist entity, but conveys a message that Hamas [actually] abandoned a long time ago. The charter focuses on the Jews as followers of a different faith, and expresses hostility towards them as such, and not as aggressors. [Moreover,] the charter endorses all the European antisemitic claims, importing them and spreading [the notion of] the 'global Jewish conspiracy.'

"It says, [for example,] that the Jews have 'accumulated huge financial resources which they have used to realize their dream. By means of their money they have taken control of the world media and started revolutions around the world in order to serve their interests and to reap profits. They were behind the French Revolution, and the Communist Revolution, and most other revolutions of which we have heard.'

"It is truly appalling that such a text should remain in a charter of a Palestinian organization that calls to end the Zionist occupation..."

The Charter Cites TheProtocols of the Elders of Zion - A Forged and Stupid Document

"The [true] message of Hamas is far removed from [what is conveyed by] the charter and has nothing to do with it. All the Hamas leaders inside the Palestinian territories, from [late Hamas leaders] Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and 'Abd Al-'Aziz Al-Rantisi to Mahmoud Al-Zahar, as well as the Hamas leaders outside Palestine, such as [Hamas political bureau head] Khaled Mash'al, [his deputy] Moussa Abu Marzouq, and many others, have repeatedly stated that their war is against the Zionists and not against Judaism as a religion. [In fact,] they take pride in the coexistence among Jews, Christians and Muslims that prevailed in Palestine and throughout the Arab world for many generations. In their discourse, they do not refer to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This stupid document was forged by European antisemites in order to justify their crimes against the Jews of Europe, and then disseminated throughout the Arab world. Hamas got itself into trouble by presenting it [in its charter] as support [for its position].

"These passages in the charter constrain Hamas' ability to speak to the world. The enormous media apparatus of the Zionist and Israeli lobby has translated the charter into every conceivable language - even into Chinese - in order to expose the 'antisemitism' of Hamas and of the Palestinians and to prove that their goal is to exterminate the Jews..."

The Charter Does Not Reflect Hamas' Positions

"Hamas leaders who are in contact with the outside world know that their movement is paying a heavy price for adhering to this charter... They know that it was published hastily in August 1988, and that there was no real discussion about its content. It does not reflect Hamas' convictions in those days, let alone today... [On the other hand,] if the charter does in fact reflect the essence of Hamas' [beliefs], its leaders must declare this openly, so that [any] decision of whether to support or oppose Hamas - and whether to negotiate with it or boycott it - can be taken [in an informed manner] based on [the decider's] attitude towards the charter.

"However, in its policy towards its charter, Hamas seems to be deliberately neglecting [the issue] or sticking its head in the sand, in hope that the charter will be forgotten over time. But in fact, the exact opposite is happening. The stronger Hamas gets, the more [people] focus on the charter and use it to argue that Hamas is not fit to deal with political [issues]…"

Racist Expressions Must Be Eliminated

"[Those who] oppose amending the charter naturally make excuses. [For example, they voice] a concern that Hamas would be accused of changing its ideology, of making concessions, or of emulating the PLO. In politics, such [arguments] are meaningless. Indeed, change in itself is not a bad thing. [On the contrary,] it is a necessary [response] to changing circumstances, and the important thing is the nature of the change. What needs to be done urgently is to eliminate from the charter all racist expressions that offend the religious beliefs of the Jews or smack of European antisemitism...

"Another potential argument is that amending the charter must only be done as part of a larger deal, and should be presented as a concession [on the part of Hamas] and not as a voluntary step taken for no reward. This argument distorts the pure [nature] of the Palestinian rights and does not help [their cause]. [It suggests that] they remove messages that smack of racism and religious discrimination not on principle, but only in response to external pressure and as a pragmatic concession that does not reflect deep conviction, as a temporary compromise."

The Right Time to Amend the Charter is Now

"Amending the charter can serve Hamas as an aggressive tactic, through which it can put an end to countless arguments that have been used by the world in the recent years in order to besiege the movement along with Palestine and the Palestinian people. This may be the best moment to initiate a change in the charter - since Israeli society has collectively slid to the right, while the U.S. administration is interested in openness towards the problems of the region and wants to speak with all the sides. [Furthermore,] Europe is realizing more and more that it must change its policy towards the Palestinians - a policy which [once] aligned itself too readily and shamelessly with the slanted policy of [former U.S. president] Bush.

"One of the major arguments of the Israeli right and of its supporters around the world is that the goal of both Hamas and the Palestinians is to carry out a second extermination of the Jews, this time in Palestine, just as the racist Nazis once exterminated them in Europe. In Europe, nothing could be more [damaging] than bringing up the Nazi [crimes] against the Jews of this continent.

"Hamas' charter [as it is today] thus supplies [the world] with all the tools [necessary to fight the movement]. It is a gift [to its enemies], which can always be quoted and brought as evidence [against Hamas].

"[As a result,] the debate focuses on the wording of the charter, instead of the reality of the occupation that is [constantly] deepening and taking root."


[1] Al-Hayat (London), February 22, 2009.

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