On May 1, Hamas unveiled what it terms "A Document of General Principles and Policies" from Qatar. This new policy document:
- does not replace the original charter;
- does not accept the existence of Israel in any borders;
- continues to embrace the goal of trying to destroy Israel; and
- does not repudiate violence, including against civilians.
Upon its release, however, many journalists seemed credulous of the group's attempt to make itself appear more moderate. Various commentators and reports erroneously referred to the platform as Hamas's new Charter, or claimed that Hamas now accepts a two-state solution. CAMERA, UK Media Watch, and BBC Watch have noted a great deal of the misleading headlines and reporting on the issue.
Here, we explain what the document actually says, what it means, and how the media is getting it wrong.
What is in Hamas's new policy document?
1. The document, which may be viewed in its entirety here, is clear about what constitutes Palestinian territory. It defines Palestine as follows:
Palestine, which extends from the River Jordan in the east to the Mediterranean in the west, and from Ras Al-Naqurah in the north to Umm Al-Rashrash in the south, is an integral territorial unit. It is the land and the home of the Palestinian people.
Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine. Its religious, historic and civilizational status is fundamental to the Arabs, Muslims and the world at large. Its Islamic and Christian holy places belong exclusively to the Palestinian people and to the Arab and Islamic Ummah. Not one stone of Jerusalem can be surrendered or relinquished.
The blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque belongs exclusively to our people and our Ummah, and the occupation has no right to it whatsoever. The occupation's plots, measures and attempts to judaize Al-Aqsa and divide it are null, void, and illegitimate.
2. The document is also explicit in its refusal to accept the legitimacy or existence of any Jewish state:
The establishment of Israel is entirely illegal and contravenes the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and goes against their will and the will of the Ummah
. There shall be no recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity
. Hamas believes that no part of the land of Palestine shall be compromised or conceded, irrespective of the causes, the circumstances and the pressures and no matter how long the occupation lasts. Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea.
Just in case that wasn't clear:
There is no alternative to a fully sovereign Palestinian State on the entire national Palestinian soil, with Jerusalem as its capital.
3. It also explicitly continues to endorse violence:
Resistance and jihad for the liberation of Palestine will remain a legitimate right, a duty and an honour for all the sons and daughters of our people and our Ummah.
Resisting the occupation with all means and methods is a legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws and by international norms and laws. At the heart of these lies armed resistance, which is regarded as the strategic choice for protecting the principles and the rights of the Palestinian people.
4. It is also clear about the demand for the people it calls refugees, most of whom are actually descendants of refugees, to be accepted into Israel, and that compensation is not a substitute for what it terms return:
The right of the Palestinian refugees and the displaced to return to their homes from which they were banished or were banned from returning to whether in the lands occupied in 1948 or in 1967 (that is the whole of Palestine), is a natural right, both individual and collective
. They are to receive compensation upon their return and this does not negate or diminish their right to return.
5. To be sure, there are some departures from the original Hamas Charter. The new document says that:
Hamas affirms that its conflict is with the Zionist project not with the Jews because of their religion.
[W]ithout compromising its rejection of the Zionist entity and without relinquishing any Palestinian rights, Hamas considers the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of 4th of June 1967, with the return of the refugees and the displaced to their homes from which they were expelled, to be a formula of national consensus.
What does the document mean?
1. Hamas still does not accept Israel in any borders.
When the platform is viewed in its entirety, it's clear that the changes that attempt to show moderation as compared with the original charter are simply cosmetic. Hamas still explicitly calls for the total destruction of the Jewish state, as well as for violence to achieve this goal.
The document does make the claim that Hamas will accept a state along the 1948 ceasefire lines, referred to as the lines of 4th of June 1967. Yet, it also repeatedly calls to liberate the land from the river to the sea that is, to eliminate Israel.
The key to reconciling these ostensibly contradictory statements is the assertion that a state along the 1948 ceasefire lines is a national consensus position. In calling this position representative of a national consensus, the document appears to be referring to the PLO's 1974 Stages Plan. As the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs has noted in the past, this plan aims to destroy Israel in stages. CAMERA has previously cited the work of historian Efraim Karsh, who wrote, "this [phased] strategy, dating from June 1974 .... stipulates that the Palestinians should seize whatever territory Israel is prepared or compelled to cede to them and use it as a springboard for further territorial gains until achieving the 'complete liberation of Palestine.'"
More recently, in light of the new Hamas platform, the JCPA explained that Palestinian Authority President Abbas and Hamas now appear to be in agreement on this issue. Indeed, as discussed on BBC Watch, even the BBC acknowledged that Hamas's new platform accepts only a transitional state along the 1948 ceasefire lines.
As CAMERA's Tamar Sternthal recently observed:
Any media coverage of the new Hamas document which notes that Hamas accepts the 1967 lines but ignores the fact that the organization continues to call for the destruction of Israel, or the "total liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea," as well as the "inalienable" right for Palestinians "to return to their homes from which they were banished or were banned from returning to whether in the lands occupied in 1948 or in 1967 (that is the whole of Palestine)," is doing its readers a huge disservice.
2. The document does not replace the old Hamas Charter.
Sternthal has explained that, the new document did not in any way revoke or obviate the 1988 anti-Semitic charter which calls for the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews. As the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center notes, this distinction is important because a Charter is more binding upon an organization than a policy document.
3. The document is geared towards Western audiences.
Writing at CAMERA's affiliate UK Media Watch, Richard Millett has analyzed the new claim in the platform, that Hamas's conflict is with the Zionist project not with the Jews because of their religion. Hamas, Millett wrote, wants to rebrand itself as a group which doesn't want to annihilate Jews worldwide [but instead] want[s] to kill those Jews only living in Israel. Millett also explains that the likely tactic is that the new document is simply for western consumption, and to an extent the western media has fallen for Hamas' sweet-talking.
Similarly, Kate Havard and Grant Rumley of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies have called the platform an "effort to ease international isolation and appeal the rival Fatah party's base of support."
The platform's acknowledgement of Christian holy places is also noteworthy. The document makes this acknowledgment while it not only ignores the significance of Jewish holy places, but even condemns the attempts to Judaize the Temple Mount (referred to by its Arabic name Al-Alqsa). Under Islamic law, Christians and Jews are both treated the same way. Thus, like frequent Palestinian claims that Jesus was a Palestinian, this reference appears to be calculated to gain sympathy from Christian audiences.
Of course, the claim that anyone is attempting to Judaize the Temple Mount is a fiction. In the 1920's, even the Islamic Waqf that administers the area wrote in A Brief Guide to the Al-Haram Al-Sharif (that is, another Islamic name for the Temple Mount) that the Mount's identity with the site of Solomon's Temple is beyond dispute.