Exiled Hamas Political Bureau Chief Khaled Mashaal, left, speaks during the unveiling of Hamas’ new charter in Doha, on May 1, 2017. Canadian media downplayed the announcement and the new charter. But does it represent a new direction for Hamas? Is it significant? Read more…
The Canadian government, along with Israel, the USA and several other western countries have labelled Hamas a ‘terrorist’ organization. It is reviled for many things, including its refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish State, its defense of its right to used armed struggle to regain its rights, and its positioning as an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.
But one of the most frequent (and most effective) arguments against Hamas was the crude anti-semitic wording in its original charter. That charter, written 30 years ago (in 1988), was full of harsh rhetoric calling for ‘killing Jews hiding behind trees’, and even referenced the universally discredited antisemitic text called the Protocol of the Elders of Zion.
For the last several months there have been rumours that Hamas was in the process of developing a new charter – carrying out consultations among its members and even with representatives of other countries. (Not a simple task as its members are widely geographically separated and under intensive Israeli surveillance.)
On Monday, May 1st Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal released a new charter which addresses many of the criticisms aimed at the old document.
Among other things, the new charter:
- Eliminates much of the crude anti-semitic language of the earlier document. It now specifies that its fight is against Zionism rather than against Jews, for example.
- Declares itself to be a Palestinian national movement, (i.e. no longer a ‘branch’ of the Pan Arab Muslim Brotherhood.)
- Opens the door to accepting a 2 state solution based on pre-67 borders.
Not surprisingly, however, Israeli analysts have downplayed the new charter, claiming that it is not significant. Canadian media has generally accepted the Israeli analysis. The National Post, CTV and CBC all published the same Associated Press story, entitled Hamas’ new political program goes softer on Israel, but does not cede on armed resistance.
However, Canada Talks Israel Palestine asked former Globe and Mail columnist Patrick Martin for his assessment of the new charter. Martin, who has visited Gaza over 50 times as a G&M columnist is one of Canada’s leading experts on both Gaza and Hamas. In 2011, he authored an innovative series of video interviews with leading Hamas members for the Globe and Mail.
In 2014, I spoke to Martin when he had just returned to Canada from his assignment to the Middle East about his views on Hamas.
Last week, I spoke to Mr. Martin again, asking him about his thoughts on reading the new Hamas Charter. Here is his assessment:
This 2017 Charter is vastly different from Hamas’s 1988 Covenant, and while it does not formally annul that previous document, it clearly is intended to supersede it.
In defining the movement, the new charter removes the reference to Hamas being “one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood” and, overall, plays down the Islamic nature of the organization, emphasizing its liberation goals over religion.
It goes further: Whereas the 1988 Covenant emphasized a war against Jews – often using vile anti-Semitic statements — the 2017 edition omits such language and makes clear that Hamas’s enemy is not the Jews, but the “Zionist Project.”
Gone is Hamas’s reference to the obliteration of Israel as well as its call to “kill the Jews.”
Don’t look to the new charter as advocating a two-state solution. Rather, it defines Palestine as being all the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea – ie all of Israel as well as the West Bank and Gaza Strip — and says that, by right, Hamas seeks to liberate all of it from Zionist occupation.
But the new charter also views ‘the creation of the Palestinian independent state … on the borders of the 4th of June, 1967,’ as an acceptable ‘consensual formula,’ (without surrendering any Palestinian rights or recognizing the Zionist state).
This document may not be the capitulation the current Israeli administration dreams of, but it is a significant step away from war and in the direction of coexistence.
Patrick Martin, Former G&M correspondent
Palestinian Canadians have had mixed reactions. While some have found the document encouraging, others remain skeptical.
CTIP would be interested in hearing from readers. Is the new Hamas Charter significant? Or is it just a “smokescreen” which attempts to soften its image to a western public?
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