New Hamas charter “a significant step” – Patrick Martin, former G&M correspondent

Hamas charter release.jpg

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?


Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue. If you support our educational mission, why not join? Or make a donation? Or learn more about what we do?  Contact us at:



  1. Manu thanks Peter for your analysis of the new Hamas Charter. I believe it is time for the international community, including the Canadian Government, to seriously explore talking with Hamas. It is impossible to reach a peaceful solution to this sensitive issue without talking with a major faction with wide support among Palestinians such as Hamas. I do not know what will happen if the international community continues to ignore the evolving stand of Hamas and hope everyone starts understanding this reality!

  2. Dear Peter Larson.

    Just wanted to call your attention to Philippe Couillard’s current outrageous trip to Israel.

    Radio-Canada’s coverage is unbelievably apolitical and non-contextual.

    I have written the Ombudsman. But such ethical blunders should not be allowed to happen.

    Dyala Hamzah

    De : Canada Talks Israel/Palestine Répondre à : Canada Talks Israel/Palestine Date : dimanche 21 mai 2017 11:18 À : Objet : [New post] New Hamas charter “a significant step” – Patrick Martin, former G&M correspondent

    Peter Larson posted: ” 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 s”

  3. The significance of this move depends on whether or not there is a constructive response from Fatah and pro-Israel groups. The ball is now in their court.

  4. I believe this is a constructive and positive development that should be welcome.

    The new language is a real change, and what you say is important. Let us leave a side for a minute the political dimension, the new program has an educational value for young people who support Hamas. The message is clear now to supporters: think politically, and not religiously about the conflict. This is a huge educational progress and can not be a “smokescreen” – it is out and Hamas supporters are reading it everywhere.

    Yes, this is significant change and let us hope that a similar progress happens inside the religious parties in Israel that control the government. I argue that this is a much more needed development, and this is why.

    Given Israel’s economic and military power, its ability to change conditions on ground is
    1000 000 times greater than Hamas’ ability. This is why Israel’s moral responsibility in this conflict is 1000 000 times greater than Hamas’. Even a slight, but real change in Israel would mean better life for everyone right a way.

    Israel is a heavily armed power, including nuclear bombs, that is becoming more and more an extremist religious state. This is very dangerous. Israel needs a real change, a new vision and leadership. Otherwise, the consequences will be disastrous on everyone.

    Would Israel remove its “smokescreen” and talk about the real issue: violence and equality?

    One would think that the state is strong enough to feel confident and do that. However, Israeli religious parties that control the state now have a different agenda: ethnic cleansing and “re-building the temple”! Do you see why we need change in Israel sooner than later?

    1. I am pleased that Hamas is beginning to see a need for a new mission statement, but it should come to the realization that radical jihad groups have utterly destroyed the willingness on the part of the civilized world to work with militant Islamic groups. It is time for Hamas to re-think its hostility to Zionism…Hamas will have to acknowledge that in the late 1940s, it was the Jewish Committee that was the protector of the right of minorities of all kinds against the salafist exclusionists – such as the dominant forces on the Arab Higher Committee, that boycotted all discussions of sovereign rights for minorities.

      Canada should be leading the cause within the UN to get recognition for the fact that Zionism should become an accessible medium for everyone in the Middle East to align with – to affirm the legitimacy of a pluralist society. Canada needs to develop some focusing of its mind on this important fact of life.

      1. Hey Alan, you obviously think Zionism is a good thing. Would you mind giving me one or two lines on what you define as Zionism and why you support it. thanks.

      2. Hi Peter – Zionism, a hundred years ago, was a cause that enabled Jews to be able to restore their ancestral link with where they originated, particularly when a lot of organized hate and rejection became operationalized in Europe. If you look at the multi-ethnic and democratic objectives of early Zionists, it is clear that it is a manifestation of Judeo-Christian conceptions of what man owes to G-d and to all fellow human beings. It is a perfect antidote to the blind, mindless barbarism that radical jihadism offers, and in my view, Canada needs to help advance these arguments.

  5. Israel is not taking it seriously because Khaled Mashaal released that declaration one day before he was ousted by Hamas.
    Khaled Mashaal is not the leader of Hamas, he is just a private citizen with $3.1 billion in the bank.
    Ismail Haniia is the leader of Hamas

    1. Ahik, Hamas as a movement adopted and released the document according to their website:

      Mishal announced it on May 1 joined by all leaders of the movement including Ismael Haniyeh (via video conference) who was elected as a new leader days after. Until you prove that Mishal is ousted and that he has $3.1 billion in the bank, this is called a lie.

      The document is a serious change and the Israeli religious parties that control the government is required to change its vision and give up its ethnic cleansing policies. They are the real source of danger in the region.

      1. lets be clear about it, the new document doesn’t even recognize Israel.
        I’m still waiting for a Hamas supporter to answer a very simple question:
        I have six nieces and nephews in Israel, they were born in the 90’s their paternal grand parents immigrated from Iraq in 50’s their maternal grand-grandparents immigrated from Europe in the 20’s do they have the right to stay in Israel? If they don’t where should they go Baghdad? Warsaw? Munich? The moon?

    2. Ahik,

      One respondent has provided some counter information from the official Hamas website, and made a serious accusation against you – that your comments is deliberately misleading. (Also called a lie). I think you should answer the accusation.

      As you know, I disagree with Zionism, but am open to seriously engaging with you and other serious Canadian Zionists to explore our differences.

      I do not appreciate, however, comments which are deliberately misleading or which aim to cloud the issue rather than clarifying things. Your comment leaves me wondering if you are really serious about finding a just solution to the Israel/Palestine issue.

      1. I stand behind what I said:

        Mashaal is no longer the head of the Hamas, he was replaced by Ismail Haniya, this is an undisputed fact.

        Wheather he was ousted, democratically replaced or lost in an internal power struggle is a question of perspective.

        As for my second claim, that he have 3.1B$, look here:

        Or just google “Khaled Mashaal net worth” and use only the reputable news outlets you find

  6. No doubt the new document is significant and shows that Hamas wants to be taken seriously.
    Hamas a few times in past years offered Israel through intermediaries to engage in negotiations, no matter how long it takes, which will lead to a peaceful coexistent.
    Israel and the West did nothing about it, since Israel did not want any peace with Gaza.
    Israel likes to keep Gaza just the way it is. Hamas is an invaluable gift to Israeli government and all the extremists, for several reasons:

    It eliminates 1.9 million Palestinians voice to be added to the voices of the West Bank.

    Gaza is very important for Israel to test it’s new weapons, including US weapons, on live and real situations, every few years. Israeli arm sales is the largest export of Israel, and it’s advertised as “battle tested”.

    Several times the assault on Gaza happened about a couple of month before Israeli elections.
    The government in power uses it to tell the population that this is not a time to change to an untested new one.

    By Israel’s continual atrocities on Gaza which results, from time to time, of a few crude and utmost ineffective rockets into Israel, gives Israel the smoke screen they need in order to label them and all Palestinians as terrorists.
    This of course diverts attention from the ethnic cleansing in West Bank with all the brutality that it entails and “justifies” their lies of “we have the right to defend our citizens.

  7. @Peter

    FWIW I don’t think it is a smokescreen. Moreover I think the division from the Muslim Brotherhood is more significant then a change in opinion on whether Jews are genetically defective or just morally defective in having chosen Zionism. The break with the Muslim Brotherhood aims to make Hamas a national liberation organization and not part of the transnational Islamic restoration: i.e. a break with the idea that outside Sharia lies Jahiliyya — godless ignorance.

    Here is how I would look at it:
    a) Hamas is desperate for funds
    b) The major source of funding open to it is Hamas that doesn’t come through Fatah and the Israelis is Qatar and Iran.
    c) Qatar is part of the Egyptian, Saudi Arabian, Israeli anti-Iranian axis.
    d) Qatar along with Turkey is essentially backing ISIS.
    e) Iran is backing Assad.

    === The new charter is about staying neutral with respect to Syria and not alienating either side. The old charter was too close to ISIS’s theology and would have dragged Hamas directly into siding against Iran.

    I’d see Hamas as tilting more towards the Iranian position than anything remotely like a peaceful outcome. In other words they are trying to stay neutral and keep both Qatar and Iran. That being said regardless of reasons it is change for the better. It takes a major step towards peace. But remember Israel is in the middle east not Europe. The factions don’t have remotely European political interests.

  8. The Israeli paper Haaretz, which I consider much more reliable than many other sources in the Middle East, reports on the Hamas leadership change as follows:

    ‘Meshal stepped down at the end of his term limit just as Hamas softened its stance toward Israel in a new policy document last week. Addressing the change, Meshal said “we are all certain that the new leadership will lead the organization wisely for the benefit of the Palestinian people. I am sure the new leadership will lead a policy of cooperation and will work to release the prisoners and lift the siege [on Gaza]. ” Israel did not respond to the news.’

    As for the report in the Algemeiner, it is a deeply Zionist publication that is always looking for ways to discredit any critic of Israel. That certainly does not mean that the report is wrong, but I do not consider it to be credible evidence.

    As for the question of who could live in the “Liberated Palestine” that Hamas dreams of, I think that is a matter for negotiations. Of course, that would require Israel to negotiate with Hamas but they consistently refuse to do so. It is worth noting that when South Africa dropped its apartheid, many white people remained and have retained their positions. No rational country wants to expel its most educated people.

    I see the Hamas document as a step in the right direction and deeply regret that Israel has chosen not to respond. It is worth noting that Haaretz has a Jewish reporter who has lived in Gaza and Jewish visitors (such as myself) are made to feel very welcome in Ramallah and Abu Dis. The main obstacle to progress is Israel’s refusal to negotiate with Hamas and the Israeli government’s never ending efforts to play “divide and conquer” with the Palestinian factions.

  9. @ Ahik Well, initially you said that “Mashal was ousted by Hamas” as a fact, now you say it is a “question of perspective”. Initially you said he owns $3.6 billion as a fact, now you are giving a Zionist website as your source of info or “google it”. Is “google it” a credible reference? You need to admit Ahik that you simply tired to mislead readers, and the problem is you are still trying to distract people by talking about Haniyeh leadership. This was not even a point of discussion. He was elected as a new leader of Hamas days after the release of this document. The issue that you tried to say the document is not supported by Hamas. Clearly, it is published on the movement website and supported by their leadership. It is now Israel’s turn to make a positive move, and it is not. We need to have an honest discussion if we care about the suffering of people in I/P.

    1. Let’s go to the basics, Does Hamas recognize Israel’s right to exist?

      Based on the new ‘moderate’ charter, the answer is a resounding no.

      Please answer my question above about the plans of Hamas for my nieces and nephews.

      1. With a misleadingly simple question, “Does Hamas recognize Israel’s right to exist?”, Israeli Zionists hide what is really a set of very complex issues. A somewhat more useful question would be, “Are there changes to Israeli policy that would make Israel more acceptable to Hamas?” One of many sub questions, “If Israel repealed all laws that distinguish between Jews and non-Jews”, would that make Israel more acceptable to Hamas?” or if Israel replaced “Jewish State” with “State for all who follow Abraham”, would that make it acceptable to Hamas?

        It seems clear that Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to keep doing the many discriminatory things that it now does. It seems clear that Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to seize the property of people who left their homes in fear and deny them the right of return to their homes.

        In my view, nobody should recognize the right of an unchanged Israel to exist.

        Only negotiations would reveal whether there is a set of changes that would make Israel a land whose right to exist is recognized by most Palestinians and Israeli Jews. Without negotiations, we (and they) will never know the answer. By asking a question that oversimplifies the issues, a question with a yes/no answer and no room for change, we bar progress. The question that all who want peace and Justice in the area should be, “Will Israel recognize the right of Hamas to enter into negotiations with it as the representative of its supporters?”

      2. @Ahik

        Diplomacy is based on reciprocity. It is silly to whine about Hamas not recognizing Israel, or it’s right to exist, when Israel does not recognize the Palestinian state in return. It not only does that but refuses to recognize that such a thing as Palestinian people exist and it’s current government makes no secret it will never allow a Palestinian state.

        The ball is in Israel’s court to sit down and negotiate through diplomacy. We both know that won’t happen under the current leadership and in my opinion it’s every bit as clear there is no desire for peace on the Israeli side. As the side with all the power it prefers to dominate, expand and deny millions of people their basic human rights.

  10. @David Parnas, it’s very kind of you to be Hamas’ cheer leader, the very same organization who’s charter cited the “Elders of Zion” and called for *your* death as a Jew up until three weeks ago.
    The same organization who’s military wing is recognized as a Terror organization by the entire EU, US, Japan, Canada, Australia, Egypt, Jordan, New Zealand and other nations.

    My neighbour, a 13 years old girl was murdered with two of her classmates and other citizens by a Hamas suicide bomber, he is considered a hero by Hamas and his family gets monthly payments from Hamas.

    Jews who support Hamas are scorned in the Middle East, they are perceived as a decadent manifestation of a diseased mindset (Nassarallah called it ‘cobwebs’)
    You are not a bridge to peace, you are a useful fool

    1. @ Ahik,

      We are discussing Hamas and Israel – not each other but I want to assure you that I am not a “cheerleader” for Hamas. They have done much that I would not cheer.

      I must remind you that we are discussing Hamas’ new document on “General Principles and Policies”, which I believe is their effort to put the old “Charter” behind them. Israeli Zionists may prefer to ignore the new document and talk about the old one (which had historical references that even Hamas apparently recognizes as inappropriate) because that is easier to criticize but it is the current position of Hamas that is important for the future.

      Sadly, Jews and Arabs kill each other in Palestine on a nearly daily basis. Both sides have people who revere killers as martyrs or hero. Yigal Amir, the Jew who assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Rabin in 1995 is still considered a hero by some radical Israelis. Elor Azaria, an Israeli soldier who shot a wounded and helpless Palestinian in cold blood, is defended and praised by many Israelis including some in the government. This horrible situation is the reason that Israel, Hamas, and Fatah need to negotiate. Unless you want these terrible things to go on forever, or you believe in a Jewish version of the “Final Solution”, you must talk about Hamas’s current document and support negotiations between all parties.

      If supporting justice for Palestinians, and the peace that I believe would follow it, means that I will be “scorned in the Middle East” and considered a fool, so be it. In the meantime I hope that you and those who share your views will give the new document a serious reading and contribute substance to our discussion. What is it that you find in that document that you think is wrong? What would you change? How would you respond to the new position?

  11. Ahik,
    I understand that you don’t like Hamas or agree with its program.

    But I don’t think it helps discussion (or your credibility) for you to deliberately mislead people by claiming that the new document doesn’t represent Hamas when it clearly does.

    If you want to try to defend Zionism, that’s your right. Bring it on. I think it can only be defended by someone who thinks that Jews are somehow more important or better than other people. I think its very hard for someone who believes in human rights and equality for all to accept Zionism, but I’m prepared to listen.

    I share your concern about your nieces and neighbours. Every Jewish life is important. But no more important than that of the Palestinians who also live in the same area.

    In the past, you have sometimes made what I thought were useful and intelligent comments on this webpage (even if I didn’t necessarily agree with them). I encourage you to continue to do so without resorting to namecallling and deliberate misrepresentation.

  12. @ Ahik, you still insist not to admit your deliberate attempt to mislead readers, and you are still applying 101 Israeli propaganda techniques: distract and change the subject when you lose an argument. That’s fine. Is it ethical to ask what plans Hamas has for Israeli children in the future, and ignore what Israel is doing **right now** to Palestinian children in its **jails**?

    Take a look what UNICEF says:

    Click to access UNICEF_oPt_Children_in_Israeli_Military_Detention_Observations_and_Recommendations_-_6_March_2013.pdf

    Is it ethical to ignore hundreds of thousands of Palestinian children in refugee camps? Is it ethical to ignore Israeli brutal siege of children in Gaza?

    It is not about Israel or Hamas anymore, it is about respect of basic human dignity.

      1. Ahik, I care about Israeli and Palestinian children equally. It is you who is discriminating against Palestinian children and supprting brutal siege of Gaza. In addition, you are not honest, as it is proven now you lied twice in 5 lines. I join Peter in his hope that you understand that misleading is wrong and damages your credibility.

      2. Its use of the death penalty is one of the reasons why I cannot be a cheerleader for Hamas. As you imply that you are critical of the death penalty in Gaza, I assume that you are critical of the warm welcome that Israel gives to the leaders of countries that still have the death penalty. If you are consistent in your position, you must oppose negotiations with Israel’s ally – the US. If Israel can negotiate with the US, it can negotiate with Hamas.

      3. @ahik

        Are you as outraged by Palestinians being allowed to bleed out by the idf denying emergency medical treatment?

  13. Israel is negotiating with Hamas every day, the Shalit deal is one example, the countless dealings of Israel with Gaza regarding electricity, water, and the openings of border crosssing are also a de-facto deals.

      1. @Ahik
        You know that you are describing day-to-day routine maintenance interactions in which Israel can pretend it is just interacting with the PA. What is needed is a real discussion about what changes would allow both sides to live side-by-side or intermingled in productive peace.

  14. @Peter, a question for you:
    This is not a zero sum game, the fact that Hamas is hostile to Israel doesn’t say that it’s good for the Palestinians.

    Hamas is an asset to Netanyahu, Hamas is the reason *and* the excuse for the siege

    At the same time, the people who suffer from the heavy yoke of Hamas and the brutality of its theocracy are the Palestinians.

    I believe that you are not motivated by hatred for Israel, I believe that you are truly concerned with the well being of the Palestinians.
    Why, then, are you supporting Hamas?

    1. Hey Ahik,
      I don’t “support” Hamas. (But I do note that in the last fair elections (in 2006) Hamas won the election, so the Palestinians support(ed) them.)

      I think that Palestinian resistance to dispossession and oppression takes various political forms. Fatah, PFPLP, Balad, Hamas, etc. are all legitimate expressions of Palestinian frustration and political will.

      Some of that sentiment also comes out in cruder forms – like acts of terrorism.

      The answer to all this, in my view, is an end to the dispossession and oppression. If/when that happens, Palestinians will gravitate around forms of resistance that are less extreme.

  15. In 1993, based on the Oslo accord the deal for Israel was : let the Palestinians have their own state in the 1967 borders, and get peace with all the Arab world

    The deal you just proposed is : let all the Palestinians go back to the 1948 borders (effectively eliminating the state of Israel) and in return the Palestinians may gravitate towards less extreme forms of resistance (!?!)

    Do you see the problem?
    Remember in a deal both sides need to feel they gain something.

    An unconditional suicide is not an offer the Israelis are likely to chose

    1. @ Ahik,, Again, I see simple words that hide complexity. The word “state” does not mean the same thing to all parties to this exchange. For most of the world, “state” would imply an entity that controls its borders, has the ability to defend itself, has complete freedom to interact with other countries all over the world etc. Israel seems to think of a state whose borders it controls, one that cannot defend itself, and one that like today’s entities is completely under Israeli control.

      It is not true that allowing a “right of return” for Palestinians would mean the elimination of Israel. The switch to majority government in South Africa did not mean the elimination of that country.

      No rational people would want to destroy what has been built on the land to which they would return. They want to benefit from it, not eliminate it.

    2. @ahik

      In a deal both sides don’t need to feel that they gain something but that the deal is equitable.

      What has Israel ever offered that is equitable. It’s preconditions to talks demand subservience.

      1. @ Ahik

        First do not write, “that you will be willing to accept “. Nobody discussing on this list represents Hamas. None of us could “accept” a deal. You have to ask that question of Hamas, Fatah, and the other Palestinian political parties, not us.

        Second, everyone in a negotiation has a right to reject an offer that they consider a bad deal. If someone had taken over your house and then “generously” offered to let you live in parts of the basement in return for not objecting to the theft, what would you do? I suspect that you would reject the offer. After an offer that is that bad has been rejected, negotiators have to come back with a fair offer. There are fair offers that allow all people to share Israel. That would not mean eliminating Israel; it would mean eliminating racially discriminating laws. Tgat would not harm Israel; it would make it better. The US today is far better today than in my youth when it had laws that allowed discrimination on the basis of race. South Africa is on the way to a becoming better country because it is eliminating racial discrimination.

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