A senior Hamas official, Osama Hamdan, told Al-Jazeera recently that the organization was going to revise its charter and “addresses the antisemitic language.”
The new charter would remove references to “religion and race.” Hamas would make clear that it was only “against the Zionists, against the occupation of our lands.”
The Hamas admission that its 1988 charter is anti-semitic leads to the question: why did so many commentators, including Jewish journalists and Israeli academics, claim for so long that Hamas was moderate and ignore the antisemitism? The same voices who condemn President Donald Trump for racism and accuse his advisers of antisemitism eschew any mention of Hamas antisemitism.
A Jewish Voice for Peace “fact sheet” from 2015 about Gaza barely mentions Hamas and when it does it portrays it as a victim of Israel “breaking” truces with it and complains “most disturbingly” that Israel assassinated Hamas leader Ahmad Jabari. For years the public has been subjected to a misinformation campaign about Hamas. Those who call for a more liberal Israeli and Western society have often sought to whitewash Hamas.
The truth about Hamas antisemitism is readily available.
Israeli professor Dina Porat wrote in 2014 that throughout the Hamas charter’s 36 articles there are descriptions that “contain clearly antisemitic motifs that are expressed without mincing words. Zionism constitutes a Nazi- and Tatar-like invasion of Palestine, the charter states that, and Jewish Nazism is an evil enemy (article 20) that conducts itself like Nazism... the historical description is informed by and directly based on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
Professor Meir Litvak wrote in 2005 in the Palestine-Israel Journal (PIJ) that “the harsh expressions made by Hamas should not be dismissed as mere rhetoric, as they serve to inculcate a state of mind among the movement’s activists and followers as well as socialize a younger generation of Palestinians.”
In short, Hamas provides education designed to create extreme antisemitism, welfare that comes with the Protocols attached.
Yet professor Daniel Bar-Tal wrote in 2009 in PIJ that Israeli suspicions of Hamas are “derived from the continuous dehumanization of the Hamas organization and its supporters as one homogeneous terrorist entity.” He claimed that “most Israeli Jews do not know that Hamas was originally founded by the Israeli authorities to provide an alternative to the Palestine Liberation Organization...
Israeli Jews do not know that Hamas is a religious-fundamentalist movement that also provides welfare, health and educational services to the Palestinian people.” No mention of antisemitism.
And where did he come up with this outlandish claim that Israel “founded” Hamas? Hamas knows that its charter is online for all to read at websites like that of the Anti-Defamation League. Since the early 2000s they have engaged in a slick and well-oiled propaganda effort to change their image. Hamas could have changed the charter decades ago, but sought to keep the antisemitism alive for consumption among its fans, while telling a different story to the media. In a letter to The Guardian in 2008 Gaza health minister for Hamas Bassam Naeem sought to burnish Hamas peace credentials and assure readers it condemns the Holocaust. But Alan Johnson replied that Hamas has never disavowed statements in 1987 that claimed “the Jews – brothers of the apes, assassins of the prophets, bloodsuckers, warmongers – are murdering you... only Islam can break the Jews and destroy their dream.”
Jewish Voice for Peace, did you read this? Very peaceful, right? Johnson notes that Hamas has accused Jews of being behind the French and Communist revolutions, and “Jews stood behind World War II” and “inspired the establishment of the UN in order to rule the world by their intermediary.” Article 17 of the charter also claims that “Zionist organizations under various names and shapes, such as Freemasons, Rotary clubs... nothing more than cells of subversion.” According to Hamas Jews are therefore behind Communism, Nazism, the French revolution, Freemasonry, and are enemies of Islam. And yet, year after year, journalists trot to Gaza to collaborate with Hamas, humanize it, present it as victim, and the UN hires its members and listens to it, and commentators tell us “talk to Hamas,” and “Hamas is moderate.”
In 2012 The Forward published a long interview with Hamas’ senior leader Mousa Abu Marzook. Kira Goldenberg of The Columbia Journalist Review noted that it was a “departure from the paper’s normal coverage” and that “could be viewed as an affront by the paper’s Jewish (and generally pro-Israel) readership.” You’d think perhaps giving a platform to raving antisemitism might be an affront to all liberals and anti-racists? “We talked about the propriety of it,” editor Jane Eisner was quoted as saying, “how do we ensure that this interview was really going to be substantive.” In an article called “The message from Hamas,” the newspaper noted “the Forward is not just a journalistic organization, it is also a Jewish institution.” And yet it didn’t mention antisemitism once in this introductory “message.”
They claimed “clearly Hamas is recognizing that it needs to reach out to American Jews and through them, the American public.” Hamas was “softening and maturing” and seeking a “more productive role in the new Middle East.”
In the unprecedented interview with Marzook by Larry Cohler-Esses the word “antisemitic” is only used twice in thousands of words. “Abu Marzook’s comments the next day in defense of the Hamas Charter all the more surprising.
The charter, a lengthy multi-part founding document composed in 1988 contains several sections that have been widely condemned as antisemitic.” Claiming that the passages are merely “widely condemned as,” is the way a journalist refuses to wrestle with the passages himself. It’s like noting that Auschwitz was “widely condemned as having had gas chambers,” instead of writing that “Auschwitz had gas chambers.” Hamas isn’t “widely condemned” as antisemitic, it is antisemitic. So why can’t journalists and commentators say it? Abu Marzook’s explanation for the neo-Nazi charter? “We have many, many policies that are not going with the charter.”
That’s like 19th century US president Andrew Jackson saying “we have many policies that don’t include slavery.”
Yes, but actually, you have slavery? Hamas wants the best of both worlds; to be a fascist, antisemitic radical right-wing organization and have people running to whitewash it on the Left. And it gets it. It doesn’t merely get whitewashing from major media over the years, it even has Jewish newspapers running to beg it for interviews. This is the extreme irony of being a Hamas leader. On one hand they say “Jews are apes and control the world,” and a Jewish journalist is emailing Hamas saying “please do an interview with me.” Such an interview isn’t because Hamas is “softening,” it is because Hamas has learned no matter how hateful it is, it is always given a red carpet. You’d think journalists might have a red line on such interviews. Would Heinrich Himmler at Auschwitz in 1944 been given an interview to show him “softening” his stance? Probably. Because he’s only “widely seen” as antisemitic. He could be a moderate with a welfare program.
Norman Finkelstein wrote in 2009 in Counterpunch that “Hamas was signaling that it wanted a diplomatic settlement of the conflict... Hamas was signaling they joined the international consensus.” Hamas was the victim of a “putsch” planned by Israel, the US and the Palestinian Authority. Over the years Hamas acquired many voices in the West narrating its “moderating” stance. In 2011 at the Daily Beast Peter Beinart wrote that “a shift in US and Israeli policy towards Hamas is long overdue.” He claimed the organization was observing a de-facto cease-fire and “its two top leaders... have both said Hamas would accept a two-state deal.” Hamas was “vile in many ways,” but Israel was conducting an “immoral, failed policy” by not welcoming Hamas into a Palestinian unity government.
In this concept of “moderating,” Hamas is somehow being good every day it doesn’t murder someone. How about moderating the racist charter? The reason there wasn’t a cordon sanitaire around Hamas for years, the way there was around Jean-Marie Le Pen in France or Jorg Haider in Austria, is because many on the Left felt that Hamas was part of their “anti-imperialist” ideology. Judith Butler said in 2006 that “understanding Hamas, Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global Left, is extremely important.” She clarified her view in 2012 claiming that “it has always seemed absurd to me that my comments were taken to mean that I support or endorse Hamas and Hezbollah... I am not unconditionally supportive of all groups that currently constitute the global Left.”
But it’s not a question of being supportive, it’s a question of condemning Hamas antisemitism. In a 2014 interview she wouldn’t call Hamas views antisemitic, only “noxious,” and claimed “within Hamas there is some published debate.” Notice how every commentator always claims there is “debate” within Hamas, as if a group that is avowedly antisemitic is somehow acceptable as long as a few of its own propagandists claim they aren’t all racists.
To associate the radical right-wing views of religious fundamentalist extremist conservative Hamas with the “global Left” is like claiming the KKK and the Nazis were part of the global Left because they were “anti-imperialist.”
It’s nonsensical. And yet the attempt to not only whitewash Hamas, but often to claim lack of expertise when asked to determine if it is antisemitic, while at the same time claiming expertise on “internal Hamas debates,” is how a quiet Hamas lobby for years has sought to create fake moderation and excuse the reality.
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. No matter what the US and Israel do, they are always to blame for Hamas extremism.
In 2009 Nathan Stock wrote at The Christian Science Monitor that we must “talk to Hamas” or face radicalization.
“Today the lack of US dialogue with Hamas and the group’s moderation are leading to the formation of new, more dangerous rejectionist groups.”
“Why the West and Israel should talk to Hamas,” wrote former UN official Saskia Marsh at Al-Jazeera in 2016. Bring the “terrorist group in from the cold,” she wrote. “The moderation [of Hamas] is being eroded – by a decade long blockade on trade and movement in and out of Gaza.” But Hamas never moderated before 2006 when it came to control Gaza. It could have moderated then, reformed it charter and welcomed democracy and multi-party elections in Gaza, and liberalism. Claiming the blockade erodes moderation puts the cart before the horse.
Patrick Truffer wrote for the University of St. Andrews in 2012 that “Hamas might soften its course after the takeover of political responsibility. The participation of Hamas in the elections can be interpreted as a sign of moderation.” Was that the case with the Nazis? Did they “moderate” once they got power? Surely the KKK would have moderated too.
When we hear the endless army of voices talking about the “moderate” Hamas we have to wonder. If there was a Christian version of Hamas running for office in Europe would it be part of the “global Left”? Would Jewish journalists and newspapers be rushing to humanize it and give it a platform to bring it in from the cold? Would the Left embrace it with such understanding? We have ample evidence that groups that espouse only one percent of the hate of Hamas are regarded as extreme Right and racist when they appear in the US and Europe. The “alt-right” is .01% as antisemitic as Hamas, and yet is reviled. It is yet one more piece of evidence of Islamist privilege, the privilege that being an Islamist extremist brings. It allows you to be anti-semitic, neo-Nazi and hateful and always be characterized as “moderate.” Unfortunately Hamas may be revising its charter 30 years too late, but the reality of the whitewashing crowd of Western Hamas sycophants will not change.