Where did Hamas come from and what does it want?: A thorough examination of the terror group’s origins is necessary if there is ever going to be a lasting peace (EMILE NAKHLEH, DEC 18, 2023, Reponsible Statecraft)
Hamas (Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya—Islamic Resistance Movement; the acronym means Zeal) emerged in 1987 in the West Bank and Gaza under the Israeli occupation after the first Palestinian Intifada as an alternative to the secular PLO. Israel, Jordan, and a few other Arab states were concerend about the growing strength of the PLO’s secular nationalist ideology and thus initially supported Hamas’s creation. Like other local Sunni Islamic political parties and movements — for example, PAS in Malaysia, Refah and AKP in Turkey, the Islamic Action Front in Jordan, and the Islamic Movement in Israel — Hamas was grounded in the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Hamas’s political program and charter focused primarily on resisting the occupation and the state of Israel. Hamas never followed the Wahhabi Salafi radical Tawhidi doctrine of Islam emanating from Saudi Arabia. In most of its history, Hamas, unlike al-Qaida and ISIS, never subscribed to or practiced global jihad against the perceived enemies of Islam. Its operational context has always been Palestine and its leaders have always been Palestinians. Many of them spent years in Israeli jails where they learned Hebrew. Most of Hamas’s political leaders are currently in exile in different Middle Eastern countries, especially in Qatar with whose leadership they maintained close relations.
Hamas also comprises a political wing, which over the years participated in governing institutions in the West Bank and Gaza, and a military wing (Qassam Brigades) that has built a fighting force and planned and executed military operations against Israel. Hamas is not a monolithic group, which reflects the reality of Palestinian society in Gaza and the West Bank.
Hamas’s charter rejects the existence of the State of Israel in Palestine, but its political wing has engaged with Israel, especially since 2007, on pragmatic matters that affect the Palestinians’ daily lives in Gaza and has shown a willingness to accept a two-state solution. […]
The most recent public opinion poll in the West Bank and Gaza shows a significant rise in Hamas’s popularity in both areas with nearly 90% calling on Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president in Ramallah, to resign. The poll, which was conducted between November 22 and December 2, finds that Palestinians view Hamas as the most legitimate group in the West Bank and Gaza.