And it helps explain why Hamas pillages the aid supplied to the Palestinians and turns it to its own purposes. Like the water pipelines for the people of Gaza, funded by the EU at a cost of about €100 million (A$166 million). Hamas boasted in 2021 that it cut them up to make rockets.
And it is not a nationalist movement but a fanatical religious one. Its original charter, issued in 1988, stated that “Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes”.
And it explains that while it’s prepared to maintain relations with the nationalist Palestinian Liberation Organisation, it rejects any merger because “secularism completely contradicts religious ideology”.
Hamas cleaned up its original charter in 2017. The new version omitted some of its wilder antisemitic conspiracies. The Jews caused World Wars I and II, didn’t you know? It also cut this telling verse from the original, as translated by Yale University’s Avalon Project:
Hamas “aspires to the realisation of Allah’s promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said, ‘the Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”
The rewritten charter instead inserted language to appeal to the Western anti-colonialist movement by aping some of its favourite phrases, seeking favour among people in the West whom Lenin might have called “useful idiots”.
And, in what appeared to be a major concession, the updated version accepted the prospect of a separate Palestinian state in co-existence with the enemy – a two-state solution, in other words – “as a formula of national consensus”.
But a fuller reading shows this to be nothing more than a provisional and temporary expedient. “There shall be no recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity,” says the new charter. And: “Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea.”
So we’re back to hunting down every last Jew from behind rocks and trees.
Did Benjamin Netanyahu buy any of the “new” Hamas? Not for a moment: “Hamas is attempting to fool the world,” his spokesman said at the time of the new charter, in 2017. So it’s doubly surprising that Netanyahu chose to help Hamas. From the time of his second prime ministership in 2009, he actually strengthened Hamas.
From 2012 to 2018, Netanyahu gave his approval for Qatar to transfer a cumulative total of about a billion US dollars to Gaza, of which at least half went to Hamas, as Dmitry Shumsky of Hebrew University explains.
“Netanyahu developed and advanced a destructive, warped political doctrine that held that strengthening Hamas at the expense of the Palestinian Authority would be good for Israel,” says Shumsky, professor of the history of Zionism, writing in Haaretz on October 11.
“The purpose of the doctrine was to perpetuate the rift between Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.” By keeping the two apart, Netanyahu wanted to sabotage any possibility of negotiations for a two-state solution.
This policy was, says Shumsky, the “deep roots” of Hamas’ ability to attack Israel successfully last month. It “turned Hamas from a minor terrorist organisation into an efficient, lethal army with highly trained, dehumanised stormtroopers”.
The Hamas-Netanyahu symbiosis is not exactly a secret. A former head of Israel’s internal security service Shin Bet, Yuval Diskin, told newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth in 2013 that “if we look at it over the years, one of the main people contributing to Hamas’s strengthening has been Bibi Netanyahu”.
So Netanyahu must press on with his stated aim of destroying Hamas. If he’s to have any hope of remaining prime minister after this war, he must prove to his people that he’s killed the monster he fed and nurtured.
More likely, much as they sustained each other in life, they will join each other in a double helix of tandem demise.
Peter Hartcher is international editor.
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