In writing this article, I am in no way supporting Hamas’ extremist religious views. I will be including the political organisation’s misuse of Islam involving violence against both Palestinians and Israelis, and also Hamas’ major aim of removing Zionism from the region. I believe that the sole way to liberate Palestine is uniting Palestinians from every class position, social status and religion. Religion must be exempt from politics, and thus must not be used as a motive to free Palestine.
Hamas was formed in 1988, after the 1967 war that involved Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. During the period 1967-1988, the Israeli government started building settlements and bringing settlers from all over the world to live in Gaza and the West Bank indicating that the Israeli government never intended on giving Palestinians their right to a ‘free’ country. The government had no intention of a peaceful agreement in the first place suggesting that Hamas does not have a strong impact on the continuation of the Palestinian occupation.
Although Hamas is perceived as an Islamist party, it does not commit its acts against Israeli Zionists under the name of Islam. Fundamentally, Iranian scholar of religions from The University of Harvard, Reza Aslan, states that Islam is “not a religion promoting peace or violence”; like any other religion, it is left to one’s interpretation. If one is a violent person, then his or her religion is going to be violent.
A highly misinterpreted word related to Islam is ‘Jihad’; it is often related to war and bloodshed. In Arabic, Jihad does not mean ‘holy war’; it is one’s inner struggle of good against evil, and one’s strive for internal peace. Additionally, ‘Outer Jihad’ can be used (legally, diplomatically or economically) to defend an individual’s faith from outside aggression – like what they did in the Crusades – as long as all civilians are protected and unharmed. More importantly, ‘Outer Jihad’ should be used as a last resort and any opportunity for a peaceful negotiation must be considered before taking any further action. Hamas does use weaponry to defend itself contributing to the stereotype of the word ‘Jihad’, but Israeli forces use similar tactics as well in its ‘attempts to destroy Palestinian society within Israel and the occupied territories’ (Norman Finkelstein). Frantz Fanon, a Caribbean philosopher and author of The Wretched of the Earth (1961), argues that a country’s people under colonisation and occupation have the right to use violence and weapons to defend themselves.
Another concept of Islam, Sharia law, is highly misunderstood. The law does not promote the segregation of men and women, in fact, it encourages both genders to treat one another equally, to live and interact peacefully with each other and with other people of different ethnicity, race and religion. It is unfortunate that Hamas has taken the zealous action of segregating men and women in some of the Palestinian areas, such as Gaza, as a way of controlling violence occurring due to Israeli armed forces.
Hamas is extremist in the way mentioned above, yet its members are not anti-Semitic. Just because Palestine has been under occupation for 67 years now, Hamas does not aim to annihilate every Jew. You may already know this: There are Christian, Jewish and Muslim Palestinians living in coexistence. There are Israelis and Palestinians living in coexistence. If Hamas were anti-Semitic, its members would’ve removed every living Palestinian Jew, which is not only inhumane but illogical towards Palestine’s liberation. Palestine needs as much supporters and inhabitants as possible to take back the stolen lands. On that account, like every other individual who understands the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Hamas differentiates between Judaism and Zionism.
To further explain this point, Hamas’ founder, Ahmed Yassin, gave a speech in Arabic before his death in 2004, which has been translated in English:
I have a home and a land in Ashkelon, Yafa (Jafa) and Gaza. We demand our rights and nothing more. We don’t hate Jews or fight them just because they are Jews. Jews have a religion, and so do we. We love and respect all people of religion. If my Muslim brother stole my land and expelled me from it, I would fight him…I don’t fight America, Britain or any other country. I live in peace with all other people and wish them happiness…Jews have lived with us for many years, and we have never assaulted them or transgressed their rights. They used to hold high positions in the government.
Yassin portrays the fact that it is not religion that divides Palestine; it is greed and the feeling of injustice. Nonetheless, Hamas still exerts some of its misinterpreted religious views on Palestinians, and its misuse of Islam strengthens the stereotype of how the West – the Occident – understand the religion. The party’s aim is not to convert the entire land to an ‘Islamic State’, but to take back the stolen lands. Although most of the Palestinians don’t agree with the extremist religious views, Hamas has still been elected. Why? Because the party has the drive to take back the lands. We need a political organisation with the same drive that Hamas already has for Palestine to be represented the way it should be. We, Palestinians, are open to all religions and beliefs. We envision a country with people of different ethnicity, race and religion in a ‘free’ Palestine, a land to call our own. That is the true representation of Palestine.
It is unfortunate that the media only covers the ‘bad’ and the violence that Hamas exerts on Israel – what about Hamas’ doings against Palestinians, and what about the Israeli military’s doings against Palestinians? Palestinians’ actions and words are manipulated to turn the world against them; we are being narrated by Zionists who want us annihilated. I, as a Palestinian, am asking for my right, my family’s right and every other Palestinian’s right to return. We are asking for this Zionist propaganda to end before Palestine fades.