Explaining Hamas in 2-Minutes or Less

by | Nov 13, 2023 | Quick Reads

Hamas, whose name is an acronym for “Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya” (Islamic Resistance Movement), is a Palestinian Islamist political organization and militant group that has been designated as a terrorist organization by several countries and international organizations, including the United States and the European Union.

The group was founded in 1987 during the First Intifada (Palestinian uprising) as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. It was established primarily to challenge the secular approach of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the struggle against Israeli occupation and to offer a combination of nationalist and Islamic resistance.

Hamas’s charter, articulated in 1988, called for the establishment of an Islamic state in historic Palestine, which includes modern-day Israel. Its position on Israel has been central to its identity, and it refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli state. The organization’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has been responsible for numerous armed attacks, including suicide bombings, rocket attacks, and kidnappings, targeting Israeli soldiers and civilians. These activities have been one of the primary reasons for its designation as a terrorist organization.

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The group’s political activities escalated when Hamas won a surprising victory in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, which led to a conflict with the Fatah party and a split in Palestinian governance. Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, leading to an ongoing blockade of the territory by Israel and Egypt and periodic conflicts with Israeli forces.

The international community remains divided on how to engage with Hamas due to its role as the de facto governing body of the Gaza Strip and its continued commitment to armed resistance. There have been numerous efforts to reconcile Hamas with the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, but these have largely been unsuccessful.

In recent years, there have been signs of internal debate within Hamas about its direction and political strategy, including the creation of a new political document in 2017 that softened some of its original stances. However, the group’s commitment to armed struggle and the refusal to recognize Israel continues to be significant hurdles in the peace process.

Efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are complicated by Hamas’s presence and actions, its governance of the Gaza Strip, and its designation as a terrorist organization by many in the international community.

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