The emergence and rise of Hamas, an Islamist political and militant organization, have significantly shaped the political landscape of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Founded in the late 1980s, Hamas has evolved from a grassroots movement to a major player in Palestinian politics, with a complex interplay of political, social, and militant dimensions. This essay explores the historical roots of Hamas, its evolution over time, and the organization's involvement in terrorism.
Hamas, an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya (Islamic Resistance Movement), was founded in 1987 during the First Intifada, a Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation. The organization emerged against the backdrop of broader regional and global political changes, including the Iranian Revolution and the Afghan-Soviet War, which influenced the rise of Islamist movements.
In its early years, Hamas gained popularity by providing social services to Palestinians in the occupied territories. Establishing schools, hospitals, and charities, they built a support base among Palestinians disillusioned with the perceived corruption and inefficiency of existing political structures, particularly the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
Son after Hamas transitioned from a grassroots movement to a political entity by participating in the Palestinian legislative elections in 2006. Surprising many, they won a majority of seats, leading to its formation of a government in the Gaza Strip. This political shift marked a critical turning point in the organization's trajectory. Even then, Hamas's governance faced numerous challenges, including economic difficulties, internal divisions, and conflicts with rival Palestinian factions, most notably Fatah. The political landscape became increasingly polarized, leading to a split between the West Bank, under Fatah control, and Gaza, where Hamas established de facto governance.
The organisations ideological underpinnings are rooted in Islamism, emphasizing the role of Islam in political and social life. The organization's Charter, written in 1988, outlines its commitment to the liberation of Palestine through armed resistance and the establishment of an Islamic state. A key aspect of Hamas's ideology is its rejection of the state of Israel and a refusal to recognize its legitimacy. This stance has been a source of tension in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a major obstacle to peace negotiations.
Hamas gained notoriety for its use of suicide bombings and other violent tactics against Israeli civilians and military targets. The Second Intifada (2000-2005) saw a significant escalation in these attacks, causing widespread casualties and contributing to a climate of fear and mistrust. In addition to suicide bombings, Hamas, particularly in the Gaza Strip, has been involved in launching rocket attacks into Israeli territory. These attacks have often led to military responses from Israel, contributing to cycles of violence in the region. The current conflict is an escalated version of Hamas’s long followed strategy.
In response to Hamas's militant activities, Israel has conducted military operations, including targeted assassinations of key Hamas figures and large-scale offensives in the Gaza Strip. These operations aim to degrade Hamas's military capabilities and deter future attacks. This time however the response will be significantly stronger. Netanyahu and the entire Israeli leadership has vowed to finish off Hamas.
Many countries, including the United States and the European Union, already classify Hamas as a terrorist organization. This designation reflects concerns about the group's involvement in violence and its rejectionist stance toward the peace process. The recent barbaric attack on Israel which has left over 700 dead (at last count), over 3000 injured and serval taken hostages. This has only reaffirmed the thought that Hamas is indeed a dreaded terrorist outfit which must be stopped.
The real target of the current attack was not just Israel but also the progress made by the Abraham Accords and especially normalisation of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia which was just about to happen. Hamas, backed by Iran and Qatar could not digest the Abraham Accords and have acted on derailing them, as best they could. Israel will no doubt fight back and hit back hard. The loss of civilian life on both sides will be significant by the end of this conflict. This is well and truly the third intifada that will throw the entire region off course.