For the past two decades, no local body has pursued the de facto role of South African Friends of Hamas with more vigour and persistence than the Media Review Network (MRN). Through sustained media activism and political lobbying, it has sought to portray Hamas as being the Palestinian equivalent of the ANC, a democratic, human rights-driven liberation movement, which all South Africans should support.
What has to date undermined the MRN’s efforts have been the actions and ideologies of Hamas itself. Whereas the ANC pursued the route of peaceful negotiations for as long as it could before reluctantly resorting to violent resistance (which initially aimed at avoiding bloodshed), Hamas has from the outset pursued violence, primarily aimed at civilians, as its core strategy. To this day it refuses to negotiate with the “Zionist entity”. So far as ideologies are concerned, one need only compare the Freedom Charter with the Hamas Charter to realise the sheer absurdity of equating the two movements.
The Hamas Charter begins by declaring: “Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious”. It goes on to invoke a general worldwide massacre of Jews by Muslims at the end of days (Article 7) and lists the “evil and contemptible ways” in which Jews have plotted to promote wars, revolutions and global corruption through their control of the media, finance, secret societies etcetera. (Articles 17, 22, 28, 32).
It is difficult, even for an organisation as tenacious as the MRN, to convince people that Hamas are no more than ANC cadres in kefirs when the movement’s founding charter is effectively an Islamist paraphrase of Mein Kampf.
In view of this, when Hamas recently released a new policy document purportedly outlining a less radical, more pragmatic agenda, it was predictable that the MRN would seize on the opportunity. According to the MRN’s Suraya Dadoo (New Manifesto: Hamas softens stance on Israel), the document represents a “seismic change” which means that Hamas can no longer be beaten with the “anti-Semitic, anti-peace terrorist stick”.
In accepting a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, she writes, Hamas has endorsed the “two-state solution” and even likens the direction it is taking to the Congress of the People, where the Freedom Charter was ratified.
There is one small problem with these claims and that is that the latest Hamas document says nothing of the sort. Admittedly, it eschews the crude anti-Semitism of the Hamas Charter. However, Hamas has made it clear that the Charter itself has not been superseded. As for endorsing the two-state solution, whereby a Palestinian state will be established in territories conquered by Israel in 1967, the document stresses time and again that the entire area between the Jordan and the sea is to be regarded as inalienable and for all time an Arab Islamic land.
It declares that the establishment of “the usurping Zionist entity” in no way annuls the right of the Palestinians to the entire land (Section 2), that Israel’s establishment was “entirely illegal” (18) and that there is to be “no recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity” (19). These and other similarly unequivocal pronouncements make it clear that Hamas’s goal is not a two-state solution but a one-state endgame in which the Jewish state is destroyed and replaced in its entirety with a single Arab-Islamic political entity.
At the heart of this unyielding rejectionism is a bizarre culture of denialism concerning Jewish links to “Palestine” prior the “Zionist project”. Section 7, for example, stresses the religious connections of Islam and Christianity, and signally fails to acknowledge those of Judaism (which are of far greater antiquity).
This refusal to recognise that the Jewish people also have significant historic and spiritual claims to Israel-Palestine – a denialism which, in view of the copious and conclusive historical record can only be attributed to psychological rather than intellectual factors – makes it impossible for Israel to be viewed as being anything more than an illegitimate usurper state that of necessity must be eradicated.
An examination of what the new Hamas document actually says reveals that very little, if anything, has changed. At best, Hamas appears to now countenance the establishment of a Palestinian state in the 1967 territories as an interim stage in its long-term aim of pursuing Israel’s ultimate destruction. In view of this, it is hard to see any meaningful progress towards breaking the current deadlock resulting from its latest statement.
David Saks is the associate director of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies