Hamas’ perspective was gathered from a non-Israeli, non-Palestinian professor who has studied Hamas for over a decade. This person wishes not to be named.
It’s complicated. If you take the original charter, then their position is incredibly clear—no division of what was Mandatory Palestine. It is supposed to be one entity. If you add to this the statements of some of the political leaders over the past 20 years and you add the new political document, then there is a little more political maneuvering in the sense that they are hinting more widely at the idea of the recognition DE FACTO. They would not see it as the legitimate or the best option—of an interim solution where there is a Palestinian state on 67 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. How much does the whole organization believe this? How much of this is becoming the official posturing? We don’t know yet. They are literally developing these stances right now.
Can I say never to land swaps? No, but based on the current political statements, that is not something they are discussing.
The ideological framework is that of an interim solution: the idea is that if they take this approach and recognize the two states, they are not giving up the right of future generations to take up resistance. The one-state [settlement] that Hamas talks about is an Islamic-Palestinian state. This is based on the holiness of Jerusalem. Hamas says that because of the holiness of Jerusalem, the whole land is an “Islamic trust” and can’t be owned by Palestinians or bargained over.
With regards to Jews living there, part of the original charter says, “under the wing of Islam, it is possible for the followers of the three religions – Islam, Christianity and Judaism – to coexist in peace and quiet with each other. Peace and quiet would not be possible except under the wing of Islam. Past and present history are the best witness to that.” So, Jews would be allowed to live there, although it would be an Islamic state—not a Jewish state.
With regards to the borders, the new charter says, “we do not leave any part of the Palestinian’s land, under any circumstances, conditions or pressure, as long as the occupation remains. Hamas refuses any alternative which is not the whole liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea. The creation of the Palestinian independent state with its sovereignty, with Jerusalem as its capital, on the borders of the 4th of June 1967, with the return of the refugees to their homes from where they were displaced is a common national consensual formula, and it does not mean the recognition of the Zionist state or the surrendering of Palestinian rights.”
From Hamas’ perspective it is very clear. Certainly if you go back to their original charter and even their renewed document, they see the entire Palestinian State (meaning Mandatory Palestine) as one entity, so no other territorial or political order from that area is something they recognize as sovereign or legitimate. If you take the charter, the discussion of settlements doesn’t even come into being because even Israel itself is not legitimate. With Hamas’ evolution there is a question mark, because the organization is in transition and it is difficult today to say exactly what they think about it. With their new revised documents and their series of statements over the past 20 years, there have been hints at the acceptance of a two-state reality based on ‘67 borders, not de jure, but de facto (not the best option, but one they could live with for the time being). In that situation, clearly the issue of settlements would be one that Hamas would need to address, and it wouldn’t recognize settlements in the West Bank. With regards to any settlements remaining in the West Bank, my best guess is no settlements could remain in the West Bank based on what they are saying right now.
Hamas sees themselves as a major political player. Ideally, if they managed to, they would be happy to be the main Palestinian political player. The reality today is that they share with Fatah. But, they haven’t given up on just being in Gaza. Their ambitions are to have support and presence in the West Bank, since that is also Palestine. So the Israeli concern of Hamas coming to the West Bank doesn’t apply. They are a main Palestinian political organization, and as such have to be represented in Palestinian government, and, importantly, in a reformed PLO. Has Hamas renounced to have influence in the West Bank in the future? Clearly not. It is definitely very much part of what they want. They are saying that they are a key constituency and a key political party, and there is no way they are going to say that they are only going to operate in Gaza. What a Palestinian government shared between Hamas and Fatah in the West Bank would look like, or what it would do, is a separate story.
With regards to violence, they think that the Islamic Waqf (of Palestine) can’t be compromised. Thus, since Israel occupies the Waqf, it is a defensive jihad and the armed struggle (jihad) is an individual duty.
Jerusalem/Al Quds is very important in Hamas’ political posturing, and is something the organization talks about a lot. The more reformist position of accepting interim reality (not fully reformed yet, so take it with a grain of salt), would be East Jerusalem as the capital but not West Jerusalem. Has Hamas sat down with Israelis and talked about how they would share Jerusalem? No, and that is miles away from a reality.
The new charter says, “Jerusalem city is the capital of Palestine, it has its religious, historical and civilian place in an Arab, Islamic and human way, and all its Islamic and Christian holy places headed by Al Aqsa mosque is a non-negotiable right for Palestine, Arab and the Islamic nations. We do not surrender it or give any part of it, and all the occupation’s procedures in Jerusalem such as Judaization, settlement of the city as well as the forgery of the truth, are illegal.”
As of today, Hamas sees no Jewish visitation and no Jewish prayer at the Haram. If there were to be a situation in which Hamas was ready to discuss Jerusalem, it would have to be a very different organization than the one it is today. Maybe it will be relevant in the future, but today it is miles away. In order to negotiate that, they would need to recognize Israel, accept two states, and many other details before getting there. Today, it is really not on the agenda.
No question, full right of return. The organization developed in Gaza, so it is a Palestinian-based organization and the leadership develops there. A very big part of its identity is to say that they are the organization that champions the rights of the refugees. It is a central point—the right of return is a pillar of the Palestinian struggle and can’t be compromised, nor do they have the right to forfeit the rights of the refugees.
With regards to refugees and the right of return, the new charter says: “The Palestinian cause is basically a cause of an occupied land and displaced people, and the right of return for all Palestinians who were displaced from the 1948 or 1967 lands, which means from the whole of Palestine. Palestinians have the natural right to go back to their land, which is a personal and general right for all Palestinians. Confirming this right is all the religions, human rights and international law, and it is non-negotiable for anyone, whether Palestinian, Arab or foreign.
Hamas refuses all projects that aim to destroy the refugees’ cause, including all attempts to naturalize them as citizens in other countries and alternative home projects. Hamas considers the compensation for Palestinians after displacing them and occupying their land as an essential right, established after their return, and it does not cancel or reduce their [physical] right of return.”
In the charter, it is very clear that whole idea of the establishment of Israel isn’t portrayed as creating a safe haven for a minority, but as a colonial step to impose control over the local population.
The initial charter talks about Zionism as such: “Today it is Palestine, tomorrow it will be one country or another. The Zionist plan is limitless. After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’ and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying.”
The new charter says: “The Zionist Project is a racist, aggressive and separatist project based on violating others’ rights and is against Palestine’s people and its vision for freedom, liberation, sovereignty and the return of the refugees. And the Israeli state is the tool of this project and its foundation.” (New Charter 2017, Article 13)
“Hamas sees that the Jewish problem, the “anti-Semitism” and the injustice against the Jewish people is a phenomenon related to European history, not to the history of Arabs and Muslims or their heritage.” (New Charter 2017, Article 16)
Yes, sure. There is no official relation between Hamas and Israel—there is plenty of tactical, under the table, indirect dialogue when it is necessary, but no direct contact. Hamas criticizes the PA for being in contact with Israel. Hamas is not a part of the BDS movement but their belief is aligned with the idea that you shouldn’t engage with Israel.
Of course. The very foundations of Israel are believed to be racist. There are many different themes. There is the theme of occupation, the theme of Nakba/dispossession, the theme of colonialism, and the theme of racism through Zionism. Taken together, they would agree with the definition of apartheid.