Why They Fight: Hamas’ Too-Little-Known Fascist Charter

tags: Israel, Palestine, Hamas



Jeffrey Herf is Distinguished University Professor of History at the University of Maryland in College Park and recently a fellow of the Middle East Forum. His "Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World" was published by Yale University Press in 2009.

Given all the ink spilled about the current Gaza war, and the innumerable tragic photos, it’s strange that the Western press hasn’t inquired into why one of the parties is fighting. That would be Hamas, of course; the turgid psychologizing about Israel’s motives is quite familiar. But what about its Islamist enemy, penned up in a barren territory from which it launches rockets and digs tunnels under Israeli kibbutzim and kindergartens? For what was all that concrete poured, into the ground as part of the offensive, instead of above ground as the foundation of schools, factories, and homes?

It’s not exactly hard to find out. Hamas published a “Covenant” of 36 articles on August 18, 1988, that details its aims and ideology precisely. Its philosophy is rooted in the totalitarianism and radical anti-Semitism that has undergirded Islamism since its rise in the 1930s and 1940s. Far from moderating its core ideology, Hamas’ seizure of power in 2007 gave it the opportunity to make policy based on its guiding goal—namely, the destruction the state of Israel. But even though the Covenant is the declaration of intent of a group now governing millions of people, it goes unnoticed by reporters, editors, and pundits who race to comment on Hamas’ war with Israel...

...Though Islamism owes a considerable debt to Nazism, the Hamas Covenant claims that it is Israel that is the equal of Nazi Germany. In Article 20, the authors write that they confront “a vicious enemy which acts in a way similar to Nazism, making no differentiation between man and women, between children and old people….” The “Israelis as Nazis” canard has been a staple of both secular and religious anti-Zionist propaganda since the 1960s. When the secular anti-Zionists such as Nasser, Arafat, and Assad, Sr., spoke about global conspiracies against the Arabs, they attributed a mythical conspiracy against the Arabs to “U.S. imperialism” and its Israeli “spearhead”—echoing the propaganda of their patrons, the Soviets. Indeed, the Hamas Covenant of 1988 notably replaced the Marxist-Leninist conspiracy theory of world politics with the classic anti-Semitic tropes of Nazism and European fascism, which the Islamists had absorbed when they collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. That influence is apparent in Article 22, which asserts that “supportive forces behind the enemy” have amassed great wealth:

With their money, they took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others. With their money they stirred revolutions in various parts of the world with the purpose of achieving their interests and reaping the fruit therein. They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about, here and there. With their money, they formed secret societies, such as Freemason, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests. With their money they were able to control imperialistic countries and instigate them to colonize many countries in order to enable them to exploit their resources and spread corruption there.


The above paragraph of Article 22 could have been taken, almost word for word, from Nazi Germany’s anti-Jewish propaganda texts and broadcasts. Echoing the European, but also American, anti-Semites of the twentieth century, Hamas repeated the assertion that the Jews used their money to control both “the world media” and the established social order. At the same time, these Jewish scions of the status quo were “behind” the French and Communist revolutions—one of European fascists’ favorite theories during their heyday. In the same manner as their anti-Semitic predecessors, the authors of the Hamas Covenant claimed that the Jews “control imperialistic countries” and advocate colonization and exploitation of other nations. Notably, it is Israel that controls the U.S. in this account, a reversal of the Soviet-era anti-Zionist propaganda. This paranoid vision of powerful, wealthy, and evil Jews echoes such works as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Hitler’s Mein Kampf, and the daily diet of Nazi newspapers and Arabic-language radio broadcast from Nazi Berlin by Arab collaborators. The Covenant is so devoted to the fantasy that Jews engineer every world event that it blames the Jews for starting World War I:

You may speak as much as you want about regional and world wars. They were behind World War I, when they were able to destroy the Islamic Caliphate, making financial gains and controlling resources. They obtained the Balfour Declaration, formed the League of Nations through which they could rule the world. They were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains by trading in armaments, and paved the way for the establishment of their state. It was they who instigated the replacement of the League of Nations with the United Nations and the Security Council to enable them to rule the world through them. There is no war going on anywhere, without their having their finger in it.


For anyone with the slightest knowledge of modern European history and the causes of World War I, the assertion that the Jews, a stateless minority scattered among many nations of Europe, had anything at all to do with its outbreak is preposterous. More, it is a depressing confirmation of the intellectual backwardness and historical ignorance of the authors of this document, and of Muslim Brotherhood’s success in diffusing anti-Semitic propaganda in the decades after World War II. The charge that Jews masterminded the League of Nation is no less befuddling; it hardly needs saying that the Jewish people were in no position to found a conference of international heads of state. These delusions have next to nothing to do with actual events; whatever path history takes, in the anti-Semitic imagination, it is the Jews who are dictating it. In this fantasy, the powerful Jew is timeless; indeed, his power is as total today as it was in past centuries...




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