The Hamas Charter (1988): Overtly anti-Semitic and anti-West, radical Islamic in outlook, it stresses Hamas’ ideological commitment to destroy the State of Israel through a long-term holy war (jihad).

Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies (C.S.S)

Originally published March 2006

Note: A new translation of the Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) was published by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) in February 2006. The full text can be found on the MEMRI website.

The Hamas charter is the document which sets out the movement’s ideology as it was formulated and honed by its founders. It includes its radical Islamic world view (conceived by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt), which has basically not changed in the 18 years of its existence. With regard to Israel, the charter’s stance is uncompromising. It views the "problem of Palestine" as a religious-political Muslim issue, and the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation as a conflict between Islam and the "infidel" Jews. "Palestine" is presented as sacred Islamic land and it is strictly forbidden to give up an inch of it because no one (including Arab-Muslim rulers) has the authority to do so. With regard to international relations, the charter manifests an extremist worldview which is as anti-Western as Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.

That worldview brings in its wake the refusal to recognize the State of Israel’s right to exist as an independent, sovereign nation, the waging of a ceaseless jihad (holy war) against it and total opposition to any agreement or arrangement that would recognize its right to exist. At the beginning of the charter there is a quotation attributed to Hassan Al-Bana,4 that "Israel will arise and continue to exist until Islam wipes it out, as it wiped out what went before."

Overt, vicious anti-Semitism, with both Islamic and Christian-European origins, is used extensively throughout the document. The all-out holy war (jihad) against the Jewish people is legitimized by presenting the Jews in a negative light and demonizing them as wanting to take over not only the Middle East but also the rest of the world. One of the jihad’s deadliest manifestations is suicide bombing terrorism, which was developed mainly by Hamas during the 1990s and has become its leading "strategy" in the ongoing violent Israeli-Palestinian confrontation.

The Jews are also presented as worthy of only humiliation and lives of misery. That is because, according to the charter, they angered Allah, rejected the Qur’an and killed the prophets (the relevant Qur’an verse from Surah Aal-‘Imran is quoted at the beginning of the charter). The document also includes anti-Semitic myths taken from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (mentioned in Article 32) regarding Jewish control of the media, the film industry and education (Articles 17 and 22). The myths are constantly repeated to represent the Jews as responsible for the French and Russian revolutions and for all world and local wars: "No war takes place anywhere without the Jews’ being behind it" (Article 22). The charter demonizes the Jews and describes them as brutally behaving like Nazis toward women and children (Article 29).

The charter views the jihad (holy war) as the way to take all of "Palestine" from the Jews and to destroy the State of Israel, and Hamas’s terrorist attacks are seen as links in the jihad chain carried out during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Article 15 states that "the jihad to liberate ‘Palestine’ is the personal duty" of every Muslim, an idea expounded by ‘Abdallah ‘Azzam.

The charter emphasizes the battle for Muslim hearts and minds or "the spread of Islamic consciousness" within three main spheres: the Palestinians, the Arab Muslims and the non-Arab Muslims (Article 15). The process of fostering and spreading that "Islamic consciousness" is defined as its most important mission. Clerics, educators, men of culture, those active in the media and information services and the generally educated public all have the responsibility to carry it out.

As part of the battle for hearts and minds, the charter places a special emphasis on education [i.e., indoctrination] in the spirit of radical Islam, based on the ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood. Fundamental changes must be made, it states, in the educational system in the PA-administered territories: it must be "purified," purged of "the influences of the ideological invasion brought by the Orientalists and missionaries" (Article 15), and the younger generation should be given a radical Islamic education based exclusively on the Qur’an and the Muslim tradition (the Sunnah). The means used for ideological recruitment, as detailed in the charter, are "books, articles, publications, sermons, flyers, folk songs, poetic language, songs, plays, etc." When imbued with "correct" Islamic belief and culture, they become an important means of raising morale and building the psychological fixation and emotional strength necessary for a continuing "liberation campaign" (Article 19).

The charter stresses the importance of Muslim solidarity according to the commands of the Qur’an and Sunnah, especially in view of the confrontation taking place between Palestinian society and the "terrorist Jewish enemy," described as Nazi-like. One of the expressions of that solidarity is aid to the needy (one of whose main manifestations is the network of various "charitable societies" set up by Hamas, which integrate social activities and support of terrorism).

The charter makes a point of the ideological difference between Hamas, with its radical Islamic world view, and the secularly-oriented The Palestine Liberation Organization, but pays lip service to the need for Palestinian unity needed to face the Jewish enemy. It notes that an Islamic world view completely contradicts The Palestine Liberation Organization’s secular orientation and the idea of a secular Palestinian state. Nevertheless, notes the charter, Hamas is prepared to aid and support every "nationalist trend" working "to liberate Palestine" and is not interested in creating schisms and disagreements (Article 27).