Hamas: Tactically Flexible, Ideologically Rigid

BY ALEXANDER MELEAGROU-HITCHENS 

Yesterday, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy released a short and sharp article highlighting that although Hamas have recently suggested that they are open to a ceasefire with Israel, there has been no discernable change in their violent and supremacist ideology.

Written by Hamas expert and former FBI man, Matthew Levitt along with Stephanie Papa, the article focuses on three main areas where Hamas have continued to act as an Islamist terror group: ongoing and continued terrorist activity; radicalisation of Palestinian society; and the promotion of known terrorist operatives to leadership positions within the group.

The article concludes that:

Hamas’s tactical flexibility should not be mistaken for strategic change. Even in his recent interviews, Mashal was clear that Hamas has not rejected terrorism, but has put it on hold due to current circumstances. “Not targeting civilians,” Mashal explained, “is part of an evaluation of the movement to serve the people’s interests. Firing these rockets is a method and not the goal.” In the context of discussing the sharp drop in Hamas rockets fired at Israeli civilian population centers, Mashal added, “The right to resist the occupation is a legitimate right, but practicing this right is decided by the leadership within the movement.”

Even as Hamas advances its public-relations blitz for tactical gains, the group continues to advance its strategic goals through ongoing terrorist activities, robust radicalization, and the election of militant hardliners to leadership positions. Until Mashal’s softened political statements are matched by parallel changes on the ground, his rhetoric amounts to little more than empty words crafted for Western consumption.

This point cannot be stressed enough, and although Hamas have recently stated that they would be willing to sign a temporary truce with Israel, they refuse to recognise its right to exist.  Ahmed Yousef, the group’s deputy foreign minister, was recently asked by The Economist about the problems surrounding the Hamas Fouding Charter - a document replete with religious and political justifications for the murder of Jews, his response was uninspiring:

[It is] not an important document – we don’t use it. Why should we change it when we never use it?

Not good enough.

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