Over the past decades, the Islamic movement has endeavored to establish itself and prove its existence in the wake of the collapse of the Ottoman caliphate in the beginning of the last century. The Islamic movement started its activity with the foundation of the Muslim Brotherhood (full title Society of Muslim Brothers, MB) in Egypt, which extended its influence to the surrounding Arab countries.
Since the Gaza Strip was, at that time, under the control of the Egyptian military, it was specifically influenced, before other regions, by the activity of this movement, and it started attracting the youth before it extended its roots to the Palestinian territories that were occupied in 1948 C.E. and the West Bank. The Palestinian Islamic movements were a natural extension of the MB, which gave birth to the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), headed by Shaykh Ahmed Yassin, the founder of the movement, that declared itself on December 14,1987 C.E., four days after the outburst of the first Intifada.
These two movements worked hard to strike Israeli targets, in an attempt to drive the Israeli occupation out of the occupied Palestinian territories. Their activity was prominent during the first Intifada, especially Hamas, which had a large mass base, and involved thousands of youths who believed in its ideology; and its base continued to expand until the coming of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA or PA).
With the establishment of the Palestinian authority, Hamas adopted a line of thought that had two directions: the first was to strike Israeli targets, whether within the borders of the territories occupied in 1967 C.E. that are under the authority of self-rule, or inside the territories occupied in 1948 C.E. The other is to save the sanctity of Palestinian blood.
With the outburst of the blessed Aqsa Intifada, Hamas began to rearrange its papers on the basis of the same ideological foundations and rules with which it was launched, and the same goals it sought to achieve. Within a short period, it was able to rebuild its structure, especially the military power to be stronger than it had previously been. It was encouraged to do so by what it considered to be the failure of the Oslo project after ten years of negotiations, and the Palestinian mass assembly round the choice of resistance, including Palestinian organizations, regardless of their different ideologies and political perspectives, leading to an unprecedented Palestinian national unity in the history of the Palestinian revolution.
Hamas benefitted from the mass support for its military acts, especially martyrdom operations, which left many Israelis dead. Hamas gained great ability to inflict harm on the Israeli occupation, in spite of its weak military and financial capabilities, depending on martyrdom operations, causing what came to be known as the ‘balance of terror’.
This, of course, was condemned by the Zionist entity and the American administration. The occupation forces did their best, and used the most advanced military force available, including the F16 and Apache aircraft and tanks, without being able to abate the Intifada or discourage Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, not to mention the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and the Popular Front (for the Liberation of Palestine, PFLP), who were also involved in those operations.
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks that destroyed the World Trade Twin Towers in New York, a fierce campaign was launched against all Islamist activity, under the pretext of the "war against terrorism", without giving an exact definition of terrorism. Thus, whoever does not support America became a terrorist, which means, in other words, that whoever was against Israel is assumed to be against America, i.e. whoever was against Israel was labeled a terrorist, regardless of his legitimate right of self-defense.
The future of Islamic movements was put on the touchstone: could Israel and the United States destroy those movements? Or, could the Islamic movements adapt with the variants and save their existence, given the Palestinian debate about the feasibility of martyrdom operations which the Islamic movements insisted on being the only weapon available in the face of Israeli aircrafts and tanks, depending on the principle of ‘equivalence of punishment’?
Roots of the Palestinian Islamic movement
The first roots of the Islamic awakening in Palestine go back to the foundation of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt at the hands of Shaykh Hasan Al-Banna in 1924 C.E. This awakening extended to the Gaza Strip, in view of its being under the control of the Egyptian military until 1967 C.E.
The Palestinian Brotherhood movement in the Gaza Strip was deeply influenced by the conditions that surrounded the mother movement in Egypt. If the main MB in Egypt was exposed to pressure or any harmful resolution, this would affect the subsidiary Gaza movement, since Gaza was under the control of the Egyptian military.
In 1954 C.E., the Egyptian government issued a decree to ban the movement’s activities, and of course, it included banning the activities of the movement in the Gaza Strip, which closed its 11 divisions, duly representing the greatest political movement in the Strip, as it included the biggest number of members and supporters. At that time, it had more than a thousand supporters. This decree forced the MB to work in secret. It held its meetings far from the sight of the people, and the Egyptian military intelligence devices in the Strip.
We cannot determine a certain year for the beginning of the Islamic awakening in Palestine. However, we can say that its activities increased notably in the seventies for various reasons. According to some analysts, the rebirth of the Islamic awakening goes back to the failure of Arab nationalism, or to the 1967 defeat according to others, which alerted Muslims to the surrounding risk.
After the defeat of 1967 C.E., the Gaza MB organized huge demonstrations in protest against the Israeli occupation in 1968 C.E., where the demonstrations started and came out from different mosques in the Strip. In the middle of the seventies, the Islamic awakening started through the Palestinian Universities, like the Hebron University, the Islamic University of Gaza, An-Najaah National University in Nablus, and other areas. Islamic blocs were formed in these universities whose aim was to rescue the Palestinian youth from the moral and political deviance that was planned by the Israeli occupation.
In his comment on the Islamic awakening, an Israeli officer said, “The slogan ‘Allaahu Akbar’ started competing with the slogans of the PLO.” He added that when he entered houses with soldiers, he saw photos of Yasser Arafat and some Quranic Verses hung on the walls. He wondered, “What would happen if Arafat died?” He answered, “I do not think there is anyone to succeed him. But I fear that he would be replaced by fundamentalist Muslims who would never come to the Geneva peace conference.”
In the eighties, the Islamic movement intensified its activities. Islamic student blocs emerged clearly in the Palestinian scene in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and they organized demonstrations and confronted Israeli settlers and soldiers. For example, when the Gush Emunim movement tried to settle in the heart of the city of Nablus, the youth of the Islamic bloc in An-Najaah National University confronted them on May 15, 1986 C.E., and engaged in clashes with the army, which resulted in the departure of the settlers.
Hamas’ view of the U.S.
According to Shaykh Ahmad Yassin,
The American administration has been blind all the time, and America is more Zionist than the Hebrew state itself. Zionist Christians in the U.S. and Britain are more enthusiastic for the Zionist entity than the Zionist (Jews) themselves. That is why the U.S. and Britain are on the same line of enmity towards the Arab and Islamic Ummah. The American policy is entirely biased toward the enemy, and deprives our people of any right of self-defense, whereas it gives the occupation the right to kill and ruin. For this reason, American policy is unsuccessful, and it should be confronted by the Islamic Ummah, and the American political and economic interests in the region should be put to threat, until America awakens and retracts from its positions. Furthermore, it is unreliable in solving our case, for it works in favor of the Zionist existence and security in Palestine.
Hamas’ foreign relations
- Hamas believes that differences of opinion about political developments does not stand against establishing connections and relations with any party that is willing to support our people’s steadfastness and resistance of the Zionist overwhelming occupation.
- Hamas is not interested in the internal affairs of any state, nor does it interfere in any government’s domestic affairs.
- Hamas encourages Arab and Islamic governments to resolve their disputes and unify their attitudes towards national issues. However, it does not side with any party against another, nor does it seek to join any political axis against another.
- Hamas believes in Arab and Islamic unity, and blesses any effort in this respect.
- Hamas asks all Arab and Islamic governments, parties and forces, to assume their duties to endorse the cause of the Palestinian people, and support its steadfastness and confrontation of the Zionist entity, and facilitate our movement to fulfill its mission.
- Hamas believes in the importance of dialogue with all international governments, parties and forces, regardless of their faith, nationality or regime; and it is willing to co-operate with any side to serve the just cause of our people, and enable them to restore their legal rights, and inform the global public opinion about the inhuman practices and measures of the Zionist occupation against the Palestinian people.
- Hamas never seeks enmity with anyone on the basis of faith or race, nor does it antagonize any state or organization that does not stand against the Palestinian people, or support the Zionist occupation in its hostilities against them.
- Hamas is keen on limiting the arena of confrontation with the Zionist occupation to Palestine, and not to transfer it to any area outside Palestine.
- Hamas expects that all countries, international organizations, and world liberation movements will support the just cause of our people, and denounce the suppressive practices of the occupation authorities that violate the rules of international law and human rights, and create world public opinion to pressurize the Zionist entity to end its occupation of our land and holy sites.
Hamas’ relation with the Palestinian National Authority
Hamas understands that its involvement in a military confrontation with the Palestinian authority achieves an important aim and realizes some of the aspirations of the Zionists. This concept has been reflected on the positions taken by Hamas, which decisively avoided any conflict with the Palestinian authority. Furthermore, Hamas is of the view that the Oslo accords are but a misleading formula to liquidate the Palestinian cause, and provide security for the Zionists at the expense of the rights of the Palestinian people. However, at the same time, it is committed to oppose and endeavor to abort those accords by means of peaceful popular resistance, with no involvement in violence against the Palestinian authority and its leaders. The movement believes that the authority and its political project are doomed to fail and will be restricted to the aspect of security contained in the Oslo accords.
Hamas believes that Palestinian blood is sacred, and it is impermissible to be involved in Palestinian-Palestinian clashes, whether with the Palestinian National Authority or any Palestinian under any pretext; and that the main battle should be with the Zionist enemy.
Khalid Mish‘al, the head of Hamas’s Political Bureau said,
Many are those who push Palestinians to engage in clashes, on the top of whom are the Zionist enemy and the Americans, as well as the enemy’s agents in the Palestinian arena. There will be no clash, Allah willing, because of the rationality of Hamas’s leaders and Palestinian resistance forces on the one hand, and the high level of awareness among our Palestinian people on the other hand. Those masses are biased, thanks to Allah, to Hamas and the resistance movements. Consequently, we assure the Ummah that there would be no Palestinian-Palestinian clash, especially on the part of Hamas and the other faithful; and we hope it would not be on the part of any side: our people have suffered enough in the confrontation with the Zionist occupation.
No doubt, we have exerted great effort, in the past and present, to avoid any such clash, and this is highly appreciated by our people. Our premise, in Hamas, is always keenness on the national benefit of our people; even if it should be at the expense of Hamas’ private benefits.
Under all circumstances, we would remain, Allah willing, keen on the sanctity of Palestinian blood, and no matter how much the conditions might worsen, we would not be dragged into an internal Palestinian conflict. But at the same time, this does not mean surrendering to the position of the authority or of any party calling for Palestinian-Palestinian conflict. Our position is to reject such destructive policies, without falling in the trap of inter-Palestinian fighting. The guarantee to do so, after the care of Allah The Almighty, is the gathering of the majority of Palestinian masses round the resistance force, and other resistance factions. In other words, the majority of Palestinian people who side with the resistance program, and support the men and factions of resistance, will be the guarantee, after the help and care of Allah The Almighty, to prevent a state of Palestinian-Palestinian fighting.
Hamas’ position towards the political settlement project
Hamas believes that the political process, in its present form, is unacceptable. It considers that resistance is the only choice to remove the occupation from historical Palestine, and that the Palestinian territory, from the sea to the river, is an Islamic endowment; no inch of which should be compromised.
Hamas refuses to be a part of such settlement, or to take part in a government produced from that settlement. It had previously refused to take part in the 1997 legislative council elections.
After ten years of suffering, or rather, destruction because of Oslo and its ensuing calamities, we, the Hamas movement, along with the majority of Palestinian forces and the public, will never accept to return to the Oslo approach, nor to reproduce it under new titles. Some people say today that ‘Oslo has ended’, just to reassure us. It is true that Oslo may change in name, but its approach and philosophy is ongoing. Hence, we call for the abandonment of the settlement approach entirely, along with all its various names, and instead to assemble around the efficient and effective resistance program, which seeks to achieve Palestinian national objectives. A comparison between the fruit of less than two years of Al-Aqsa Intifada and the fruit of ten years of Oslo suffices to show the truth, and reveals that there is no choice for our people but the resistance program.
The violent demonstrations and confrontations launched from Gaza in 1982 C.E. were planned and organized by the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood (MB), which were given the name of the Revolution of Mosques by the mass media.
The details of this revolution go back to 1982 C.E: in the wake of the Al-Aqsa massacre, the Israeli army forces interfered only a day after the massacre and besieged Al-Aqsa Mosque and prevented those who were less than forty years of age and those living outside Al-Quds from prayer in Al-Aqsa Mosque. However, the praying men from the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Al-Muthallath and Galilee had previously spent the night in Al-Quds, expressing their disapproval of the massacre, and their willingness for sacrifice. In spite of the great number of Israeli occupation army, a huge demonstration came out, shouting ‘Allaahu Akbar’, which was beyond the control of the soldiers, who stood motionless.
On the other hand, Israeli occupation forces besieged the city of Hebron to deny access to prayer in Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi (the Sanctuary of Abraham, Hebron). Mosques in Nablus were besieged, for fear of the outburst of demonstrations after the Friday prayer.
In Gaza, the Muslim Brotherhood distributed a handout calling upon the Muslims to return to the ordinances of Allah The Almighty, and adhere to Islam to liberate Al-Aqsa from the humiliation of the Jews. The Israeli occupation forces besieged a number of mosques in the Strip, including the Mosque of Palestine in Al-Remal, Al-Masjid Al-Omari, Al-Islah Mosque in Al-Shuja’iya, the mosque of Amal district in Khan Yunis, and the mosque of Al-Shati camp. The demonstrations were launched after the prayer, with the call of ‘Allaahu Akbar’. The Zionists dispersed the demonstrations with tear gas bombs, and struck the demonstrators with batons, causing many injuries .
In Gaza, the youth of the Islamic bloc came out in a huge demonstration on October 11, 1987 C.E., where they fixed barricades in the streets, threw stones at military vehicles, and gathered inside the campus of the Islamic University of Gaza, leaving eight people injured. Those demonstrations were held in response to clashes between a group of Muslims and the Israeli armed forces in Al-Shuja’iya on October 7, 1987 C.E., where four martyrs from among the youth of the Islamic movement were killed.
The Islamic movements held many demonstrations, and called for an overall strike on many different occasions.
The Revolution of Mosques in April 1982 C.E. erupted as a result of a Jewish soldier intruding on Al-Aqsa Mosque and randomly firing at the praying Muslims. The protests and demonstrations organized by the Council of Students of the Islamic University of Gaza erupted in October 1987 C.E., led by the Palestinian MB, leaving a number of demonstrators injured. Reporting on this, Al-Bayaadir As-Siyaasi magazine wrote under the following headline: “The Islamic University is the stronghold of the Intifada.” Another issue of the same magazine talked about the incidents inside the university, saying, “The Islamists had previously won 65 percent of the votes in the elections of the Council of the Students in November 1986 C.E. The council then led the protests in the university after four persons were killed in Al-Shuja’iya during clashes with the Israeli army, resulting in tens of injuries.”
Indeed, it was a sweeping violent Intifada by Islamists on October 7, 1987 C.E., in response to the martyrdom of four Muslim youths in Al-Shuja’iya neighborhood in Gaza on October 6, 1987 C.E. The youth of the Palestinian MB in Gaza ignited violent demonstrations and confrontations.
In his book Al-Juthoor At-Taareekhiyyah Wal-Meethaaq (Historical Roots and the Charter), Dr. ‘Abdullah ‘Azzam wrote a chapter entitled: “The Zionist colonization’s position from the Islamic awakening”, a part of an article written by Shaykh Yoosuf Al-Qaradhaawi published in Al-Ba‘th Al-Islaami magazine (vol. 23, issue no. 9) in which he mentioned that Israeli newspapers wrote a great deal about the Islamic awakening, and published many declarations made by Israeli leaders about the danger of Islam and the Islamic awakening.
In an article published by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on February 12, 1979 C.E., a Jewish writer said, “What worries us is that the national foundations, on which the situations of the Arabs inside Israel were based, have started to change into religious foundations.” He added that real danger has started to threaten the stability of the Middle East and a great part of Africa, as a result of the spread of a sweeping Islamic revolution launched by Muslim extremists.
According to a famous Jewish historian specialized in the modern history of Palestine, “The mosques are always the source of calling the Arab masses to rebellion against the Jewish existence.”
The Jewish Professor Albarich said that Islam’s political and social power is capable of uniting the masses, especially in the West Bank where Muslim religious scholars endeavor to unite the Muslims against the Jews.
The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Qabas published on June 20, 1986 C.E., reporting from a foreign newspaper that: “The new awakening of Islam disturbs Israel very much. Israel knows, for certain, that in the event of failure of peace talks with Egypt, it would be the target of the Holy War of Jihaad to be waged by the increasing Islamic awakening.” It added that even in Hebrew universities in Israel, Muslim Arab students had started to grow their beards and perform acts of worship, and Muslim girls started to wear the Islamic dress code accepted by the Sharee'ah (Islamic law).
In the seventies and eighties, secret military associations and organizations were formed. In 1979 C.E., the MB founded an armed military organization in Palestine that was occupied in 1948 C.E. It carried out tens of military operations and destroyed many Israeli economic facilities in Palestine. However, it was discovered in 1980 C.E., and the Israeli occupation authorities detained more than sixty youths from among the members of that organization for intervals that reached fifteen years. Begin’s adviser for Arab Affairs Gor Arih, stated that had this movement not been discovered at the right time, surely, the security and future of Israel would have been put in danger.
The Palestinian MB in Gaza founded a new military organization in 1983 C.E., which was discovered by the Israeli occupation authorities. It was led by Shaykh Ahmed Yassin, the General Secretary of the Islamic Academy in the Strip. Shaykh Yassin was sentenced to 13 years in prison by an Israeli court. Among the charges launched by the court against Shaykh Yassin is his attempt to destroy Israel and establish an Islamic state in its place. Shaykh Yassin was released in 1985 C.E. in a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and the Popular Front.