The Rise of Hamas: Origins and Overthrow

Author’s note: This is the first in a series of articles that address the war between Israel and Hamas, which started in 2023 and continues at the time of publication. War is a tragic event, causing significant harm to all parties affected by it. This war is no exception. Accurate journalism requires engaging with messy topics. As such, this series will contain descriptions – some graphic – of death, sexual assault and violence, including such acts against children. Reader discretion is strongly advised.

Content warning: This article contains descriptions of violence and mentions of anti-Semitism.

Origins
This is the second article published in The Monitor about the Israel-Hamas war (2023-present). The first was written by Alee Dickey and is available on The Hilltop Monitor’s website or in last semester’s Issue 7 print edition. Dickey does an excellent job of explaining Israel’s rise to statehood. It does not, however, address the rise of Hamas – the other main agent in this conflict. This article will examine the rise of Hamas and its involvement in Palestine.

Maps are critical to understanding this conflict, and this article would not be complete without one. The Monitor has created such a map for this article. For the cartography connoisseurs who are not satisfied with just one map, here are multiple other maps from other news outlets on the subject.

A map of Israel and adjacent territories by NordNordWest on Wikimedia Commons labeled by The Monitor with current information from the U.S. Department of State and the United Nations Office of Human Rites; created on Feb. 8, 2024. (The Hilltop Monitor)

Jewish involvement in Palestine dates from between eighty to three thousand years ago. We have to start somewhere, though, so the scope of this article begins in 1967  with UN Security Council Resolution 242. The resolution came out of the Six-Day War between Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Syria. The details of the Six-Day War are beyond the scope of this article. In practice, the resolution demanded “termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force”. In part, if this resolution had been adopted, each state in the region would have maintained its recognized borders at that time. UNSCR 242 did not include a specific list of states, but the UN’s website implies that Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Israel would have been included.

This resolution was not legally binding, however. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), then the recognized government of Palestine, initially rejected Resolution 242. According to the PLO, Resolution 242 implied Israel’s “sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence,” which the PLO would not accept.

Later, though, the PLO became more open to input from the international community. In 1988, the PLO began talks with the US government shortly after the start of the First Intifada. Intifada is an Arabic word that literally means “shaking off [Israeli invasion],” although the term can also be used to generally refer to revolutions or revolts. Around this time a group now known by an acronym, Hamas (short for Ḥarakat al-Muqāwamah al-Islāmiyyah, which translates to English as “Islamic Resistance Movement), split from the PLO. In 1993, the PLO signed the Oslo Accords, which, among other things, called for a two-state solution via “arrangements for a smooth and peaceful transfer of authority from the Israeli military government and its Civil Administration to the [PLO].” 

Overthrow
Hamas is not solely a military organization, as it has political aims and represents “one of the Palestinian territories’ two major political parties.” Given its Islamist origins, Hamas rejected the PLO’s vision of a secular state, claiming in its original manifesto that “we are unable to exchange the present or future Islamic Palestine with the secular idea.” Hamas called for the destruction of Israel as a state: “Our struggle against the Jews [will continue],” reads their 1988 manifesto, “until the enemy is vanquished and Allah’s victory is realised.” This anti-Semitic slant has caused multiple countries and regional entities to designate Hamas as a terrorist organization, including the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union.

Hamas updated its manifesto in 2017, stating that “its conflict is with the Zionist project not with the Jews because of their religion. Hamas does not wage a struggle against the Jews because they are Jewish but wages a struggle against the Zionists who occupy Palestine.” Hamas does not define Zionism in this manifesto, however.

In 2006, Hamas won a majority of seats in parliamentary elections. On June 15, 2007, Hamas took complete control of Gaza with violence and by force. Hamas representatives announced via radio that “the past era has ended and will not return… The era of justice and Islamic rule have arrived.” Hamas has ruled in the Gaza Strip and West Bank ever since. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “Palestinians have not voted for a legislature since 2006, nor a president since 2008.” For comparison, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was elected to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in 2009. He has been the Prime Minister from 2009-2021, and then again from 2022-present.

As of the time of writing, Israel has only declared war on Hamas. However, another entity must be understood for a full picture of the conflict: Lebanon-based Hezbollah, which backs Hamas.

Hezbollah claims direct involvement in the conflict: its leader, Syed Hassan Nasrallah, claimed in a Nov. 3, 2023 speech that “[t]he Islamic resistance in Lebanon started operation the very next day” after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Nasrallah further described the Oct. 7 attack as “a big event to shake this oppressive … occupying, usurping Zionist regime and its supporters in Washington and London.” Hamas has not explicitly accepted or rejected this labeling, though.

Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Israeli government represent the major players in this conflict.

Goals
Each side of the conflict has stated goals, which are briefly explained here.

Hamas, according to its 2017 manifesto, “believes that no part of the land of Palestine shall be compromised or conceded, irrespective of the causes, the circumstances and the pressures and no matter how long the occupation lasts. Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea.” It is willing to consider the 1967 borders as a possibility, though it rejects Israel as a state. Its stated goals involve destruction of the state of Israel, which it labels as “the Zionist project” and thus as an occupying power.

Israel’s goals are threefold. Israeli ministers have spoken about the war as a three-stage operation. The first stage – invading Gaza – has been ongoing since the Hamas attack on Israel in Oct. 2023 that killed approximately 1,200 people. According to AP reporting and the Gaza Health Ministry, as of Feb. 5, 2024, the Palestinian death toll as a result of the ongoing war is 27,478 people. 

Israel’s second stage, according to Netanyahu, is “to destroy Hamas’s governing and military capabilities and to bring the hostages home,” referring to the more than 200 hostages Hamas took in its initial attacks. More information about the hostages Hamas took will be published in part two of this series.

Israel also seeks to maintain security in Gaza. According to Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defense minister, “The third step [of the invasion] will be the creation of a new security regime in the Gaza Strip, the removal of Israel’s responsibility for day-to-day life in the Gaza Strip, and the creation of a new security reality for the citizens of Israel and the residents of the [area surrounding Gaza].” Gallant did not provide further details as to what this “security reality” meant.

Iran-backed Hezbollah supports Hamas. Its role in this conflict would likely be as a spoiler. Hezbollah has little involvement in this war so far, but its strategic location – to Israel’s north – would force Israel to fight on two fronts if Hezbollah were to invade.

This article serves as background for the Israel-Hamas war. In this series of articles, I will address the initial attacks, war crimes committed by both parties and the path to a sustainable peace. 

If there is something in this conflict you believe needs featuring or would like Mr. Naber to write about, please contact the Hilltop Monitor’s email address. He will respond to comments as he is able.

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