In coming days Hamas is set to officially release its new charter at a press conference with the out-going head of the group’s political bureau, Khaled Meshaal, at the podium. But the response to the charter has already begun as the charter’s 41 points went viral when the Lebanese channel al-Mayadeen published a leaked draft. Palestinian commentators say Hamas badly needs to rebrand itself as moderate and pragmatic. To do this the group needs an improved political program to meet the thorny challenges Palestinians face in Gaza and concrete answers to many of the controversial questions that are frequently asked of Hamas operatives and adherents.
An Najah National University professor Raed Nairat said that Hamas hopes to alleviate regional isolation and open new doors with the West and other neighboring Arab countries by using more flexible rhetoric and a softer lexicon in order to initiate dialogues with parties previously hostile toward Hamas.
“The new document plays down the relations with the Hamas parent base, the Muslim Brotherhood, in an attempt to detach itself from this organization that is in hot water after the dramatic changes in Egypt and Tunisia, and the obvious hatred of the oil-rich Arab Emirates,” Nairat added. “Hamas looks forward to trying new ways to mend relations with Egypt and the Gulf States since they can assist Hamas to confront its grave and stubborn crisis in the Gaza Strip where Hamas rules.”
Nairat noted that Hamas’ new document reflects its accumulated political experiment and maturation. It has adapted to work out the difficult situations that the group has faced in the last decade. He went on to point out that Hamas can expand its connections with the international community even when it is still unclear whether the new charter is going to draw the international community’s interest or not.
Charter drops anti-Semitic language
Significantly, the charter drops phrasing that has been repeatedly referenced in attacks of and incitement against Hamas as an anti-Semitic group. The document makes no mention to Jewish people as “criminals” or “enemies” and typically limits the conflict to “Zionists” and the Israeli occupiers who stole Palestinian land and expelled indigenous people.
In February Osama Hamdan, senior Hamas leader based in Lebanon said the change was forthcoming in an interview with Mehdi Hassan on Al Jazeera’s “Up Front.” On the program he said the document would state that Hamas has no conflict with the Jewish people or their religion and beliefs; the conflict is with those who have occupied Palestinian land and committed heinous crimes against the Palestinian people.
It is noteworthy that the previous charter published in 1988 said Jews “slew the prophets,” were responsible for World War I and World War II, and were propped up by both the “Capitalist West and Communist East.”
The charter also limited the conflict from its long-standing religious dimension to political parameters.On many platforms, Hamas leaders have reiterated the new stance, the notion that Hamas has no conflict with the Jewish religion. The shift is essential for Hamas at this phase. It makes the group more likely to move forward in attempts to start dialogues with the Western governments.
Recognition of Palestinian women and Christians
In the internal arena, the new charter seems to provide Palestinian woman with a higher ranking, hailing their shared commitment to the Palestinian struggle and commendable sacrifices in the long route to liberation.
In a time when many of Islamic movements are accused of being reactionary and backward in terms of women’s empowerment and women’s rights, Hamas is urged to take the lead and offer the Palestinian women opportunities and special privileges, to where they can contribute more constructively and have leadership positions within their communities.
In addition, Hamas does not overlook religious minorities inside of Palestine, including the recognition of Christian holy sites, which deserve to be defended. Maintaining and reordering the internal Palestinian house is a key element of Hamas new recipe to tackle its mounting troubles whether they are social, financial, or diplomatic.
Recognizing a Palestinian state on 1967 lines?
The document includes for the first time Hamas recognition for the establishment of a Palestinian state on 1967 borders, and it does so without suggesting or recognizing the state of Israel or abandoning its ties to historical Palestinian land.
Ibrahim al-Madhoun a political commentator based in Gaza with close ties to Hamas told Mondoweiss that such an unprecedented move by Hamas strongly suggests the group’s relative flexibility when it comes to negotiations and other diplomatic methods to end the conflict. Hamas will never rule out armed resistance to fight the Israeli occupation, but that does not mean that the movement will totally refuse to discuss any political approaches or indirect negotiations with the Israeli government.
The charter also tackles Hamas’ relations with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and reflects Hamas’ intentions to become part of the organization. It is an attempt to mend the split with the West Bank government and genuinely expresses a desire to be part of the Palestinian identity, where more and more political and ideological allegiances and represented.
Yahia Moussa, a Hamas legislator in the Gaza Strip, told Mondoweiss that his group will never oppose any serious Palestinian effort to achieve unity between Hamas and Fatah and establish an independent and unified Palestinian state on 1967 lines. But Mousa also confirmed that Hamas will not stick solely to a negotiations process to reach a final agreement to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the way that its rival, the Fatah movement, did when it formally renounced armed resistance.
On the expected impact of Hamas’ political charter, Moussa said it will be seen internally. He expects the document is addressed to the Palestinian people and not to leaders in the Arab world, or international governments.
“We are talking to our people in this document, we do not expect this charter to achieve breakthroughs in our relations with Arab regimes that are influenced by American hegemony,” Moussa added. “We look forward to helping our people escape the current standstill and restore Palestinian rights as soon as possible.”