It’s widely known that Hamas have been designated a terrorist organisation by the UK and US governments. But what’s their motivation? Why do they target innocent people? Dr James Patrick says the answer can be found in Hamas’ own statements

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The trauma inflicted by hand in Israel and by bombs in Gaza naturally stirs sorrow in us.

Scripture tells us to “Weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15), and Jesus modelled this for us. He wept with the grieving sisters of his friend Lazarus, but also as he looked ahead to the terrible destruction the Romans would wreak upon Jerusalem (John 11:35; Luke 19:41-44; 23:27-31). He wept over the inevitable suffering incurred by the city’s leaders who chose to be his enemies.

Since they were elected in 2007, Hamas has taken the millions of euros given in aid to their people, and spent it not on food but on weapons and palatial homes in the prestigious Rimal neighbourhood of Gaza. 

Even worse, Hamas has remade Gaza into a giant human shield. It deliberately stores weapons caches beneath UNRWA schools and mosques, transports them in ambulances, and fires rockets at Israeli villages from rooftops of civilian apartment blocks, so that Israel’s necessary counter-attacks will appear inexcusable. In fact, Israel cares more for the Palestinian people than their own leaders do, warning them by text message and other means to get out of harm’s way, every time a strike is planned.

The ultimate conflict rages over which ‘God’ reigns over Jerusalem

But why does Hamas hate Israel so much? Israeli villages near Gaza witnessed their extreme brutality and inhumanity inflicted on babies and mothers, festival-goers and elderly women waiting at bus stops, not to mention the torture of hostages. Is all of this a natural reaction to their (great-)grandparents losing their homes during Israel’s war of independence 75 years ago? Or perhaps to being strait-jacketed inside Gaza for 17 years, in what has been called the world’s largest open-air prison?

Hamas’ Head of Political and International Relations, Dr Basem Naim, told Sky News this week, “We didn’t kill any civilians.” He justified this bizarre denial by redefining all occupants of the villages and towns around Gaza, young and old alike, as “settlers” guilty of “occupation” and of “humiliation and insulting Muslims around the world” by entering Muslim holy places. He said that their attack was on behalf of Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem (whose greatest mosque is Al-Aqsa), which explains why they proudly named it ‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’. All of these details point unmistakably to religious motives, to a spiritual root of this conflict.

Hamas is a branch of the infamous Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Islamist movement that has imposed strict sharia law and education throughout Gaza during its 16 years in power. Its official charter defines its goal as “to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine” (Article 6) by “obliterating” Israel (Preamble).

Fully in accord with conservative Islamic theology, Article 11 explains that “the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf [holy possession] consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgement Day. No one [ie moderate Palestinian leaders] can renounce it or any part, or abandon it or any part of it.” Thus all two-state negotiation is futile and contrary to this view of Islam, because “There is no solution for the Palestinian problem except through Jihad” (Article 13). Explaining what this entails, their charter quotes a widespread Hadith attributed to Muhammed: “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight Jews and kill them. When the Jew will hide behind rocks and trees, the rocks and trees will cry out: ’O Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him’” (Article 7).

In essence, this theology divides the world into ‘Dar al-Islam’ (Muslim territory) and ‘Dar al-Harb’ (literally, territory of war). Once a territory is conquered by Islam, it cannot revert. So Israel’s existence will never be acceptable. Instead, every Jew must be expelled or subjugated to Muslim rule, which is “an individual duty for every Muslim” (Hamas Charter, Article 14).

This vicious attack was designed to terrorise Jewish Israelis, and mobilise all Muslims in the land to rise up in wholesale ethnic cleansing.

The ultimate conflict rages over which ‘God’ reigns over Jerusalem, enthroned on the ‘Temple Mount’ or ‘Al-Aqsa’ respectively.

Neither the Jewish nor the Muslim attachment to the land can be severed theologically, either by politics or by war, however brutal and devastating. If so, the only hope for peace is the message of the Jewish Messiah, the weeping King of Jerusalem (Matthew 5:35), whose self-sacrificial leadership will break down every dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14-18) and heal the land.