Last updated on: 5/16/2008 5:06:00 PM PST

What Is Hamas?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The Council on Foreign Relations, in a June 14, 2006 online posting titled "Hamas" provided the following description:

"Hamas is the largest and most influential Palestinian militant movement. In January 2006, the group won the Palestinian Authority's (PA) general legislative elections, defeating Fatah, the party of the PA's president, Mahmoud Abbas, and setting the stage for a power struggle. Since attaining power, Hamas has continued its refusal to recognize the state of Israel, leading to crippling economic sanctions. Hamas maintained a cease-fire brokered in March 2005 until June 9, 2006, when it ended the truce after reports that errant Israeli shell killed several civilians on a Gaza beach. The Israeli Defense Forces later denied responsibility for the deaths.

Historically, Hamas has sponsored an extensive social service network. More notoriously, the group has also operated a terrorist wing carrying out suicide bombings and attacks using mortars and short-range rockets. The group has launched attacks both in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and inside the pre-1967 boundaries of Israel. In Arabic, the word 'hamas' means zeal. But it's also an Arabic acronym for 'Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya,' or Islamic Resistance Movement."

June 14, 2006 - Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) 

Aljazeera Magazine Online, in a Jan. 26, 2006 posting, provided the following description of the organization:

"Hamas was funded directly and indirectly during the 1970s and 1980s by various states including Saudi Arabia. The political/charitable arm of Hamas was officially registered and recognized within Israel at this time: indeed Israel supported and encouraged Hamas' early growth in an effort to undermine the secular Fatah movement. Hamas abstained from politics throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, concentrating on social issues such as exposing corruption, administration of waqf (trusts) and organizing community projects. Towards the mid-80s, however, the movement was taken over by an armed faction led by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

The acronym 'Hamas' first appeared in 1987 in a leaflet accusing Israeli intelligence services of undermining the moral fiber of Palestinian youth as part of their recruitment of 'collaborators.' The use of violence by Hamas appeared almost contemporaneously with the First Intifada, beginning with the so-called punishment of collaborators, progressing to attacks against Israeli military targets.

According to the semi-official Hamas biography 'Truth and existence,' Hamas evolved through four main stages:

1. 1967-1976: Construction of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Gaza Strip in the face of 'oppressive Israeli rule'
2. 1976-1981: Geographical expansion through participation in professional associations in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and institution building, notably al-Mujamma` al-islami, al-Jam`iyya al-islamiyya, and the Islamic University in Gaza
3. 1981-1987: Political influence through establishment of the mechanisms of action and preparation for armed struggle
4. 1987: Founding of Hamas as the combatant arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine and the launching of a continuing Jihad."

Jan. 26, 2006 - Al Jazeera Magazine Online Edition 

A United States Department of State, in its 2003 document, "Patterns of Global Terrorism, 2002, Appendix B," provided the following description of Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement):

"Formed in late 1987 as an outgrowth of the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Various Hamas elements have used both political and violent means, including terrorism, to pursue the goal of establishing an Islamic Palestinian state in place of Israel. Loosely structured, with some elements working clandestinely and others working openly through mosques and social service institutions to recruit members, raise money, organize activities, and distribute propaganda. Hamas’s strength is concentrated in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Also has engaged in peaceful political activity, such as running candidates in West Bank Chamber of Commerce elections."

2003 - Patterns of Global Terrorism - 2000 (236 KB)  
United States Department of State 

[The 1988 Hamas Covenant contains a detailed description of Hamas, in its own words.]