Why They Fight: Hamas’ Too Little-Known Fascist Charter by Jeffrey Herf.
Given all the ink spilled about the current Gaza war, and the innumerable tragic photos, it’s strange that the Western press hasn’t inquired into why one of the parties is fighting. That would be Hamas, of course; the turgid psychologizing about Israel’s motives is quite familiar. But what about its Islamist enemy, penned up in a barren territory from which it launches rockets and digs tunnels under Israeli kibbutzim and kindergartens? For what was all that concrete poured, into the ground as part of the offensive, instead of above ground as the foundation of schools, factories, and homes?
It’s not exactly hard to find out. Hamas published a “Covenant” of 36 articles on August 18, 1988, that details its aims and ideology precisely. Its philosophy is rooted in the totalitarianism and radical anti-Semitism that has undergirded Islamism since its rise in the 1930s and 1940s. Far from moderating its core ideology, Hamas’ seizure of power in 2007 gave it the opportunity to make policy based on its guiding goal—namely, the destruction the state of Israel.1 But even though the Covenant is the declaration of intent of a group now governing millions of people, it goes unnoticed by reporters, editors, and pundits who race to comment on Hamas’ war with Israel.
There is no reason for this ignorance. The briefest Google search brings one to an English translation of the Covenant, provided by the Avalon Project of the Yale Law School over a decade ago. Hamas has not revised or modified its Covenant in all that time. The public statements of its leaders and its continued terror offensive against Israel are clear evidence that Hamas in 2014 remains inspired by the ideas expressed in founding text. This should be every policy maker’s, and every journalist’s, first stop in their efforts to understand Hamas. And it is of utmost importance that they read the text itself, as any student of literature will tell you. There is no substitute; to understand a person one must read him in his own words, noting everything from the cadence and syntax to the allusions to key figures of his ideological tradition. The Gaza war will be incomprehensible to anyone who refuses to take Hamas at its word—these words.