What Is Hamas's Strategy?

  October 10, 2021   Read time 3 min
What Is Hamas's Strategy?
To confirm its move out of the realm of far-fetched dreams, Hamas started to advocate more achievable goals in both the short and medium term. It not only sought immediate relief and benefits for Palestinians on the ground now, it pursued goals that could be comprehended by regional and international audiences.

Minimizing the religious in its use of language, Hamas’s discourse has became more aware, embracing legal jargon and basing itself on the norms of international law. Yet Hamas still struggles to keep alive the principle of the ‘liberation of Palestine’ as a whole, in the mildest way possible, within the context of the immediate challenges faced by the movement and Palestinians at large. In the few years after the first intifada Hamas developed its strategy considerably from the initial raw statements mentioned in its charter. In 1993 it issued an ‘Introductory Memorandum’. Under the heading ‘The Movement’s Strategy’, it read:

Hamas constructs its strategy for confronting the Zionist occupation as follows: The Palestinian people, being the primary target of the occupation, bear the larger part of the burden in resisting it. Hamas, therefore, works to mobilize the energies of these people and to direct them toward steadfastness. The field of engagement with the enemy is Palestine, Arab and Islamic lands being fields of aid and support to our people, especially those lands that have been enriched with the pure blood of [Islamic] martyrs throughout the ages. Confronting and resisting the enemy in Palestine must be continuous until victory and liberation. Holy struggle in the name of God as our guide, and fighting and inflicting harm on enemy troops and their instruments rank at the top of our means of resistance. Political activity, in our view, is one means of holy struggle against the Zionist enemy and aims to buttress the struggle and steadfastness of our people and to mobilize its energies and that of our Arab Islamic nation to render our cause victorious.

In this strategy Hamas confirms the ‘boundaries’ of the armed conflict, stating clearly that it wishes to undertake no military steps outside Palestine: ‘the field of engagement with the enemy is Palestine’. Hamas reiterates this conviction in its strategy to assure the outside world that attacking any western or even Israeli targets outside Palestine is not on the agenda of the movement.

It is worth mentioning that these guidelines were outlined 13 years before Hamas came to power and took control of the Palestinian Authority in January 2006. These broad proclamations of Hamas’s strategy were drawn with very little expectation, if any, of where political and military developments concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would lead the Palestinians. Surely it was beyond the imagination of the people who drafted the above strategy that Hamas would one day be allowed to win free and fair democratic elections to control a limited self-rule authority created according to peace agreements between Hamas’s rivals and Israel.

This new situation has brought the cornerstone of Hamas’s strategy – ‘military resistance’ to the Israeli occupation – under close scrutiny. In taking over a government of besieged and weakened authority, Hamas was overwhelmed by the numerous issues relating to the daily living of Palestinians. Any thought of military resistance appeared for a while to be a luxury that the movement could not afford. As was noted above, Hamas had pragmatically recognized earlier that the immediate welfare of the besieged Palestinian people was as important as any more long-term ideological ideals. It has managed to save face as the party of resistance by adopting the standard line that ‘political activity … is itself one of the means of struggle’, a line echoed in the statement often made by its leaders that military resistance is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. Thus, being consumed in government undertakings and serving the Palestinian people on a daily basis can easily be linked to the broad parameters of resistance.