HAMAS in Gaza is not a national liberation movement, like the ANC or the PAC in the struggle against apartheid. South Africans should study the published charter of Hamas, available online, in order to know about this essential difference.
The word “Hamas” is the acronym in Arabic for “Islamic Resistance Movement”. Its political programme is basically the same as that of Boko Haram in Nigeria (which kidnapped 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria’s north-east province in April), al-Shabaab in Somalia and Kenya (which murdered non-Muslim shoppers but spared Muslims when it attacked a shopping mall in Nairobi in September), the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (now describing itself as the Caliphate, carrying out mass murders of Muslims from the alternative Shia branch of Islam, as well as Christians and believers of other faiths), the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, or al-Qaeda.
By comparison with the Freedom Charter and the programmes of the Black Consciousness Movement, the PAC and every other major organisation in the struggle against apartheid, Hamas’s programme is far closer to that of the secret Islamist underground organisation in South Africa which provided a house and fake passport to the British “white widow”, Samantha Lewthwaite, who lived in Johannesburg between 2008 and 2011 before escaping into the bosom of al-Shabaab in Somalia.
The programme of Hamas is global.
It seeks the dictatorship of an extreme version of one religion, Islam, across the world, under rule by Shar’ia law, to be imposed by force through jihad.
In this sense it is a totalitarian political organisation, like the Fascist party in Italy under Mussolini or the Nazi party in Germany under Hitler.
The difference is that unlike these two ruling political parties in Europe in the last century – or the dictatorship in the Soviet Union under Stalin – Hamas grounds itself entirely on a global religion founded nearly 1400 years ago in Arabia, with its founding text the Koran.
This is explained by Professor Efraim Karsh, of King’s College, University of London, in his book, Islamic Imperialism: A History. As Karsh explains, “far from being an ordinary liberation movement in search of national self-determination, Hamas has subordinated its aim of bringing about the destruction of Israel and the creation of a Palestinian state on its ruins to the wider goal of establishing Allah’s universal empire. “In doing so, it has followed in the footsteps of its Egyptian parent organisation, which viewed its violent opposition to Zionism from the 1930s and 1940s as an integral part of the Manichean struggle for the creation of a worldwide caliphate rather than as a defence of the Palestinian Arabs’ national rights.”
Karsh’s term “Manichean” here means a philosophy which sees everything in terms of an eternal struggle between two opposite powers, such as God and Satan.
Hamas’s “Egyptian parent organisation”, as Karsh describes it, is the Muslim Brothers, whose founding philosopher, Sayyid Qutb, was executed in Egypt in 1966 for plotting to assassinate president Gamal Abdel Nasser.
Hamas describes itself in article 2 of its charter as “one of the wings of the Muslim Brothers in Palestine. The Muslim Brotherhood Movement is a world organisation, the largest Islamic Movement in the modern era. It is characterised by … a complete comprehensiveness of all concepts of Islam in all domains of life.”
Like Sayyid Qutb, Hamas grounds its political programme on a verse in the Koran which states: “Fight against those who – despite having been given Scripture – do not truly believe in God and the Last Day, and do not treat as forbidden that which God and His Messenger have forbidden, and do not follow the religion of truth, till they [agree to] to pay the submission tax with a willing hand, after they have been humbled.” (Sura – or chapter – 9, At-Tawba, “Repentance”, verse 29)
The outlook here is completely different from that of the ANC, whose members in the struggle against apartheid included Christians, polytheists, atheists, Muslims, Hindus and Jews. Deceased leaders of the SACP such as Chris Hani, Moses Kotane, JB Marks, Mark Shope, Joe Slovo, Ruth First and Bram Fischer would have to be included as people who did not “truly believe in God and the Last Day”, as defined here.
There is a fundamental difference between the Hamas charter and the Freedom Charter, adopted by the ANC in 1955, which states that South Africa “belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people”. Unlike Hamas’ charter, the Freedom Charter states that “only a democratic state, based on the will of all the people, can secure to all their birthright without distinction of colour, race, sex or belief”.
In this spirit, it declares that “we, the people of South Africa, black and white together, equals, countrymen and brothers” will strive together, so that “The People Shall Govern!”
The Freedom Charter makes no claim for state power to be exercised solely by members of a single religious faith. In contrast, the sectarianism of the Hamas charter has more in common with the segregation of the apartheid regime, with the crucial difference that discrimination, oppression, lack of citizenship and second class status is dictated by Hamas on the basis of religion instead of race.
Religious/racial antagonism lies at the heart of Hamas.
In contrast to the universal spirit in which the Freedom Charter distinguished the struggle against apartheid from enmity to white people as such, Hamas in the introduction to its charter states its struggle is “against the Jews”.
It adds: “The prophet said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him! This will not apply to the Gharqad, which is a Jewish tree (cited by Bukhari and Muslim).”
This injunction to mass murder on an ethnic/religious basis is repeated again in the charter.
In Article 13, the Hamas charter makes plain its opposition to the spirit of the Freedom Charter and the constitution of South Africa, drawn up under the guiding hand of president Nelson Mandela, where it states that “[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion….”
In relation to the present war in Gaza, the issue of the jihad programme of Hamas has become acute in public statements in South Africa, especially in the recent open letter to the chief rabbi, Rabbi Warren Goldstein, by Affan Sosibo, who describes himself as belonging to the ANC Youth League in KwaZulu-Natal.
Accusing “the Jewish minority community” in South Africa – which he refers to also as “the Jewish lobby” – of “harassing our government on behalf of a foreign country”, Sosibo describes Rabbi Goldstein as a “Shylockian spin doctor”. In a poem on his blog he repeats this racist adjective (worthy of Hitler’s propagandist, Dr Joseph Goebbels) with a phrase: “the race of Shylock”.
Elsewhere on his blog he states metaphorically: “Sayid Qutb is my father”. This provides a key.
In his book, In the Shade of the Qur’an, Qutb wrote: “In modern history, the Jews have been behind every calamity that has befallen the Muslims everywhere.”
He accused Jews of being responsible themselves for the mass execution of hundreds of Jews in Medina, carried out under the authority of the Prophet Muhammad himself (according to classical Muslim scholars of the hadith). He accused Jews of responsibility even for the fatal split in Islam between Sunni and Shia which followed shortly after the prophet’s death, as well as for the conquest of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258.
In his essay, “Jihad in the Cause of God”, Qutb wrote: “The Jihaad of Islam … [is] inherent in its message from the very beginning – and not because of any threat of aggression against Islamic lands or against the Muslims residing in them. The reason for Jihaad exists in the nature of its message….
“… [The] ultimate objective of the Islamic movement of Jihaad is as a means of establishing the Divine authority within it so that it … [can then] be carried throughout the earth to the whole of mankind, as the object of this religion is all humanity and its sphere of action is the whole earth….
“Islam has a right to remove all those obstacles in its path … with no interference and opposition from political systems…
“Thus, wherever any Islamic community exists, it has a God-given right to step forward and take control of the political authority so that it may establish the Divine system on earth….”
Not to set out this argument for jihad in relation to Hamas, and discuss it, is to keep readers in ignorance, and effectively to support jihad.
It is an approach completely opposite to that of Ntsiikana in his hymn Ulo Thixo Omkhulu, with its vision: “You are the one who brings the warring herds together.”
Paul Trewhela edited MK’s underground newspaper, Freedom Fighter, during the Rivonia Trial, and was a political prisoner from 1964 to 1967. In exile he co-edited the banned journal, Searchlight South Africa