(CNSNews.com) – In a bid to shed its image as an Islamist terrorist group, Hamas on Monday launched a new political program that draws a distinction between Jews and “Zionists” as the enemy, but stopped short of recognizing Israel or renouncing violence.
“Resistance and jihad for the liberation of Palestine will remain a legitimate right, a duty and an honor for all the sons and daughters of our people and our Ummah [Islamic community],” the document declares.
“Resisting the occupation with all means and methods is a legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws and by international norms and laws. At the heart of these lies armed resistance, which is regarded as the strategic choice for protecting the principles and the rights of the Palestinian people.”
“Armed resistance” as executed by Hamas since its establishment three decades ago has taken the form of suicide bombings, shootings, stabbings and rocket attacks that have left hundreds of Israelis – and at least 15 Americans – dead
The U.S. government designated Hamas as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office dismissed the new document as a ‘smoke screen,” saying Hamas was continuing to invest its resources in preparing for war and inciting the children of the Gaza Strip to want to destroy Israel.
“The day Hamas stops digging tunnels and diverts its resources to civilian infrastructure and stop educating children to hate Israelis, that would be real change.”
Monday’s P.R. event was itself overshadowed by the consequences of the Palestinian group’s bloody record, as the venue had to be changed more than once.
Originally it was to have been held at the Hotel City Center Rotana in Doha, but on Sunday Hamas announced it had to be moved “due to circumstances beyond our control related to the old venue,” and would be held instead at the InterContinental Doha–The City hotel.
The New York-based Lawfare Project then wrote to the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), warning that by hosting a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization at one of its properties it risked violating U.S. law prohibiting the provision of “material support or resources” for terrorism.
On Monday, shortly before the event was scheduled to begin, Hamas said in a statement that “due to special circumstances, the InterContinental Hotel management has issued an apology at the last minute for being unable to host the meeting.”
The event eventually went ahead, several hours late, at the Sheraton Grand Doha Hotel. The Lawfare Project in a letter also warned the Sheraton, a brand of Marriott International, that by hosting Hamas, it and its employees “would be recklessly exposing themselves to criminal and civil liability under U.S. federal law.”
“Marriott International’s corporate headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, is squarely within the jurisdiction of the United States,” it added pointedly.
Lawfare Project director Brooke Goldstein said later Monday that the organization had not heard back directly from either IHG or Sheraton/Marriott.
She said the Lawfare Project plans to get in touch with both the Sheraton/Marriott and relevant authorities in the United States, “to enforce the law.”
Marriott International did not respond to queries by press time.
‘From the river to the sea’
Hamas was established in 1987 as the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, with a charter stating that all Muslims were duty-bound to join a jihad to destroy Israel. (Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal told Monday’s event in Doha that Hamas shares the Muslim Brotherhood ideology, but is a completely independent Palestinian organization.)
Criteria laid down by the so-called Mideast Quartet – the U.S., United Nations, European Union and Russia – for it to be viewed as a legitimate peace partner include a renunciation of violence, recognition of Israel’s right to exist, and willingness to abide by existing negotiated agreements.
The new 42-article document meets none of the three requirements: It reaffirms “armed resistance,” rejects the Oslo accords and related agreements, and states unequivocally that “there shall be no recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity.”
It also stresses that that “Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea” – i.e., the whole of Israel as well as the disputed territories.
But then – in what it evidently views as a concession – the document says Hamas accepts as a “formula for national consensus” the possibility of an independent Palestinian state along the 1967 “Green Line” borders. It makes clear that does not mean the recognition of the “Zionist entity.”
Addressing the launch, Meshaal said the group would not give up an inch of what he called Palestinian land, and would strive to “liberate” all of it.
In another apparent supposed concession, Hamas in the document identifies “Zionists,” not Jews, as the foe.
“Hamas affirms that its conflict is with the Zionist project not with the Jews because of their religion. Hamas does not wage a struggle against the Jews because they are Jewish but wages a struggle against the Zionists who occupy Palestine.”
By contrast, Hamas’ 1988 charter refers repeatedly to Jews as the enemy, and also cites an infamous hadith about Muslims killing Jews.
Despite the document’s explicit endorsement of “armed resistance” to “liberate” what it calls all of Palestine, and its insistence that “there is no alternative to a fully sovereign Palestinian State on the entire national Palestinian soil,” some media outlets (including the Wall Street Journal, Reuters and UPI) reported that Hamas had dropped its calls for Israel’s destruction.
“Until Hamas recognizes Israel’s right to exist, its words are meaningless,” House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said in response to the document.
“I will see to it that Hamas remains designated a terrorist organization as long as it continues to launch rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, remains an Iranian proxy, and engages in other acts that threaten the U.S. and Israel.”