What is Hamas?:
- Hamas is a fundamentalist Islamic organization that wants to establish an Islamic state on what it considers "historic Palestine," which includes modern-day Israel.
- Hamas' military wing is responsible for the majority of terrorist attacks against Israel since the signing of the Declaration of Principles in 1993.
- Hamas' political wing provides welfare and social services to the Palestinian poor. The organization also builds schools and hospitals, and it develops social and religious projects.
What is the meaning of "Hamas"?: "Hamas", Arabic acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement, means enthusiasm, fire, zeal, fanaticism.
What is the Hamas Raison E'etre?: Sheikh Ahmed Yassin founded Hamas in 1987, just after the first Palestinian uprising (Intifada) began. Abdel Aziz Rantisi, the co-founder of Hamas, said the goal of Hamas is "to remove Israel from the map." The Hamas emblem shows two crossed swords, the Dome of the Rock, and a map of Palestine which includes present-day Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Why is Hamas important?: In the Palestinian general elections of January 2006, sponsored by the Bush administration, Hamas achieved a landslide victory. In its first-ever run for Parliament, Hamas won 76 of the 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council. Fatah won 43 seats, and independent lists took the other 13. Thus, Hamas was empowered by the Palestinian people in a democratic vote to form today's Palestinian government.
Why did Palestinians vote for Hamas?: Fatah, the political group founded by Yasser Arafat and most recently led by Mahmoud Abbas, has dominated Palestinian politics for decades. Fatah has been plagued by corruption. At the same time, Fatah has not achieved peace with Israel or improved conditions for the Palestinians. Palestinians were looking for an alternative to Fatah.
What does Israel think of Hamas?: The official charter of Hamas calls for Israel's destruction. It opposes a U.S.-backed two-state solution because it refuses to recognize the right of the state of Israel to exist at all. Hamas has been responsible for the majority of terrorist attacks against Israel. Israel assassinated Hamas leaders Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi in airstrikes. Israel sees Hamas as a terrorist organization.
What does the United States think of Hamas?: The United States, as well as the European Union, list Hamas as a terrorist organization.
Negative Outlook: Hamas is a fundamentalist Islamic organization. The organization's opposition to Israel's existence in the Middle East is based on religious ideals, and thus more entrenched than that of its predecessor Fatah.
Positive Outlook: Some say Hamas-in-power will have to be more moderate than Hamas-in-opposition. An organization that needs to focus on creating jobs will be distracted from making suicide bombs. If, however, there is no turn to moderation, then Israel can focus on unilateral actions - like building the security fence - without encountering international condemnation.