A Q&A Primer on Hamas – Part 6

A Q&A Primer on Hamas – Part 6

This is the sixth in a series of daily posts for one week on the following topics:

  1. What is Hamas?
  2. Why does Hamas think it will win?
  3. Who supports Hamas?
  4. Who are the Palestinians?
  5. What is the occupation?
  6. Is antisemitism part of the problem? – This is today’s post.
  7. What are the rules of war?
  8. Some concluding thoughts about the future.

If you were forwarded this from someone else, click on this linkA Q & A Primer on Hamas to take you to Part 1 of the 8-part series. There you will see a blue “Subscribe” button on the top right of the page. Click the button and you can add your email address, so that you will receive all of the daily posts in the series. 

Part 6 Is antisemitism part of the problem?

Is Hamas anti-semitic, or just anti-Israel? If anti-semitic, where does that come from?

Hamas’s ideology has been nourished by Islamic anti-Jewish teachings. For example, its Charter quotes a saying attributed to Muhammad which states that in the end-times, even stones and trees will cry out. saying “O Slave of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him”. There are also many verses in the Qur’an which speak disparagingly of Jews and incite contempt for them, attributing base characteristics to them.

In a 2002 article, Islamic Antisemitism Drives the Arab-Israel Conflict, I identified several qur’anic antisemitic stereotypes and argued that these ideas drive the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. During the 2021 Gaza War, Muslim antisemitic utterances made extensive use of quotes from the Qur’an and the Sunna. Here is an excerpt from that article:

“Take, for example, the gloating by an Egyptian scholar that “the faces of the Jews will be disfigured from what the Muslims will do to them”—a reference to Sura 4:47: “You who have been given the Book! Believe in what we have sent down … before we obliterate faces.” Or the assertion by the mother of a prominent slain Hamas terrorist that “the Jews slayed the prophets of Allah with one hand, and they distorted their sacred books with their other hand.” Known as tahrif, the claim that the Jews corrupted their scriptures is based on several Qur’anic passages, notably Sura 2:75: “A group of them has already heard the word of God, [and] then altered it after they had understood it—and they know [they have done this].” And a Canadian imam claimed that “animosity of the believers towards the Jew is based on religious grounds,” invoking Qur’anic verses (e.g., Suras 2:27, 5:64, 2:61) to argue that the Jews disbelieve in God, reject and deny the prophets, and act unjustly.”

My conclusion was that:

“To look at the Jews through the frame of the Qur’an is to see them as contemptible, weak, cowardly-yet-warmongering, treacherous losers. This stereotype offers a very poor basis indeed for Muslims to engage in a lasting quest for peace with the Jewish state.”

In addition to the rich vein of Islamic canonical sources which promote antisemitism, Hamas has also been influenced by the antisemitism of Christian nations. For example, the Hamas Charter speaks of Jews as controlling the world, its financial systems and the media. This idea is taken from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a hateful tract originally published in Russia.

In the Hamas Charter, such conspiracy theories are woven in with quranic stereotypes. For example the Hamas Charter transitions from saying that Jews rule the world to asserting that “There is no war going on anywhere without having their finger in it”. This echos the Qur’an: “We have cast enmity and hatred among them until the day of Resurrection. Whenever they light the fire of war, God extinguishes it. But they strive (to) foment corruption on the earth.” (Surah 5:54). Hamas, in its animosity to Israel, looks to the Qur’an to construct an image of Jews, and it also draws from the bitter wells of European antisemitism.

So are Hamas’ goals limited to Israel?

Antisemitism is part of the problem, but the problem doesn’t end with the Jews.

Hamas’ goals are broader than just Israel in two senses. One is that Hamas’ primary motivation is to establish an Islamic system in Palestine: the same goals the Taliban has for Afghanistan and ISIS had for Iraq and Syria.

At the same time, the ideology which drives Hamas will not be satisfied with the conquest of Israel, for Hamas keeps one eye on the caliphate. This is why, from time to time its preachers call for a day to come when Islam will “liberate” Rome, Europe and America.

Such statements have a long history (see here from some instances). For example, in December 2022 Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahar declared that “we are not liberating our land alone. … The entire 510 million square kilometers of planet Earth will come under (a system) where this is no injustice, no oppression, no treachery, no Zionism, no treacherous Christianity.” He is preaching about the global caliphate with Christianity and Judaism eradicated. Likewise, in 2006 the then head of Hamas, Khaled Mash’al preached a sermon in Damascus in which he declared that the nation of Islam will rule the world. These grandiose sentiments should serve as a warning to the whole world.

What does ‘After Saturday comes Sunday’ mean?

There is another sense in which Hamas’ goals will not end with the Jews: a ‘Free, Free Palestine’ ruled by Hamas would result in great devastation for Palestinian Christians. ‘After Saturday comes Sunday’ is an Arabic saying, well known in the Middle East, which implies that Jews will be dealt with first, and Christians later. In reality whenever war breaks out in Islamic contexts, local (indigenous) Christians always suffer greatly (see Elizabeth’ Kendal’s book, which explains why).


Tomorrow’s installment will address the question: What about the rules of war?

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