It was summer 1988. The first “intifada,” or uprising, had erupted in the winter, leading to the emergence of Hamas. We were sitting in a cramped office in the Islamic University in Gaza City, the nerve center of Hamas. With us were two of the founders of Hamas – Mahmoud Zahar, a physician, and Atef al-Adwan, a professor at the university.
Hamas was a whole new concept for fighting Israel. The PLO, Israel’s prototype enemy for decades, paled in comparison. A quick read through the Hamas charter revealed deep hatred for Israel, Jews, and Zionism from an Islamic religious point of view that made the PLO’s political hatred look like the mere barking of a junkyard dog.
They explained to me why there must be no Jewish state in the Mideast. The Koran said the whole area is Islamic. Period. Jews (like me) who came from somewhere else must go home.
In kindergartens and schools Hamas set up in Gaza, children were taught to see the world through the blinders of the operative verses of the Koran: Israelis were non-believers and usurpers who must be fought and killed. Jihad was the only way.
The charter is not an old, dusty document written by an idealistic founding generation. Most of the people who wrote it are still around. The charter guides them because it sums up their core beliefs.
But they are patient. The deepest-held beliefs of Hamas dictate Israel’s destruction. It’s just a matter of timing.