Hamas moves to soften charter

Hamas moves to soften charter

Group aims to mend fences with Egyptian President Al Sissi, who considers Hamas an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood

Gaza: Hamas, the militant Palestinian movement that controls the Gaza Strip, may seek to project a more moderate image when its revised ideological charter is released.

The Islamist movement is aiming to mend fences with Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi, who considers Hamas an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood, and to repair a split with Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas by accepting a temporary territorial compromise in the West Bank, veteran Hamas figures and political analysts said.

The group also is seeking to improve its international standing by removing material from its 1988 charter, including references to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion — a czarist-era forgery that portrayed Jews as seeking world domination — and descriptions of Jews as implacable enemies of Islam.

Indications of the planned revisions come from a report by Al Mayadeen, a pro-Iranian channel in Lebanon that says it received a leaked copy of the document, and from Israeli media.

But any expectation of a softening toward Israel is misguided, Gaza-based political analyst Akram Atallah said.

“This would keep the door open for a long-term truce or at least halting hostile actions between the two sides,” but doesn’t mean Hamas accepts Israel’s right to exist, Atallah said.

“The Hamas movement’s political program is for liberation in stages, and doesn’t give Israel the right to be on the other part of historic Palestine.”

While Hamas rules in Gaza, the sliver of coastal territory and its population of 1.8 million are fenced in by Israel and Egypt and its leaders are treated as pariahs in the West.

Since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Israel has launched three brutal offensives on Gaza.

Gaza has been propped up by international donations funnelled through the Palestinian National Authority, but unemployment hovers around 40 per cent and the World Bank consistently warns the economy is on the verge of collapse.

Khalid Mesha’al, Hamas’s political leader, had been planning to unveil the new charter when he steps down — expected to happen later this year — but has postponed the presentation because of the leak, said Ahmad Yousuf, a former Hamas leader who runs the Dar Al Hikma think tank in Gaza.

Hamas’s current charter describes the group as part of the Muslim Brotherhood. Any attempt to curry favour with Egypt’s Al Sissi, who has made clear his antipathy for the brotherhood and its offshoots, is likely to fall flat, analysts said.

“It’s almost impossible for me to imagine the Al Sissi government response to a symbolic gesture being anything other than a symbolic gesture,” said Crispin Hawes, London-based managing director of the research firm Teneo Intelligence. Revising the charter is a “gesture that does very little to affect the reality of the difficulties the organisation faces.”

The text described by Al Mayadeen shows a willingness to accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, territories Israel captured and occupied in the 1967 Middle East war. That has been the basis for US-backed peace talks dating back to 2002.

But the changes fall short of benchmarks set by the US and other peace brokers for Hamas to be accepted as a legitimate political movement, said Mukheimer Abu Sada, a political scientist at Al Azhar University in Gaza. These include renouncing violence, recognising Israel and accepting past accords that the Palestinians have signed with the Jewish regime.

The new document also indicates Hamas’s violent approach won’t change.

“Resisting the occupation is a legal right and the armed resistance is a strategic choice,” it says.