In a globally-reported PR exercise this week, Hamas launched a so-called “new charter” which claims the Gaza-based terror organisation accepts a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders, no longer “wages a struggle against the Jews because they are Jewish”, and is now independent from the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.
In response, many Western media organisations reported that the statement shows Hamas is evolving into a more “moderate” organisation.
However, by its own admission, Hamas’s founding charter — which calls on Muslims to kill all Jews and for the “obliteration” of Israel — has not been replaced by the new document and is still in effect.
This was omitted by several major news organisations, including the BBC. A report on Radio 4’s Today programme said: “Hamas has adopted a more moderate position on several key policy areas… it says its hostility to Israel is not the result of antisemitism.”
A news report by Reuters called the document a “policy shift” and Sky News said the “Palestinian Islamist group has dropped calls for the country’s destruction”.
A Wall Street Journal report said Hamas “formally accepts notion of a Palestinian state in territories Israel captured in 1967”.
Article 19 of the new document, however, makes clear that Hamas has no intention of giving up its aim of “taking back” all of current-day Israel, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean coast. It reads: “Hamas refuses any alternative which is not the whole liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea.”
The document also confirms that Hamas is not renouncing violence or giving up the “armed struggle” against Israel.
The “new charter” is widely seen in Israel and sections of the Arab world as an exercise in rebranding to shore up political support for Hamas at home and abroad.
Funds flowing to Hamas from its main backers, Iran, Turkey and Qatar, are at an all-time low. Gaza continues to suffer from chronic water and electricity shortages and other global events, such as the war in Syria, have drawn attention away from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Rather than a rejection of the fundamentalist values that underpin Hamas, the new document is an attempt to win friends, cash and positive publicity in the West.