“We are a national resistance movement, not a terrorist organization. We have the right to resist the occupation.”
In the same vein that Hamasniks claim that the al-Qassam Brigades do not necessarily reflect the ideology and beliefs of the organisation as a whole, apologists for the Muslim Brotherhood, wishing to ‘decontaminate’ the Islamist brand by disassociating it from terrorism and the espousal of violence, claim that Hamas is not part of the Global Brotherhood.
However, the facts prove otherwise: Hamas is part of the Global Muslim Brotherhood network. It was founded by Muslim Brothers (Sheikh Ahmed Yasin, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi and Mohammad Taha), and it was Yasin’s Islamic Centre organisation (itself a Muslim Brotherhood-front – see p.16) that laid the foundations for the movement he eventually established in 1987, at the time of the first Palestinian Intifada, with the help of Brotherhood cash. Furthermore, Yasin, revered as Hamas’ spiritual leader to this day, was the leader of the Muslim brotherhood in the Gaza Strip.
Article 2 of the Hamas charter states that:
The Islamic Resistance Movement [Hamas] is one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.
Article 8 provides the Hamas movement’s slogan:
Allah is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Koran its constitution: Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes.
This is the same motto as that of the Muslim Brotherhood (الله غايتنا والرسول قدوتنا، والقرآن دستورنا، والجهاد سبيلنا، والموت في سبيل الله أسمى أمانينا) [see Mitchell’s The Society of the Muslim Brothers – p.193-4].
According to Robert Satloff, Hamas was originally conceived ‘in order to provide a vehicle for the MB’s participation in the violent confrontation against Israel without exposing the Brotherhood and its wide network of social welfare and religious institutions to Israeli retaliation.’ This provided the Brothers with a convenient outlet for their hatred of Israel and a ready-made testing bed for their vision of an Islamic State. Indeed, without this antipathy to the Israeli state, as Satloff puts it, Hamas would have no reason to exist and ‘would simply revert to being the Muslim Brotherhood [in Palestine]’.
The MB plays an important role in Hamas’ geopolitics, directing, not just providing support for, the Islamic Movement’s domestic and foreign policies:
Hamas has three circles of leadership. The first circle consists of local leaders inside the West Bank and Gaza. The most famous of these – Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abdul Aziz Rantisi – were killed by Israel in recent years; their place has been filled by others, such as Mahmoud al-Zahar and Ismail Haniyeh. The second circle includes Hamas’s external leadership, a “political bureau” that includes Khaled Mashal and Mousa Abu Marzouk. The third circle consists of the international leadership of the global Muslim Brotherhood movement, which includes respected Brotherhood figures such as Muhammad Akef, head of the Egyptian MB, and Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Qatari-based Muslim scholar cum television star. These three circles each have different spheres of responsibility. Considerable evidence indicates that both the insiders and the outsiders play a central role in the determination of Hamas strategy on terrorist operations against Israel and the solicitation and disbursement of funds for that purpose. In other arenas, the inner circle is more responsive to the daily concerns of Palestinian life and builds up Hamas’s political standing in the territories through its fight against corruption and its support of social welfare activities; the outer circle maintains contact with Hamas’s international supporters and funders, including leadership of other terrorist organizations and Iran. As for the outermost circle of global MB leaders, they are likely to begin to exert greater authority over the strategic direction Hamas takes now that Hamas has registered such a historic achievement for the global Islamist cause.
During the period after the previous incumbent, Muhammad Magdy Akef, announced that he would be stepping down, the former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe, Kamel el-Helbawy, told al-Quds al-Arabi that Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh should get the post to ‘support the Palestinian issue and Gaza’.
After the election of the new Supreme Guide of the MB, Dr Muhammad Badie, at the beginning of the year, Haniyeh pledged allegiance to him (bay’ah). This is the Islamic custom when a new leader must secure the support or consensus (ijma’) of the Islamic community; elders in that community then give an oath of allegiance to the overall leader (traditionally the Caliph or Sultan).
The links between Hamas, therefore, and in particular the political bureau led by Khaled Mashaal in Damascus, and the Global Muslim Brotherhood extend to more than just ideology. It would be disingenuous to portray Hamas as an entirely separate organisation, despite its relative autonomy on the ground in Gaza. Both the Egyptian MB and Hamas form part of a global movement underpinned by Ikhwani ideology with support networks stretching to North America, Europe and South Asia. What is not entirely certain is the degree to which the various local manifestations of the Brotherhood movement are directed by the mother organisation, and whether the Supreme Guide of the Egyptian MB, Muhammad Badie, is the leader of the Global Brotherhood as well.