RealNews

Defining Hamas: Roots in Charity and Branches of Violence

To most Israelis, Hamas is a terrorist group and little more, the core of Palestinian hatred that explodes against Israeli civilians who are innocently shopping or riding on buses. When talk of any peace accord nears, Hamas advocates the ideological extreme: no compromise on a Palestinian state, based on Islam, that stretches from the Mediterranean east to the Jordan River. It talks often of driving all Jews from the land. But to a Palestinian brother and sister here who are raising the four children of another brother who was killed in a construction accident in 1997, Hamas is a very practically minded savior. It pays for the children’s school, transportation, clothing, even food. “I am so happy Hamas is taking care of them,” said the brother, Abu Shaher Safdi, 26, a tailor. “There is no way I could afford it now.” Since Hamas was founded in 1987 during the first Palestinian uprising, these have been the group’s pillars: religion, charity and the fight against Israel. It is zealous on all three fronts, and that makes it a difficult foe, not easy to “deal harshly with,” as President Bush urged today. Hamas itself, the Arabic acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement, means “zeal” or “bravery.” The difficulty, many experts say, is the acceptance of Hamas by ordinary Palestinians, an acceptance that has grown over 32 months of renewed violence here, allowing Hamas to rival more mainstream political groups like Yasir Arafat’s Fatah movement. Full Story

OODA Analyst

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