In recent weeks, we’ve been hearing a lot about the big changes going on inside Hamas. The Islamist terrorist organization is, we are told, about to drop its commitment to “armed resistance” against Israel and adopt a policy of non-violence. There has even been speculation it will soon drop its refusal to recognize or negotiate with Israel as the unity pact it signed with its Fatah rivals allow it to become part of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority that rules the West Bank.
This flies in the face of everything we know about the terror group. But there is no need for skeptics to merely trust their instincts about Hamas. The group is itself making it clear its predilection for violence is not about to change. A spokesman for Hamas dismissed the reports about an order to cease attacks on Israel as so absurd it didn’t even merit a response. As the Jerusalem Post reports, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said claims that Hamas had abandoned the armed struggle “reflect the state of despair that the Israeli government is facing as a result of the firmness of the Palestinian resistance.”
It is natural for Westerners and Jews to attempt to project their own values on Hamas and to imagine that with enough patience and reason, the group can be persuaded to live in peace with Israel. But despite the political deals that Hamas might make as it attempts to maneuver its way into power in the West Bank in addition to its stronghold in Gaza, terrorism is not just a tactic for Hamas, it is the essence of its approach to Zionism. Just as Palestinian nationalism cannot define itself in any way but as an attempt to extinguish the Jewish state, so, too, is it impossible for Hamas to articulate its Islamist beliefs without resorting to violence. It isn’t just a tactic. It is integral to their worldview and their own sense of legitimacy as a Palestinian political organization.
Any expectation that this will change says more about the naïveté of some observers of the Middle East than it does about Hamas’s intentions toward Israel.