Summarizing Hamas’ ‘battle plan’: Promoting Islamist ideology

by Rabbi Alan Silverstein, PhD

Muslims in the Middle East live in an increasingly religious environment. In contrast to groups of secular pragmatists like Fatah, Hamas promotes an Islamist message — via mosque sermons, radio and television broadcasts, social media, schoolrooms, youth movements, summer camps, and by honoring as civic heroes the “shahid,” the “martyr,” who brutally murders innocents.

The context for Hamas messaging is “Dar al-Islam,” the “House of Islam,” sacred Muslim sovereignty encompassing all the land initially subdued by the seventh-century Muslim conquest of the Middle East and North Africa. By their view, any portion of Dar al-Islam requires Muslim governance and Muslim Sharia law. Non-Muslim monotheists (notably Christians and Jews) can be tolerated only as second-class “dhimmi,” “protected people,” who are allowed to practice their religion and administer their own affairs, but only if they submit to humiliating symbols of subservience. They are required to pay a “jizya” (per-head tax) and “kharaj” (a land-use tax) — powerful symbols of inferiority. In this view, if non-Muslims — such as Christians in Lebanon or Jews in Palestine — rebel against their inferior standing and seize sovereignty, they become “infidels.” Muslims have a religious obligation to fight in “jihad” (holy war) against the infidel for as long as it takes to restore full Muslim control.

In 1988 Hamas issued a “sacred covenant” that promotes a strategy for restoring a Muslim caliphate to all parts of Dar al-Islam, encompassing lands that had been under the rule of the Ottoman Turks from 1518 to 1918. The re-conquest of Palestine (as a waqf, or sacred endowment) requires a relentless battle against the non-compliant Jews. The following are examples of the Hamas ideology as revealed in their covenant:

  • The exclusive Moslem nature of Palestine as a waqf — “The land of Palestine is an Islamic waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgment Day. No one can renounce it or abandon it or any part of it.” (Article 11)
  • The call to jihad — “The day the enemies [e.g., the Jews] usurp part of Moslem land, jihad becomes the individual duty of every Moslem. In the face of the Jews’ usurpation [of Palestine], it is compulsory that the banner of jihad be raised.” (Article 15)

“Ranks will close, fighters joining other fighters, and masses everywhere in the Islamic world will come forward in response to the call of duty, loudly proclaiming: ‘Hail to Jihad!’ This cry will reach the heavens and will go on being resounded until liberation is achieved, the invaders vanquished and Allah’s victory comes about.” (Article 33)

  • On the destruction of Israel — “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others [infidels] before it.” (Preamble) “Palestine is an Islamic land…. Since this is the case, the liberation of Palestine is an individual duty for every Moslem, wherever he may be.” (Article 13)
  • Rejection of a negotiated peace settlement — “[Peace] initiatives and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement…. Those conferences are no more than a means to appoint the infidels as arbitrators in the lands of Islam…. There is no solution for the Palestinian problem except by jihad. Initiatives, proposals, and international conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility.” (Article 13)

To recapture the Palestine portion of Dar al-Islam, Hamas is committed to conducting jihad against the State of Israel, “by any means necessary.” Hamas is not embarrassed by the savage brutality of October 7. They vow to repeat it “a second time, a third time, a fourth time” until Jewish sovereignty is dismantled.

Hamas’s strategy consists of several steps:

  • Step one: Violence implemented in ever-increasing levels — For the past 16 years, Hamas has launched assaults in an escalating manner on Israeli communities along the Gaza border. The attacks at first were with primitive rocket fire. Gradually, as materiel was smuggled into Gaza via tunnels from Egypt, the rocketry evolved into more sophisticated and precise explosive weapons. Hamas gradually built a massive network (500 kilometers) of tunnels. Hamas’s jihad arsenal also included flaming kites, sent over the border and intended to terrorize the Israelis living in the region, to burn Israeli fields, and to distract attention from clandestine efforts to penetrate Israel’s security fences.

On October 7, in addition to rocket fire, assault hang gliders brought terrorists into Israeli settlements. The multi-faceted invasion from air, land, and tunnels enabled several thousand armed terrorists to massacre 1,200 Israelis. The intent was to traumatize the citizens of Israel: By cutting off their victims’ heads, dismembering body parts, raping women, burning people alive, and taking 250 hostages, Hamas well knew that the October 7 pogrom guaranteed a strong Israeli response.

  • Step two: Calls for a cease-fire — On October 8, Hamas enlisted its allies in the UN, on college campuses, and in the media to call upon Israel not to respond to the attack. But Israel understood that the result of a cease-fire would have been to leave Hamas “in place” in Gaza. Under such a cease-fire, Hamas would regroup and begin planning its next and larger attack. They make demands for humanitarian aid — but they do so in order steal it for their militants. Hamas’s theft and hoarding of food and medical and construction supplies has facilitated its replenishing of its weaponry and has served as motivation for attracting new recruits.
  • Step three: Weaponizing the media — Matti Friedman, a respected author and a former reporter and editor in the Associated Press’s Jerusalem bureau, has written about Hamas’s media strategy. Few international reporters are assigned by the Associated Press or by Reuters to Israel’s neighbors. But when warfare occurs, journalists flood instead into Israel seeking stories and inevitably finding fault with the “people of the Bible.” Although freedom of the press is guaranteed in Israel, it is absent in other Middle Eastern settings. If a writer plans to publish a critique of Hamas’s behavior, enormous pressure is exerted to withhold it. In addition to a disproportionate flood of anti-Israel narratives, pictures are selected for publication that put a certain light on the Hamas story. Scenes from other Middle Eastern conflicts are added to press kits, incorrectly labeled as part of the “crisis inside Gaza.” Headlines reflect a negative spin on Israeli policy even if the follow-up text contradicts the heading. Hamas relies upon both the AP and Reuters to neutralize pro-Israel editorials and op-eds in local and national newspapers.
  • Step four: Blackening Israel’s reputation by inflating the number of noncombatant fatalities — Combat expert Col. Richard Kemp of the UK has noted a pattern in the Israel-Hamas combat. He says the reason so many civilians have died in Gaza has not been the result of Israeli tactics or policy. “It was Hamas’s strategy. Hamas deliberately positioned its fighters and munitions in civilian areas, knowing that Israel would have no choice but to attack them and that civilian casualties would result,” says Kemp. “Unable to inflict existential harm on Israel by military means, Hamas sought to cause large numbers of casualties among its own people in order to bring international condemnation and unbearable diplomatic pressure against Israel.”

Hamas controls and feeds a body count to the media via Gaza’s Health Ministry. These Hamas-affiliated authorities allege that 32,000 Gazans have died at the hands of the IDF. They cynically ignore the 13,000-plus Hamas terrorists included in the death toll within that overall number. The Health Ministry count overlooks a sizable number of Gazans killed by hundreds of misfired Hamas or Islamic Jihad rockets. They do not mention deaths caused by Hamas terrorists shooting at civilians who disobey orders not to flee Israeli attacks. The Health Ministry also bypasses numerous deaths of natural causes during a five-month period among 2.3 million people.

Even the number 32,000 is suspect. Abraham Wyner, a professor of statistics and data science at University of Pennsylvania’s The Wharton School, has carefully assessed the data in “How the Gaza Ministry of Health Fakes Casualty Numbers.” Wyner demonstrated that the numbers have grown in a manner inconsistent with the facts. He showed how the Gaza Ministry intentionally over-counted the number of “innocent women and children” who perished. They ignore both females who act as terrorists as well as active Hamas combatants who are in fact teenagers (16 and older).

The Gaza Ministry numbers absolve Hamas from responsibility for using civilians as human shields and civilian dwellings and buildings (homes, mosques, hospitals, schools, etc.) as collection points for weaponry. Gazan statistics camouflage the identity of Hamas terrorists who dress in civilian garb. By constant repetition of its arbitrary numerical count, Hamas gains widespread acceptance of its numbers; 30,000-plus was even affirmed in President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address.

  • Step five: Hamas weaponizes humanitarian aid — As part of its battle plan, Hamas obstructs the delivery of food, water, fuel, and medical supplies. A daily barrage of photographs and videos depict a Gaza civilian population devoid of food, water, electricity, medical supplies, and concrete for rebuilding. Allegations of an Israeli “starvation campaign” are fomented to further enrage people around the world.

After studying this repetitive strategy, former Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren concluded that “Hamas wants the Gazans to suffer … Hamas cares nothing for the well-being of Palestinian civilians. While Israel is more than willing to facilitate the transfer of all the food and medicine Gaza needs …, Hamas stops the trucks and even blows up the receiving terminal in order to create a humanitarian crisis it can then blame on Israel.”

Hamas evidently absolves itself of the responsibility for Gazans’ well-being. As Hamas spokesman Mousa Abu Marzook stated, “It is the responsibility of the United Nations to protect them…and it is the responsibility of the occupation [i.e., Israel] to provide them … with services.”

In truth, there is an ample amount of material entering into Gaza, but as recent Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has explained, “the problem is not the amount of aid going into Gaza. The problem is that Hamas is hijacking that aid, taking it for itself and then selling it back in the black market in Gaza at about tenfold the price; and many Gazans can’t afford it.”

  • Step six: Hamas’s allies in the UN, among American progressives, and in the media, press the US to impose a cease-fire — Gradually, the position of the Biden administration has softened. It is inching ever closer to insistence upon ending the combat, even if uncoupled from releasing the Israeli hostages.

Hamas mastermind Yahya Sinwar has stated: “We have the Israelis right where we want them. High civilian casualties [and mounting humanitarian needs] would add to the worldwide pressure on Israel to stop the war.”

Yet as noted by scholar Bernard-Henri Levy, if the U. and UN succeed in imposing a cease-fire, Hamas will emerge victorious; Hamas would have fulfilled its goals of the October 7 massacre: “Hamas would declare victory — on the verge of defeat, then the next minute revived. These criminals against humanity would emerge from their tunnels triumphant,” he has written. “The Arab street would view Hamas terrorists as resistance fighters.

“In the West Bank, Hamas would quickly [control the entire Palestinian national movement] and eclipse the corrupt and ineffective Palestinian Authority, whose image would pale next to the aura of martyrdom and endurance in which Hamas would cloak itself.”

“After that, none of the [global] experts’ extravagant plans for an international stabilization force, an interim Arab authority, or a technocratic government presiding over the reconstruction of Gaza [and a peace process] would stand long against the return of this group of criminals adorned with the most `heroic’ of virtues.”

“Hamas would set the ideological and political agenda, and hope for peace harbored by moderates on both sides will be dead.”

Inspired by October 7, as loyalists to Dar al-Islam, Hamas remains unalterably opposed to the West’s “two-state solution.” As stated two months ago by Khaled Mashal, the leader of Hamas abroad: “We have nothing to do with the two-state solution. We reject this notion, because it means … you are required to recognize the legitimacy of the other state [Israel], which is the Zionist entity. This is unacceptable.

“The position of Hamas and the position of the vast majority of the Palestinian people, especially following October 7…the dream and the hope for Palestine from the river to the sea … has been renewed … [T]here is almost a Palestinian national consensus.”

At this stage, Mashal said, to establish a common purpose with Fatah and the Arab League, Hamas has agreed “to a completely independent [i.e., militarized] Palestinian state with the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital, with the Right of Return [of six million Diaspora Palestinian descendants … without recognizing the legitimacy of the Zionist entity.”

October 7 demonstrated to Hamas, Mashal said, that the establishment of the caliphate’s control of the entire region “is not something [merely] to be expected or hoped for. It is part of the plan … and we are standing on its threshold …”

Rabbi Alan Silverstein, PhD, was religious leader of Congregation Agudath Israel in Caldwell, NJ, for more than four decades, retiring in 2021. He served as president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis (1993-95); as president of the World Council of Conservative/Masorti Synagogues (2000-05); and as chair of the Foundation for Masorti Judaism in Israel (2010-14). He currently serves as president of Mercaz Olami, representing the world Masorti/Conservative movement. He is the author of “It All Begins with a Date: Jewish Concerns about Interdating,” “Preserving Jewishness in Your Family: After Intermarriage Has Occurred,” and “Alternatives to Assimilation: The Response of Reform Judaism to American Culture, 1840-1930.”