Hamas is an enigma to many, except those closely connected with the Palestinian struggle for justice. However, after the recent campaign of killing and destruction by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) of the innocent, especially women, infants, children, elderly, and youth in Gaza, Hamas has become a key factor in regional and global politics.

It raised the profile of Hamas globally because it has fearlessly resisted Israel’s powerful army. There was also the surprise attack in Israel by Hamas which found Israel sorely lacking in the kind of defence capacities they claim to have.

Based on archetypal western prejudices, Israel’s allies in the West, and their mainstream media, characterise Hamas as a solely 'terror' outfit.

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths put paid to this characterisation at a recent ‘Sky News’ interview when he affirmed that “Hamas is not a terrorist group for us…. It’s a political movement.” Griffiths clarified that the process of identifying groups in the UN system did not incorporate Hamas in the UNSC list of groups designated as terrorist organisations.

Griffiths further rejected Israel’s insistence that Hamas never be part of a future Palestinian government and termed it unrealistic. He added: “it is very, very difficult to dislodge these groups without a negotiated solution which includes their aspirations… If you want to have safety and security with people who will inevitably continue to be your neighbor in some form or another, you are going to have to create a relationship based on some shared values.”

Israel has relentlessly attacked Griffith even for other reasons. He has angered Israel alluding to the design of mass displacement of civilians from Rafah ahead of an IDF incursion terming it as “illusory.”

Israel was also furious that Griffiths had met with the Iranian Foreign Minister for a discussion on the future of Gaza. Their curt response: “Iran has no place in the future of Gaza. It is part of the problem, not the solution.” The question is this: If Israel can have colonial allies, why can’t Hamas have allies of its choice and those it trusts in the region?

Griffith’s statement elicited outrage in Israel and among western allies. Later, he and UN Secretary General António Guterres added a tinge of diplomacy to their views stating that “this doesn’t make their (Hamas’s) acts of October 7 any less horrific and reprehensible”. Israel’s rejoinder was, nevertheless, predictable. Foreign Minister Israel Katz tweeted: “Shame on him… The United Nations reaches new lows every day. Griffith is a terror collaborator.

The United States doubled down on its designation of Hamas as a terror organisation in response to Griffith’s statement. “You don’t have to look any further than what they did on the seventh of October to see it in stark terms. The US makes it appear that that Palestinian- Israel conflict began on the 7th October 2024 and chose to conveniently ignore the reality that this is a 75 year old war which began with The Nakba in 1948 when hundreds and thousands of Palestinians were exterminated. That kind of decimation continues to this day.

Israel has accused 12 aid workers of the UNRWA of collaborating with Hamas. These allegations are untamed and propagandist. The US is now trying to erase their allegations knowing they have no tangible evidence to offer of the many allegations Israel has made.

Multiple countries then cut off funding to UNRWA without as much as an interrogation of the facts. UNRWA is the major provider of humanitarian services and this boycott has denied Gazans essential services and even threatened famine. The damage is done.

Israel has chosen the path of irrationality. They will not countenance symmetry in the October 7th violence in which both sides retaliated against each other. Here again, Griffith censured both sides and called for protecting civilians everywhere and always.

Israel wreaked further revenge. In haste the Knesset took forward a bill that would restrain UNRWA from operating on Israeli state-owned land. UNRWA has been accused of being a “platform for incitement and education to hatred of Israel and harm of its Jewish residents” in its schools.

They aver that antisemitic content is taught, studied, and textbooks glorify terrorists who have murdered women and children. UNRWA is strictly confined to its mandate to prop up Palestinian refugees only. Israel’s allegations are a feral pretext to shut down the only humanitarian agency in the Occupied Territories.

Hamas was founded by a Palestinian Imam and activist Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a quadriplegic and partially blind cleric. It emerged from his 1973 Mujama al-Islamiya Islamic charity affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Sheikh Hassin was the spiritual leader of the militant fighters in Gaza.

After the outbreak of the First Intifada against the Israeli occupation the Movement created a military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, to pursue an armed struggle against Israel with the aim of liberating historic Palestine amidst growing Palestinian fury over the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The first Intifada raged sporadically until 1993, when Yasser Arafat signed a partial peace agreement with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Hamas rejected the so-called Oslo Accords. As the peace process remained deadlocked, Hamas deployed suicide bombers against Israeli civilian and military targets. A second Intifada erupted in 2000 sparked by the Right Wing Likud leader, Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount.

Sharon’s intent to visit the Temple Mount was to declare Israel’s sovereignty over the third holiest site in Islam. In 2004, Israel assassinated Yassin in a missile strike. The second Intifada ended in 2005, and Israel opted to unilaterally end its military occupation of Gaza, which it had captured during the 1967 war.

Hamas has been the de facto governing body in the Gaza Strip since 2007, when it ousted the Palestinian Authority from power. Primarily based in Gaza; Hamas also maintains a presence in the West Bank; Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon; and key regional capitals, such as Doha, Qatar, and Cairo, Egypt. The military potency of Hamas is rooted in the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, which makes up Hamas' armed wing with an estimated 30,000-40,000 fighters.

In the elections of 2006 Hamas, contesting under the list name of Change and Reform received 44.45% of the vote and won 74 of the 132 seats, whilst the ruling Fatah received 41.43% of the vote and won 45 seats. The Western world was shocked.

Their question: How could the majority pick what, in their view, was an extremist organisation. Their bigger apprehension was how Hamas would deal with the larger Israel-Palestine conflict.

One could describe Hamas’s goal is to liberate Palestine and confront the Zionist project. At a time when people believe the only way to get Israel to end the occupation is by inflicting pain and suffering on Israelis. Palestinians see Hamas as the party most capable of delivering resistance violence effectively. In its 1988 charter, Hamas maintained that Palestine is an Islamic homeland that can never be surrendered to non-Muslims and that waging holy war to wrest control of Palestine from Israel as a religious duty for Palestinian Muslims.

Hamas is also grappling with the challenge of pragmatism, and even pluralism, although as a main question. They know that a one-state solution will include Muslims, Jews, and Christians living as equal citizens of the same territories.

This idea has always existed on the margins of Israeli and Palestinian political discourse. In public declarations, the PLO pursued a “secular, democratic” state, and the formal position of Hamas favours a single Islamic state in all of what Palestinians term “historic Palestine.”

With the declaration of Palestinian independence in 1988, the PLO moved toward a two-state solution and the bulk of the nationalist leadership still favours that approach, but on the Palestinian left, the proposal has attracted renewed interest, especially given the failure of the two-state approach. And in the Islamic camp, while Hamas hints at acceptance of a state within the 1967 borders for an undefined period, the formal position of the movement has not changed.

Quite recently, a leading member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood mooted the idea that a single secular state might be the most appropriate solution. The dominant preference is to pursue the solution through negotiation rather than military victory. The consensus seems to be veering around a consociational or binational state.

Elsewhere, the Biden administration cannot put its finger on the postwar vision for Gaza. There are equally hard-hitting questions about Israel’s stated goal of ending Hamas’ military and governing capabilities. Scholars, intellectuals, and activists guess, and with compact facts, that Israel is struggling to survive the war, as well as internal dissent in Israel. .

The US wants a Palestine led by a corrupt, incompetent and politically impotent Palestinian Authority (PA) led by Mahmoud Abbas. In due course, they would like to see the PA assume control of Gaza and run both territories as a precursor to statehood. The talk on the street is that Abbas is old, and frail. His legitimacy is under question.

The PA under Abbas is utterly incapable of running even the West Bank which Israel, by proxy, controls. Of course, there is militant resistance by Palestinian youth. Moreover, Israel is not ready to surrender Gaza to the PA.

Hamas talks back to the international community who condemn it: “Stop atrocities in Gaza against Palestinians. Don’t invade our Holy sites. Hand back settlements, it’s our land. Stop imprisoning our people illegally. Give refugees the right to return. Take the army back to the barracks. And stop Judaization of the Al Aqsa Mosque. They term October 7th just the beginning! Hamas carried out its military operation in response to atrocities that Palestinians have faced over decades.”

With this background, Hamas fighters entered Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip, killing more than 1,400 (recent figures from Israel suggest it is 1114) people sending shockwaves in one of the most serious of escalations in the Israel-Palestinian conflict in years. A wartime opinion poll among Palestinians shows a rise in support for Hamas, which appears to have climbed even in the devastated Gaza Strip, and an overwhelming rejection of Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas, with nearly 90% saying he must resign.

Hamas’s strength comes from a regional alliance that also includes Iran, Syria and the group Hezbollah in Lebanon, which opposes US policies towards the Middle East and Israel. Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the second-largest armed group in the region, are often united against Israel and are the most important members of the joint operations room that coordinates military activity among the various armed groups in Gaza.

Qatar is a key financial backer and ally of Hamas. Qatar has transferred more than $1.8 billion to Hamas. In 2012, Qatar hosted the Hamas party leadership when Hamas head Khaled Meshal relocated from Syria to Qatar. The Islamic Republic of Iran is a key supporter of Hamas. Iran provides Hamas with funds, weapons, and training.

Russia has diplomatic relations with the political wing of Hamas. Russia has not designated Hamas as a terrorist organisation, though it has taken a hard line against Islamist terrorism. Turkey provides financial and logistical support to Hamas.

Turkey hosts senior Hamas officials. China refused to call Hamas a terrorist organisation and called them elected representatives of the Palestinian people after the 2006 election. Putin invited a Hamas delegation, post the October 7 attacks, to Moscow on October 26. It prompted anger from Israeli officials. Russia has not designated Hamas as a terrorist organisation. Turkey provides financial and logistical support to Hamas. Turkey hosts senior Hamas officials.

Taxes on Gaza's businesses and residents, Hamas imposes unofficial fees on smuggled goods and other activity, for a combined income of up to $450 million per year. Beyond money from charitable organisations, Hamas also raises funds by taxing the people of Gaza on goods made in Gaza and goods imported from outside the strip. Iran is another major funding source for Hamas, according to officials at the Treasury and State departments.

It is high time the international community of justice campaigners; abandon the expression “terror” to describe Hamas. Even eminent Israeli historiographers such as Shaul Mishal, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Tel Aviv University and Founder- Director of the Center for the Study of Arab Society in Israel, reject the portrayal of Hamas as an unbending Islamist movement.

He suggests, instead, that Hamas is “essentially a social and political movement providing extensive community services and responding constantly to political reality through bargaining and power brokering”: In his scholarly book: “Hamas: From Resistance to Regime”, Paola Caridi, suggests that Hamas has yet to make a choice about whether it will transition from “resistance” to “politics”.

The very expression “Hamas” makes it difficult to conveniently retitle itself. All the elements that condition the resistance remain- the occupation of the West Bank, the shackles Gaza cut off from the rest of the world by in a virtual concentration camp – must be deleted from contemporary history, before political pro-existence between the Arabs and the Jews, Christians, Moslems, and Jews, can become reality.

Ranjan Solomon is a long-time activist for Palestinian justice beginning with the First Intifada. He has visited the region year after year since 1987 to build global solidarity, first with the World YMCA and later with the World Council of Churches. He now edits ‘Palestine Updates a weekly global Newsletter, convenes the Indo-Palestine Solidarity Network (IPSN), and the Global Kairos for Asia Pacific Palestine Solidarity (GKAPPS), and is a Founder Member of the Movement for Liberation from Nakba – a predominantly Global South group that addresses questions about the liberation of Palestine. Views expressed are the writer’s own.