According to conventional wisdom, Hamas, Hizbullah and Al-Qaeda are all alike; they are all radical Islamist terrorist organizations. But are they? Are they all radical Islamist organizations? Are they all terrorist organizations? Are they all organizations? These labels are problematic. Al-Qaeda is arguably not even an organization. Regardless of whether one deems it so, it certainly stands in contradistinction to Hamas and Hizbullah. As for terrorism, it is a tactic, not an ideology. Each of these “organizations” variously employs this tactic. As for radical Islamism, each of these “organizations” varies in degree of radical Islamism both in theory and in praxis. Conflating these “organizations” is gross oversimplification. Hamas and Hizbullah differ from Al-Qaeda in tactics, strategy, and ideology.
Hamas (an acronym for Ḥarakat al-Muqāwamat al-Islāmiyyah or Islamic Resistance Movement) is a political party organized in response to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Hamas was founded in 1987 by the Palestinian arm of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood at the time of the First Intifada. Hamas used suicide bombings, IEDs and rocket attacks against Israel from 1993 to 2005, but tapered off these tactics between 2005 and 2006. In 2006, Hamas was democratically elected by the Palestinian people (including Christians) to represent and further their interests in Gaza. The defeated incumbent party, Fatah, consolidated its power in the West Bank and began making trouble for Hamas in Gaza. In 2006, when Fatah outlawed the militia arm of Hamas, Israel backed Fatah by imposing an economic blockade on Gaza. Hamas responded by launching border rocket attacks on Israel. Following a six-month ceasefire, the conflict resumed and escalated resulting in the 2008 Israeli invasion of Gaza. Although Hamas’s charter calls for the replacement of the State of Israel with an Islamic Palestinian state, Hamas’ prime minister said Hamas would accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and offer Israel a truce. Hamas has emphasized that its conflict with Israel is political, not religious. While Hamas’s charter may in theory reflect a radical Islamist bent, Hamas is clearly pragmatic in praxis. While many consider Hamas a terrorist organization, eighty to ninety percent of Hamas’s revenues fund athletic, educational, daycare, healthcare and religious facilities, substituting for civil society.