The Palestinian organization HAMAS, an acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement, is currently on the United States State Department’s List of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
HAMAS’ main political objectives, according to its Official Charter, are detailed in Articles 9 and 10 (Sections entitled “Objectives” of the Charter), whereby the organization seeks to provide “support to the weak, a defense to all the oppressed” (HAMAS Official Charter, Article 9) and “discarding the evil, crushing it and defeating it, so that truth may prevail, homelands revert to their owners, calls for prayer be heard from their mosques, announcing the reinstitution.” (HAMAS Official Charter, Article 10) Whereas these objectives can be considered somewhat and perhaps deliberately ambiguously phrased, when taken in the context of Palestine, the objective to have “homelands revert(ed) to their owners” (HAMAS Official Charter, Article 10) clearly indicates the aim to reacquire Palestinian lands from the state of Israel. Furthermore, the charter has more explicit references to Israel outside of the articles outlining “Objectives”, such as an explicit critique of Israel that reads as follows “The Zionist invasion is a mischievous one.” (HAMAS Official Charter, Article 28)
The structure of HAMAS reflects these aims. The organization is constituted by three main wings: consultative councils that function in leadership role, a military wing (the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, and a wing that provides social welfare services to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Interpretations of the methods by which HAMAS have gone about trying to achieve their officially-state objectives have led to the U.S. classification of HAMAS as a terrorist organization. HAMAS began as an armed movement, conducting asymmetrical military operations against Israel. HAMAS then became more involved in traditional political means, for example, winning democratic elections in the Palestinian territories. HAMAS has pursued both political policies and military policies in realizing their objectives, for example proposing a decade true to Israel “in return for a complete Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories” (BBC), while being military engaged in Israel in the 2008 Gaza War.
HAMAS has remained on the U.S. State Department List despite winning democratic elections in the Palestinian territory. This fact seems to place into doubt the current terrorist designation, and informs an argument about why it should be removed.
Firstly, as a democratically elected political organization, HAMAS has satisfied American and Western criteria for democracy. By refusing to acknowledge the HAMAS government, this is a rejection of the democratic and sovereign decision of the Palestinian people. Accordingly, this only increases hostilities between Palestine and the U.S., as it represents a certain hypocrisy: HAMAS was democratically elected, yet still is defined as a terrorist organization. Hence, political dialogue becomes impossible.
Secondly, HAMAS’ continual presence on the terrorist list reflects a traditionally biased foreign policy in favor of Israel. The refusal to engage HAMAS furthers the image that the United States purses an unquestioned political relationship with Israel, irrespective of democratic norms, such as HAMAS winning democratic elections. A removal of HAMAS from the terrorist list would send a clear message to the Middle East that the United States remains open to dialogue and does not overtly favor one side in the current dispute over the occupied Palestinian territories.
Thirdly, HAMAS has shown a commitment to moving towards a political solution. As Mark Perry, who favors the removal of HAMAS from the list, notes, HAMAS “stopped these suicide bombings through talk because they realized how ineffective they were, how they were losing support for what they feel is a legitimate cause.” (Davidson) The shift in policy demonstrates that HAMAS has become a legitimate, democratically chosen authority; to consider them to be a terrorist organization emphasizes their asymmetrical beginnings as opposed to the politically elected government and reflection of the sovereign decision of the Palestinian people that the organization has become.
BBC. “Who are HAMAS?” BBC News 4 January, 2009. Accessed at:
Davidson, Adam. “HAMAS: Government or Terrorist Organization?” National Public
Radio, 8 December, 2006. Accessed at:
HAMAS. HAMAS Official Charter 1988.