The Jerusalem Post reported February 16th (and a surprising report it is considering the journalistic source) that a long-time Hamas consultant has been charged with preparing a revised version of the controversial charter which quotes liberally from such literary canards as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion:
Hamas has been developing a new charter that is designed to showcase a more moderate and non anti-Semitic face, one of those advising on its content has told The Jerusalem Post.
Yet this new document, acknowledged Dr. Azzam Tamimi, 51, the Hebron-born director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought in London, would still call for an end to the Jewish state and the creation of a Palestinian state on all of mandatory Palestine.
It would, he said, provide for the possibility of a long-term hudna (cease-fire accommodation) with an Israel limited to its pre-1967 borders…
Rather than texts assailing the Jews, as in the current charter, said Tamimi, “The whole language [in the new document] will be changed to political language.”
Tamimi…added in a telephone interview from London, “All that nonsense about The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and conspiracy theories – all that rubbish will be out. It should have never been there in the first place.”
While the article notes that not all Hamas leaders know of the existence of this project, it appears that even of those who do not, many have no objection to rewriting the document:
This is a very special issue which would be addressed by the highest level of Hamas,” Sheikh Yasser Mansour, No. 5 on the Hamas national electoral list, told the Post by phone from his home in Nablus. Mansour added that, in principle, “it is true that we could discuss changes. The charter is not the Koran.”
And this Hamas leader put forth the tantalizing notion that the charter might some day be amended to recognize Israel if it recognizes a Palestinian state:
Sheikh Salah Abu Rukbeh, recently elected from the Hamas list to the council of Gaza’s Jabalya refugee camp, believes that the charter could ultimately be changed to recognize Israel.
“It will be very easy to change the charter if Israel changes its stance about the Palestinians,” he said. “We are ready to change our charter, but is Israel willing to recognize a Palestinian state? Until now it hasn’t. The PLO recognized Israel and changed its charter but Israel did not give us anything.”
Apparently, some senior Hamas operatives don’t even know that their charter contains anti-Semitic slurs. Instead, they erroneously claim (and in all seriousness) that the charter only denounces Israel, but not Jews. Besides betraying their ignorance, doesn’t this tell us how significant this document is in the everyday life of this political party–not very. Which brings one to the question: if these party stalwarts don’t even know what’s written on this bit of paper why should we hold it up to the world as THE DOCUMENT that defines Hamas to the world? Perhaps Hamasniks don’t, after all, murmur its contents each night as they drift off to sleep and resume once again when they wake up in the morning?
Tamimi described the form that the new document might take:
Tamimi said the changed Hamas charter “will describe the history of the problem which made Palestinians a victim of occupation. The main emphasis is that this [objection to Israel] is not a problem between us and the Jews. The problem is the occupation.”
Mansour echoed this distinction, saying, “We don’t have a problem with the Jews. We have a problem with the occupation. The Jewish people deserve respect and freedom to observe their traditions.” He added that Israeli Jews would be free to live in a Palestinian state as Palestinian citizens.
Tamimi…told the Post that jihad would remain a component of the charter, but as a political right to armed struggle to be free of occupation, rather than as a religious imperative.
Tamimi said that clauses in the 1988 charter declaring that that the land on which Israel exists is Islamic Wakf land – “consecrated for the future of Muslim generations until Judgment Day” and thus religiously forbidden to be given to a non-Muslim nation – would be either removed or, “because it does not reflect the reality accurately,” diluted.
“All the land conquered by Muslims was Wakf land, but this doesn’t matter. We’re not struggling to get Spain back. That’s just in the minds of a few idiots.”
And lest doubters question Tamimi’s bona fides as a spokesperson for the movement on this topic, he makes clear he has the ear of Khaled Meshal, its overarching leader:
He said that among those supporting a changed text is Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal. “If you notice, Khaled Mashaal never quoted it because he was not happy with it,” he said. “Sheikh [Ahmed] Yassin never quoted it because he was not happy with it.”
Tamimi, 51, said he is a supporter but not a member of Hamas and is close to leaders such as Mashaal.
As I’ve written in the past here, just because the Post writes a story indicating Hamas may be moderating its political platform doesn’t mean we strike up a band and break out the champagne. There’s a long way to go. But I’ve written a series of posts about numerous positive statements emanating from Hamas indicating a very gradual change in emphasis and softening of tone in discussing these issues. I see them as a positive sign and look forward to reading about more such developments. If they continue we’ll know we’re traveling in the right direction. If they don’t we’ll know we’ve reached a dead end with Hamas.