Dashcam image of hostage-taking at Nova music festival

Is Hamas anti-Semitic?

October 7 was an attack directed against Israelis - not because they were Jews, but because they were occupiers. Tony Greenstein accuses Dan Lazare of being an apologist for Zionism

Like most good Zionists, Daniel Lazare remains obsessed with Hamas and its 1988 charter (Letters, January 11).

If Hamas was anti-Semitic, then why, when Hamas was formed in 1988, did Israel continue to support it? Even after the charter was published,1 Israel continued to talk with Hamas militants - until 1989, when Hamas launched its first attack on Israeli soldiers.

As Ishaan Tharoor noted in the Washington Post,

Hamas launched in 1988 in Gaza at the time of the first intifada, or uprising, with a charter now infamous for its anti-Semitism and its refusal to accept the existence of the Israeli state. But for more than a decade prior, Israeli authorities actively enabled its rise.2

You can read a more comprehensive article by Andrew Higgins in the Wall Street Journal.3

What then is the truth about Hamas’s charter? Does its relationship to Hamas practice resemble that of Mein Kampf to the Nazi programme for Jews? If it does, then Lazare is right. But is he right? Do we just judge movements by their formal documents?

Let me quote from an article entitled ‘Hamas’ by the Islamic Human Rights Commission:

The Hamas Charter was written in 1988 and, although it is now largely obsolete, it is the point of reference for most western politicians and commentators. Within it, there are undeniably anti-Jewish statements and has thus led to charges of anti-Semitism against Hamas. However, what is little known is that this charter was drafted by one member of the old Ikhwan movement, and was released as Hamas’s charter without proper consultation within the organisation. Hamas is therefore stuck with it, although many within the organisation do not accede to the contents.4

Likewise an article on the Iranian SAED news agency describes how:

[J]ust two years after the publication of the 1988 charter loaded with anti-Jewish rhetoric, Hamas published documents in 1990 distancing itself from what had been included ... Emphasising that its struggle has been merely against Zionists and Zionism, not against the Jews and Judaism, it drew a clear distinction between the two: “Hamas will not adopt a hostile position in practice against anyone because of his ideas or his creed, but will adopt such a position if those ideas and creed are translated into hostile or damaging actions against our people.”5

Is this true or just rhetoric? In an article subtitled “Hamas’s charter was never intended to be a governing instrument, nor the guiding political vision of our movement. Our actions show that we don’t denigrate any faith”, Ahmed Yousef, the senior political advisor to former Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh and chair of its political bureau, asks:

… does the Hamas charter, which contains passages deemed offensive to Jewish people, truly represent the movement’s vision and political goals? Diplomats, journalists, academics, parliamentarians and politicians from numerous nations have empathised with Palestinians; yet they all seem to struggle with this document.

The question is understandable, given how frequently much of the foreign media refers to it. The reality, however, is that one would be hard pressed to find any member of Hamas who is fully versed in the content of the charter - a treatise that was actually never universally endorsed by the movement ...

Scrutinise the manifesto upon which we were elected to govern in 2006 if you really wish to understand the political vision of Hamas, not a charter drawn up decades ago and long forgotten.6


Bassem Naeem wrote in The Guardian: “We are not engaged in a religious conflict with Jews; this is a political struggle to free ourselves from occupation and oppression.”7 Later in the article he stated:

But it should be made clear that neither Hamas nor the Palestinian government in Gaza denies the Nazi holocaust. The holocaust was not only a crime against humanity, but one of the most abhorrent crimes in modern history. We condemn it, as we condemn every abuse of humanity and all forms of discrimination on the basis of religion, race, gender or nationality.

And at the same time as we unreservedly condemn the crimes perpetrated by the Nazis against the Jews of Europe, we categorically reject the exploitation of the holocaust by the Zionists to justify their crimes and harness international acceptance of the campaign of ethnic cleansing and subjection they have been waging against us.

On October 28 2018 Naeem - a member of Hamas’s international relations bureau - was quoted as saying of the murder of 11 Jews at a Pittsburgh synagogue: “As Palestinians and victims of the terror of Israeli occupation, we know the meaning of terror and its horrific outcomes.”8 He added: “This heinous attack, especially in a place of worship, proves that terror has no religion or nationality.”

Even the rightwing Times of Israel was prepared to concede that the ‘anti-Semitic’ Hamas condemned the Pittsburgh massacre of Jews by a supporter of Donald Trump, whom Israel sent its then defence minister, Naftali Bennett, to defend. However, the ‘Marxist’, Lazare, makes no such concessions to his social chauvinism and Jewish exceptionalism.

Whoever wrote Hamas’s 1988 charter - a document that the organisation never approved and rarely referred to - clearly borrowed wholesale from European anti-Semitic publications without any understanding of their context. However, racism is not merely a matter of words, but actions. When Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant quotes Himmler when calling Palestinians in Gaza “human animals”, that has consequences - currently 10,000 dead children and 13,000 dead adults.

When Hamas quoted from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion it did not harm the hair of a single Jew. Only liberals equate the reflexive racism of the oppressed with their oppressors. No doubt Lazare would have drawn an equals sign between the Pan African Congress and the apartheid rulers because of their slogan, “One settler, one bullet”.

Lazare is nothing if not an American liberal at heart, for whom racism exists at the level of prejudice, not power relations. When I pointed out in my last article that “many if not most of the Israeli civilian casualties were caused by the trigger-happy murderers of the Israeli army”,9 I am accused of being a “10/7 ‘truther’”: ie, a conspiracy theorist.

Presumably the recent editorial in Ha’aretz, ‘The IDF must investigate the Kibbutz Be’eri tank fire incident - right now’, is part of the “10/7 ‘truther’” conspiracy? It said: “There is no demand more justified than that of relatives of people killed in the hostage incident at Kibbutz Be’eri to investigate the army’s actions and to receive answers about the circumstances of their loved ones’ deaths.”10 And not only Ha’aretz is part of the conspiracy: so is The Times of Israel!11

One hostage, Ruth Munder, described how they had been fed well - until. of course, there was a general shortage of food owing to the Israeli blockade.12 Or there is the testimony of Hin and Ajam, a mother and daughter captured by Hamas, as broadcast on Israel’s Channel 12.13 They speak of how they were treated like malkot (queens) and how they were afraid that Israeli troops might come to rescue them. They talk of how Hamas men arm-wrestled with them. Hin described how they gave her daughter “a beautiful name - Salsabeel”, which means ‘sweet water’. Ajam remarks how similar that is to the Hebrew for ‘lake’.

Lazare, who is always happiest when repeating Zionist propaganda, tells us how Yocheved Lifshitz, when she met Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar, asked him “how he wasn’t ashamed to do such a thing to people who for years support peace”. What Lifshitz said was understandable, but if she had been a Palestinian prisoner who had said that to his or her gaoler, they may not have survived the beating they received!

Lazare assumes that I must therefore categorise Lifshitz as a “racist colonialist pig”. Not at all. Lifshitz seems like a very decent human being. When released, she gave a press conference at Ichilov hospital, where she was asked why she had shaken the hand of one of her captors. Lifshitz replied that they “met all our needs. They seemed ready for this. They prepared it for a long time and prepared all the needs that women and men need.”14


So angry was the Zionist regime that Lifshitz had contradicted theirs (and Lazare’s) narrative of a violent Hamas intent on murdering every last Jew, that it dismissed Avi Shusha, the spokesperson for the hospital who had organised the press conference.15

Contrast this with the tales of torture, beatings and food deprivation that Palestinian prisoners who were released experienced. Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Authority commission for prisoners’ affairs, said that at least four (in fact six) Palestinian prisoners “have died in Israeli custody in recent weeks”. Autopsies showed they were tortured or medically neglected. “Hundreds more prisoners were wounded after being severely beaten, their limbs and ribs broken and their bodies bruised.’16

One Zionist explained away the stories of humane treatment by Israeli captives as “Stockholm syndrome”. Why then, I asked, did no Palestinian prisoners suffer from the same syndrome! I have yet to receive a reply, but I think we know the answer.

When I call Lazare a Zionist, I do not do this as a term of abuse, but because he adopts the mindset and outlook of the Zionists. I refer in particular to his description of October 7 as a “pogrom”: “If Zionism’s rightwing surge led to Kahanist pogroms in the West Bank, for instance, then Hamas’s equally rightwing politics led to an even more massive pogrom on October 7.” The word ‘pogrom’ is defined in Collins English Dictionary as “organised, official violence against a group of people for racial or religious reasons”.17

There is no doubt that the Kahanist pogroms on the West Bank are directed at Palestinians because they are non-Jews. In Jewish history they are most associated with events such as the Kishinev pogrom of 1903 and the thousands of Jews who were massacred in the Pale of Settlement.

The most notorious pogrom was that of the Nazis in November 1938 - Kristallnacht, when over 100 Jews were murdered, 30,000 incarcerated in concentration camps and nearly every synagogue in Germany was burnt to the ground. Pogroms were directed at Jews because they were Jews. The pogromists were usually aided and supported by the state.

By contrast, October 7 was directed at Israelis not because they were Jewish - indeed many non-Jews (even Arabs) were victims - but because of the intolerable siege and occupation of Gaza by Israel. Nor were they the savage and barbarous attacks with knives and other weapons that are typical of a pogrom.

The primary aim of October 7 was to take Israelis as hostages for the express purpose of exchanging them for the thousands of Palestinian hostages in Israeli prisons. Far from being subject to violence and sadistic brutality by Hamas, they were treated with kindness, as Hin and Ajam testify.

The Israeli regime has, however, bent over backwards to portray what happened on October 7 as a pogrom and Lazare is more than happy to adopt their narrative. The Zionists have erased all mention of how it was their tanks which fired on the kibbutz houses and how Apache helicopters strafed and burnt any car escaping - murdering their own people as well as Hamas militants.

The Zionists have repeatedly stated that October 7 was the largest massacre of Jews since the holocaust18 and Lazare adopts this narrative wholesale. No doubt he would have described the slave revolts in the Caribbean - in Santo Domingo in particular - as anti-white pogroms!

Let us be clear. Hamas’s attack on October 7 was not on Israelis because they were Jews. Hamas attacked Israel, demolishing their Gaza division, because they were occupiers. Lazare can run with the Zionist narrative of that day and the fabrications about 40 beheaded babies and the organised rapes of Israeli Jewish women, but all he does is demonstrate where his true sympathies lie.

That Lazare continues to run with the Zionist narrative of an anti-Semitic Hamas speaks volumes of his lack of solidarity with the Palestinians of Gaza - a basic principle for anyone who calls themselves a socialist, let alone a Marxist. He is no better than those social democrats who rushed to support their ruling class in World War I.

  1. You can read the charter here: avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp↩︎

  2. ‘How Israel helped create Hamas’, July 30 2014: www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2014/07/30/how-israel-helped-create-hamas.↩︎

  3. www.wsj.com/articles/SB123275572295011847.↩︎

  4. www.ihrc.org.uk/hamas (March 4 2007).↩︎

  5. old.saednews.com/en/post/hamas-charters-and-anti-semitism.↩︎

  6. www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/14/judge-hamas-measures-people-charter-governing-instrument.↩︎

  7. www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2008/may/12/hamascondemnstheholocaust.↩︎

  8. www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-denounces-pittsburgh-shooting-claims-its-a-victim-of-israeli-terror.↩︎

  9. ‘Not a religious war’, January 4: weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1472/not-a-religious-war.↩︎

  10. Ha’aretz January 8.↩︎

  11. ‘Families of 13 people killed in October 7 Kibbutz Be’eri firefight demand probe’ The Times of Israel January 6.↩︎

  12. news.sky.com/story/israeli-hostages-speak-of-food-shortages-and-darkness-in-hamas-captivity-13017880.↩︎

  13. www.middleeastmonitor.com/20231224-mother-and-daughter-detail-hamas-humane-treatment-during-the-time-they-were-held.↩︎

  14. www.cbsnews.com/news/israel-hostage-released-hamas-yochaved-lifshitz-gaza-palestinians.↩︎

  15. www.jpost.com/health-and-wellness/article-773332.↩︎

  16. Reuters 18.11.23, West Bank Palestinians report Israeli beatings, mistreatment, www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/palestinian-detainees-report-israeli-beatings-mistreatment-west-bank-arrests-2023-11-18.↩︎

  17. www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/pogrom.↩︎

  18. www.timesofisrael.com/why-a-holocaust-scholar-thinks-comparisons-with-the-oct-7-hamas-massacre-are-valid.↩︎