On Monday night, the head of Hamas’s political bureau, Khaled Meshal, officially unveiled the organisation’s much-anticipated “Document of general principles and policies” during a press conference in Doha. Hamas’s leaders have denied that this document replaces the movement’s founding charter. Nonetheless, its publication is a long-overdue move that cannot be ignored.
Hamas’s charter is an antisemitic, polemical document that calls for the creation of an Islamic state over the entirety of the land of historic Palestine. Since its release in 1988, numerous Hamas leaders have distanced themselves from it. Yet in order to maintain an image of ideological purity for the benefit of the broader constituency, and to avoid fissures within the movement, previous calls to revise the charter have faltered.
Compared to the movement’s founding document, this new one is relatively nuanced and politically astute. Although it falls short of many privately voiced hopes regarding anticipated reforms within Hamas, it offers a fair representation of Hamas’s evolution as a movement and governing entity in Gaza nearly 30 years after its founding.