In recent weeks, armed with a leaked document, many have speculated that the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, will adopt a new Charter. However, the leaked document is nothing but a new “platform” being floated among the movement members, to be officially announced on May 1 as the “General Principles and Policies Platform.” The platform will not replace its original 1988 Charter, according to Ismail Radwan, a senior leader in the movement.
The Charter of Hamas did not provoke much controversy in 1988, the year of the movement’s founding. At the time, Israel alone cited the Charter as proof of Hamas’ extremism. Informed by concepts and images common to Islamist political discourses, while also drawing on the insurgent vocabulary of Arab and Palestinian political cultures of the 1980s, the Charter did not conform to the conventions of international law, the international community, or the changing regional influences of the period. In time, however, these aspects of the Charter provoked greater international criticism.
While it might be assumed that the only critics of the Charter were outsiders, not Hamas members, particularly after the second Intifada, when Hamas signaled a willingness to participate in local and legislative Palestinian Authority elections, many members themselves had criticized and sidestepped the Charter. Hamas has not adhered to all of the Charter’s articles, indicating that, even from the perspective of the movement itself, its political positions did not reflect the Charter faithfully.