The photo on Hamas’ webpage during the Gaza riots reveals its intent (JCPA.org)
The photo on Hamas’ webpage during the Gaza riots reveals its intent to capture Jerusalem (JCPA.org)

Hamas defined the days of violent clashes at Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, during which many Palestinians were claimed to have been killed, as living proof of a victory for jihad and the armed struggle against Israel. It openly admitted that these were not spontaneous demonstrations but a campaign orchestrated by Hamas and other Palestinian organizations defined as terrorist groups in the West.

Below are excerpts from a Hamas press release [emphasis added] presented at a press conference on May 14, 2018:1

“Oh to the public of our rebellious people, oh to our Arab and Islamic nation, oh to the liberals [or the free people] in the world…

“Our own march was drawn into the heroic armed struggle, the popular peaceful march that took place last March 30 [2018], conducted by our people and the organizations of jihad fighters, and the population itself, of its men, women, and children until today, expressing through successive waves of jihad and struggle that its purpose is to fulfill the objectives of our nation and its aspiration to return, to establish a state, to end the embargo, to end the occupation forever…

“Our people set out today to react to the new American Zionist aggression and to tell the world with its blood and limbs that it is the one that will draw the map of return and the map of victories…

“The blood that has been spilled in resisting this crime will arouse a revolution until the occupation is removed, and the embassy is removed from Palestine forever…. We will continue to pursue this enemy and to fight it with every means…

“I have not forgotten to bless our brothers, the members of the national Palestinian organizations who stand up and manage the popular marches, which are run peacefully, the Upper National Council for the Return March and Breaking the Embargo. We support them, and we stand by them, welcoming their efforts, with all our respect and honor…

“The message of the people of our nation who went out today is:

“Al-Quds [Jerusalem] is the red line, and there are sacrifices for its sake, and for its sake we will continue to follow the path of jihad and fight with all our means…

“Our Palestinian nation today has achieved true unity in the field of action, with gatherings, and in the struggle to reach the fence, which will be removed with the Will of Allah. It will ascend, through true national unity, and through the refined, pure blood that will enrich the land of Palestine…. Our duty is to build this freedom and the legitimacy of this powerful nation that has spoken today with its soul, blood, and limbs, and has spread its word to the world through its blood, strength, and revolution, and through its accumulated rage, and its blessed intifada…

“What is called the ‘Trump Deal’ is invalid and it needs to be sabotaged in every way. It will not pass, with Allah’s Will, and we will stand against all of the plans to eliminate the Palestinian problem at any price, which we will pay with blood and in any way to achieve this. True national unity is based upon partnership and the path of jihad. The struggle and dealing with all the elimination plans [of the Palestinian problem] is a national choice that is obligatory for us to strive toward, and which needs to be actualized today and before tomorrow…

“This movement and popular revolution, in all its ways, perpetuates and continues, and we emphasize its constancy and continuation. We support the activities that the Upper National Council for the Return March and Breaking the Embargo have decreed, and of our Palestinian people who have been living the bitterness of banishment and exile, and the bitterness of the Nakba for the past 70 years. They will not be silent or withdraw, and they will not return until their aspirations are fulfilled and they go back to their homeland and the occupation is removed, their independent country is established, and its eternal capital will be al-Quds…

“The Zionist occupation must not receive legitimacy from any source. We call upon our Arab and Muslim brothers to stop the normalization plan, the plan for Arab and Islamic brainwashing, and turning the Zionist enemy into part of the region or a member of a union of countries from this area. The Zionist enemy is our adversary, and we have no other foe apart from it, and there is no room upon our land for it. 

”The day must come when this enemy is removed, by the Will of Allah. The natural reaction to this aggression and the killing of our peaceful people must be an Arab and Islamic one, through a broad-based intifada in all major cities and a clear Palestinian response here in Gaza and the [West] Bank of a firm stand, and in al-Quds and the [territories] of 48 [Israel].” 

”It is obligatory for our enemy to pay the price for this killing, and for the enemy and the American government to pay the price for transferring the American embassy to al-Quds. The West Bank needs to burn, and all of Palestine needs to burn in the face of Zionist aggression today and tomorrow, and after tomorrow, with the Will of Allah…”

“Combat organizations are managing and supervising the peaceful marches of our people, and this is one of the rights and legitimate methods of struggle of our people, and they are managing the marches, supporting them, and standing as their defenders, like a shield that protects them…. [The enemy] must not try the patience of the struggle or the continued patience of the al-Qassam Brigades…

“This is jihad – victory or causing death in the way of Allah.”

Hamas operatives at the border fence with Israel (Hamas website)
Hamas operatives at the border fence with Israel (Hamas website)

The Hamas press release reveals these significant points:

Hamas takes full responsibility, with the cooperation of other organizations, for managing the Return Marches in their characteristically violent style.

In the al-Aqsa intifada, Hamas chose a strategy of individual suicide terror attacks; today they are following a strategy of mass “suicide attacks,” fired up by clashes, with the clear understanding that endangering Israeli soldiers and civilians will elicit a military response to neutralize the threat.

If, in the past, Hamas counted its victories according to the number of Israeli casualties, today it measures victory according to the number of Palestinian casualties. Hamas is interested in flowing Palestinian blood. Its press release mentioned its hope that these events would lead to a broad intifada in the West Bank, Jerusalem, Israel, and various major cities. 

In other words, Hamas perceives Palestinian blood as an explosive material, the purpose of which is to threaten regional stability in a way that will help it to build a coalition against Israel and weaken it from within through an intifada of Israeli Arabs. 

Thus, for the purpose of a reaching a broader audience, Hamas did not immediately respond to the killing of Palestinians who attacked IDF soldiers (or to an Israeli air force attack on Hamas targets). This also contradicts its repeated promises to the Palestinian public that its armed activists would follow the participants in the march and protect them if the IDF opened fire on them.

There are other purposes for weakening Israel and torpedoing diplomatic initiatives. Hamas is interested in standing out as the true leader of the Palestinian people and being the only leader that can rally all of the Palestinian organizations in the struggle against Israel. This is in contrast to the attempts of Mahmoud Abbas to reestablish his leadership at a recent meeting of the Palestinian National Council, of which Hamas and Islamic Jihad are not members. 

The assembly was boycotted by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Through clashes and bloodshed, Hamas seeks to create a leadership alternative to the administration of the Palestinian Authority as part of its plans to merge with the PLO and take control of it from within.

Hamas refers to the events surrounding the marches as “peaceful,” yet in the same breath it calls them “jihad” and “the armed struggle.” Hamas admits that these are acts of violence and warfare, but it adheres to the description of “peaceful ways” as part of its propaganda machine against Israel, which receives a sympathetic ear and understanding from the Left and human rights groups.

Hamas has clarified the objectives of the Return Marches, which are the elimination of the State of Israel and ethnically cleansing the Jewish presence from the land.

Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi is a senior researcher of the Middle East and radical Islam at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is a co-founder of the Orient Research Group Ltd.