Oliver Roy, writing in New Perspectives Quarterly, says of Hamas,
Hamas is nothing else than the traditional Palestinian nationalism with an Islamic garb. The Taliban express more a Pashtu identity than a global movement. The Iraqi factions are competing not over Iran or Saudi Arabia, but over sharing (or monopolizing) the power in Iraq.Yes to the second and third of his observations, a weak maybe toward the first. Is Hamas really a Palestinian nationalist movement with an Islamist gloss? Bret Stephens in the WSJ says no.
Of all the errors in the West's understanding of Hamas, none is more fundamental than the routine characterization of the group as a Palestinian movement. It is nothing of the sort.That is not to say that Hamas would have no use for an independent nation of Palestine, it's just that Hamas (like its Palestinian enemy Fatah of the Palestinian Authority), rejects an independent Palestine consisting of the West Bank plus Gaza. Hamas' very charter calls forthe obliteration of Israel in a very literal sense and explicitly denounces the idea that anything but warfare can resolve the "Palestinian question." If there is to be an independent Palestine, Hamas insists that it will include the Bank, Gaza and all of the lands of Israel, which must vanish as a political entity and be subsumed entirely into the Islamic nation.
But the test of Hamas's Palestinian-ness ... is whether it actually believes in something called Palestine. There is scant evidence that it does.
Bear in mind that there has never previously been an independent state by that name; politically, it remains a notional place. The idea of a Palestinian people, referring to the Arab inhabitants of the land, is also of relatively recent vintage. ...
The Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is merely an affiliate, has never been keen on the concept of the nation-state. Hamas's charter describes the land of Palestine as an "Islamic Waqf," or trust, "consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgment Day." Hamas's charming slogan -- "God is [Hamas's] target, the Prophet is its model, the Quran its constitution: Jihad is its path and death for the sake of God is the loftiest of its wishes" -- is tellingly silent on the subject of Palestine.
This is not actually different in major degree from what Fatah still desires. Yasir Arafat (1929-2004) was Fatah's supreme commander in the 1950s and 1960s and founder of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which was an umbrellas group consisting of Fatah and several already-existing, anti-Israel organizations. Fatah is the armed wing and major component of the Palestinian Authority (PA).
In 1988, Arafat declared, in English before Western cameras, that he explicitly recognized Israel's right to exist. This apparent breakthrough ultimately led to the Oslo Accords in 1993, which in turn made possible the founding the the PA as a proto-state for Palestinians, of which Arafat served as first president.
However, what Arafat did not say to Western media or audiences in English is what he made abundantly clear to his domestic audiences in Arabic: that the right of Israel to exist, that Arafat claimed to recognize, was not its right to exist as a Jewish state, apart from an Arab nation of Palestine. In fact, Palestinian curricula for kindergartens on up graphically made clear that "Palestine" consists of all of Israel, the West bank and Gaza - that is to say, the very same geography that Hamas claims. (See prior link, above.)
Fatah is moderate only compared to Hamas. While Hamas has launched thousands of rockets at southern Israel in the last several years, it was from the West Bank, always under Fatah's rule, that the vast majority of suicide bombers entered Israel. These bombers killed multiples more Israelis than Hamas's rockets.
As I wrote before,
The only difference between Hamas and Fatah/PA is one of tactics, not of objectives. Hamas is founded on violent jihad against Israel and in theory and practice has no use for conferencing or diplomacy. This is not conjecture; Hamas has stated it plainly. Hamas only strategy is warfare against Israel.However, Oliver Roy's point about Hamas' nationalism may not be entirely incorrect. When Ayatollah Khomeini took the reins of government in Iran in 1979, he wrote a new, Islamist constitution for Iran that expresses Iranian nationhood as only a means to an end, which is the spread of Islam across the globe. That is, he saw Iran as a nation-state only as a secure base from which to convert the rest of the world. Islamism, but its nature, is rabidly supremacist and imperialistic. Hamas, tied by purse string and ideology to Iran, may have in mind a Palestine state that is only an intermediate objective to exactly that kind of expansion.
Fatah, on the other hand, is more willing to bide its time and use the so-called peace process to advance its goals. It is probably even willing to accept a two-state solution as a temporary measure from which to gain strength, influence and international legitimacy to advance the elimination of Jewish Israel and subsume it into a future, Muslim Greater Palestine.
This is what the rest of the Arab nations suspect, and explains well why they have been consenting by silence to Operation Cast Lead.