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September 16, 2014 6:51 am

Hamas and the Art of Deception

avatar by Steven Emerson

Hamas Leader Ismail Haniyeh with Palestinian children.

Hamas apologists often argue that, since it won one election eight years ago, it is really a legitimate political movement and not a terrorist organization.

Hamas does engage in politics and a new report from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) shows it is skilled in the political art of deception.

In its social media posts, Hamas offers starkly different messages in English compared to Arabic. Writing for English-speaking Westerners, Hamas minimizes the fundamentalist Islamist ideology at the core of its mission. Rather, it emphasizes Palestinian nationalism, as in this example the IDF report cited from Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal: “The Palestinian people are committed to their right to their land, to defend themselves and to lift the siege imposed on Gaza.”

Reaching out to Arabic speakers, Hamas routinely invokes the religious commitment used to justify its attacks. The link refers to a hymn with the lyrics, “We, the ones who have pledged allegiance to Muhammad / Will engage in jihad as long as we live.”

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The Hamas charter, which has been translated into English, invokes Quranic verses to justify the goal of killing Jews and destroying Israel. Its preamble says that, “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”

In altering its messages to appeal to Arabic and English audiences, Hamas borrows a page from its parent organization, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. As we reported during the Arab Spring uprising in Egypt, the Brotherhood removed a section of its bylaws calling for “establishing the Islamic State” from its English-language website.

When Osama bin Laden was killed by a U.S. Navy SEAL team, the Brotherhood’s English reaction was to acknowledge “one of the reasons for which violence has been practised in the world has been removed.” In Arabic, however, the mass-murdering al-Qaida founder was described as both a sheikh and as a martyr, both terms of honor, and the American raid was described as an assassination.

Steven Emerson is the executive director the Investigative Project on Terrorism ( where this article first appeared.

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