The Hamas Charter is considered by the movement's supporters as a key and stand-alone historical document pertaining to Hamas's political and social ideology. In the event that this document is altered or amended, it would cause a state of undue and untimely confusion and tension within the ranks of the Hamas supporters. It would also be seen as a concession to international and Israeli pressures, even if the changes made to the charter were not substantial or even if the new charter was more extreme in crucial issues such as the recognition of Israel or dealing with international proposals. As long as such amendments form part of international demand or foreign advice, then any response to these demands will be seen as a concession and a weakness in the eyes of both Hamas's supporters and the movement's political opposition. It will also send a message to international forces that soft pressure on the movement actually works.
In addition to this, no amendment to the charter would sufficiently please the international community beyond altering the core of the Hamas's political thought. No changes to the charter would satisfy Western forces unless they explicitly recognise the two-state solution and clearly accept the legitimacy of the continued existence of the Israeli state on Palestinian territories, while shunning the Palestinian national struggle in all its forms. From a strategic regional and international perspective, unless making concessions to these specific points there is no point in changing the charter, as such change may ultimately crack the intellectual infrastructure of Hamas and cause severe repercussions affecting its survival.
Palestinians still remember Fatah's ill-fated political acquiescence, particularly the amendment of the organisation's charter under the supervision of Yasser Arafat in 1996 to appease Bill Clinton. Although Fatah changed the PLO Charter under US pressure, it did not reap the fruits of this change and it ultimately did not serve the Palestinian cause. Instead, it caused disappointment and decline; a fate which may well befall Hamas if it makes the same mistake.
Although it may be true that some of Hamas's positions need to be clarified, the best way to do this would not be to change the existing charter but to issue a new document explaining the movement's strategic vision over a specified period of time. However, this document must be clear and understandable, devoid of any extra words and without any dense literary jargon. It must be focused on the clear political matters at hand and keep pace with social and political developments in the Palestinian arena, allowing for changes over the next five to ten years.
All political entities have their literatures and philosophies that serve to carry and propagate their core values and that cannot be altered; they must remain as a foundation stone and intellectual inheritance for all new recruits. Such entities can later be developed through practice, conflict, and building relationships, but their core values always remain the same. No one truly believes that changes to Hamas's charter would bring respect, acceptance and understanding from the international community. This community only understands the language of power and force through the ability to raise some voices and silence others. And Hamas must not allow itself to be covertly silenced in such a way.
Translated from Al Resalah newspaper, 15 December, 2014
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.