Two decades ago the Islamists in Gaza thought the PLO was too moderate. Matthias Kuntzel puts it this way in his book Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11. The Islamists, he said,
. . exerted especially strong pressure on the PLO by adopting their own Charter. In every respect, Hamas’ new document put the 1968 PLO Charter in the shade: while the PLO text seeks to justify the necessity for the elimination of Israel without recourse to overly blatant anti-Semitism, the Hamas Charter no longer exercises the slightest restraint in that regard. Here, the jihad against Israel is presented as the first step in a global anti-Jewish war of annihilation. The Hamas Charter probably ranks as one of contemporary Islamism’s most important programmatic documents and its significance goes far beyond the Palestine conflict.
Kuntzel says that “it is as if the Charter’s authors had had the pages of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion open before them as the drafted their text.” Hence, the Charter says, “The Jews stood behind the French and the communist Revolutions,” “they stood behind World War I, so as to wipe out the Islamic Caliphate” and “they stood behind World War II, where they collected immense benefits from trading war materials.” “They inspired the establishment of the United Nations and the Security Council . . . in order to rule the world by their intermediary.” And of course, article 32 of the Hamas Charter tells us that “Their (the Jews’) scheme has been laid out in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and their present [conduct] is the best proof of what is said there.”
This is all crackpot stuff, so you might think it would be hard to outflank your average Hamas militant on the extremist front. But it seems that Hamas has its own problem with Islamic extremism, as evidenced from the Washington Post article “Clash Breaks out Between Hamas, Splinter Group”
Security forces and fighters of the ruling Islamist Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip battled for several hours Friday with gunmen from a splinter group advocating a strict form of Islamist law for the enclave.
The clash left up to 13 people dead and scores injured, according to Moawia Abu Hassanain, head of the Gaza Health Ministry’s ambulance and emergency service. It broke out after armed members of the Jund Ansar Allah group gathered at a mosque in the southern town of Rafah to hear hard-line cleric Abdel Latif Moussa taunt Hamas for being too moderate and to declare Gaza an Islamic state, according to Hamas officials and people who attended the gathering.
What is so “moderate” about Hamas, you may wonder?
According to wire service and eyewitness reports of Moussa’s sermon, the cleric said the group drew its inspiration from al-Qaeda, demanded that a strict Salafi form of Islam be imposed in Gaza, and criticized Hamas for its occasional meetings with Europeans and Americans, including former president Jimmy Carter.
Though Hamas is an Islamist movement whose militant stands include a call for Israel’s elimination, it has rejected al-Qaeda’s goal of a broad Islamic war with Western nations. Since seizing control of Gaza, it has not imposed the sorts of restrictions on public dress and behavior found in countries such as Saudi Arabia.
You might think of the difference between Hamas and Moussa’s gang mainly has to do with grand strategy. Hamas thinks the Israelis need to be annihilated before moving to the far enemy. Moussa thinks that the Islamists can walk and chew gum or, kill both Israelis and Americans and Europeans at the same time. It all has to do with strategic timing and means. Still, one wonders how long it will take before commentators and public officials start speaking of the clash between moderates and extremists among the Islamist factions in Gaza.