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Why Hamas Can Never Agree to a Jewish State

An Islamic Waqf

Article 11 of the Hamas Charter of 1988 states: “The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up….”

The Hope Simpson Report of 1930, established in August 1929 to focus on immigration, land settlement and development issues in British Mandate Palestine, defined a waqf as “a transfer of ownership to the Deity for a purpose which is, or may become, charitable or religious. Some waqfs were charitable or religious foundations from the start. The majority however were, and are, made as a means of securing the use of the land to the founder and his heirs along a line of inheritance laid down in the wakfiah or instrument of dedication. In these waqfs the charitable or religious object does not materialise till the founder’s line becomes extinct.”

Hamas defined this Islamic concept in a leaflet distributed in Gaza in 2000, noted political scientist Yitzhak Reiter: “Palestine in its entirety is holy [emphasis added] Muslim waqf land.”

Hamas thus merged two beliefs. Palestine is waqf land; and therefore, it is holy land. Until then, the holiness of Palestine was founded on religious and historical reasons. Article 11 added the legal confirmation to Palestine’s holiness. Once the land was declared waqf, holy and inalienable features were added to describe its nature.

An Inalienable Religious Endowment: A Political Myth

In “All of Palestine is Holy Waqf Land” (a chapter in the 2006 book “Law, Custom, and Statute in the Muslim World,” edited by Ron Shaham), Reiter exposes this Hamas concept as “a novel politically oriented myth, rooted neither in Islamic legal texts nor in historical practice.” To reach this conclusion, Reiter shows how the Islamists selectively chose the traditions based on literal criteria, without considering the initial intent of terms and institutions as long as the literal text provided justification for their political objective. In addition, the concept is grounded “on an absolute disregard of the accumulative practice of fourteen centuries of Muslim rule.”

The fabrication, which originated during the first intifada, serves several purposes. All lands conquered in the 7th century are considered waqf land, they are a holy Islamic legacy, and they cannot be sold or assigned to non-Muslims, and especially not to Zionists. After the demise of the Oslo Accords during the second half of the 1990s, Hamas promptly introduced the concept to Palestinian Arab communities and other Muslim communities outside of Judea and Samaria. Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority’s mufti also officially acknowledged that Palestine is “inalienable waqf land.”

Political scientist Shaul Mishal described one example of how this myth became an integral part of Hamas philosophy in the clandestine leaflets that helped guide the Arab response during the first intifada (December 1987-December 1988). The August 18, 1988 leaflet No. 28 entitled “Islamic Palestine from the [Mediterranean] sea to the river,” avowed: “The Muslims have had a full—not a partial-right to Palestine for generations, in the past, present, and future. This is not only the right of the Palestinians or the Arabs alone, and no Palestinian generation has the right to cede the land, steeped in martyr’s blood.” For this reason, “every negotiation with the enemy is a regression form the [Palestinian] cause, concession of a principle, and recognizing the uprising murderers’ false claim to a land in which they were not born.”

Leaflet No. 30 declared the uprising will continue in order to liberate “our whole land from the contamination of the Jews…” Israel Channel 10 News reported that Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh called Israel “a cancerous tumor that must be removed and uprooted.”

During the recent eight-day military conflict between Hamas and Israel, the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reported that Hamas broadcast several ideological messages on its official Al-Aqsa TV station including: “Killing Jews is worship that draws us close to Allah. Repeat in the name of your Jihad: Death to Israel!” Calling for the death of Jews is not new for Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA). PMW has documented that Hamas and the PA have a long history of urging the murder of Jews.

A Final Note

Attempts to solve the Arab/Israeli conflict will never succeed as long as Palestinian Arabs refuse to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a legitimate Jewish state. This is not open for debate. No self-respecting state would consent to its own demise. Palestinian Arab refusal to abandon the possibility or inevitability of Israel’s destruction cannot be as easily dismissed as those in the Western media continually do. Nor can one ignore the overwhelming evidence that this conflict is a religious war, where the land of Israel is viewed by Palestinian Arabs as a waqf land—land that is a Muslim religious trust.


Dr. Grobman is senior resident scholar at the John C. Danforth Society, member of the Council of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.

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