To the surprise of many observers, Hamas won the recent elections on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It has formed a Government and replaced the secular Fatah party of Abu Mazen. The latter remains the President of the Palestinian Authority, thus creating a so-called co-habitation situation.
Almost immediately after the election of Hamas, the large sponsors of the Palestinian Authority cut their funding.
The United States, the European Union (25 states), Australia, Canada and Japan have indicated that as long as Hamas does not recognise Israel, does not renounce terrorism and does not recognise the Oslo Accords, no further funding will be forthcoming.
New Zealand, not having designated Hamas as a terrorist organisation, stands virtually alone among the Western countries.
The external funding of the PA amounted to some $1.5 billion a year. Iran and Syria have with much fanfare, but minimal amounts, announced they will now support Hamas and its policies.
Hope exists on the part of some of the erstwhile sponsors that Hamas will rewrite its charter and adopt more realistic policies now that it has accepted Government responsibility. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have strongly recommended that Hamas change its irredentist policies and its support for terrorism.
Unfortunately, statements by the Hamas Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs make it clear that Hamas has no intention of changing its policies.
During the Al Aqsa Intifada (2000-2005), Hamas was responsible for most of the suicide murders of civilians in Israel. Recent suicide murders in Israel, for which Islamic Jihad took responsibility, were condemned by Abu Mazen, but not by the Hamas Government, which condoned them.
What makes Hamas such an irredentist terrorist movement? The answer can be found in the Hamas Charter (1988).
Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organisation banned in most Muslim countries.
According to Article 13 of the charter: "[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of Hamas ... there is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad."
Article 15 expands on this Jihad: "We must spread the spirit of Jihad among the Umma, clash with the enemies and join the ranks of the Jihad fighters ... we must imprint on the minds of generations of Muslims that the Palestinian problem is a religious one, to be dealt with on this premise".
The second part of the charter reads more like Hitler's Mein Kampf. Article 32 informs us that "Zionist scheming has no end and after Palestine they [Israel] will covet expansion from the Nile to the Euphrates. Their [Israel's] scheme has been laid out in The Protokols of the Elders of Zion".
And in Article 28 we are informed who will help the Israeli Zionists to fulfil their desires. "It [Israel] relies to a great extent, for its meddling and spying activities, on the clandestine organisations which it has established such as the Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, Lions and other spy associations. All those secret organisations ... strive to demolish societies, to destroy values, to wreck answerableness, to totter virtues and wipe out Islam. It stands behind the diffusion of drugs and toxics of all kinds in order to facilitate its control and expansion."
In Article 17 of the charter Hamas makes it clear that "it will wipe out those organisations which are the enemy of humanity and Islam".
The Protokols of the Elders of Zion is the most notorious anti-Semitic fabrication of all time. It contains a so-called secret plan for world domination, and provided the ideological justification for the destruction of the Jewish people by the Nazis in the Holocaust.
But it is widely known that the Protokols were compiled by Russian anti-Semites in the office of the Tsarist Okbrana (Secret Police) at the end of the 19th century.
Elsewhere the Hamas Charter accuses the Jewish people of being responsible for the French Revolution, the Communist Revolutions and both World Wars. Article 22 of the charter claims: "There was no war that broke out anywhere without their fingerprint on it".
The combination of virulent European anti-Semitism with religiously motivated Jihad against Israel is a dangerous brew. The aim of Hamas is the destruction of Israel and that policy has been clear from its inception in 1988. Hamas now has the support of Iran to "wipe Israel off the map".
* Professor Dov Bing is on the staff of the Department of Political Science and Public Policy, University of Waikato.