One of my journalism mentors once said something that turned out to be very wise.
That gem: The more controversial the story, the more a reporter should search for a document (on letterhead, even) that backs you up.
This is especially important, in my experience, when selling a controversial story to an editor.
At the moment, I cannot think of a topic that is more controversial than Hamas — specifically, whether Hamas is, at its heart, a terrorist group.
Thus, I would like to offer a rather unusual “think piece” this week. This is an actual document that, I believe, should be in the news, as in source for questions and content in stories linked to the hellish Oct. 7 Hamas raid into Israel.
The document in question is the 1988 Hamas covenant explaining the organization’s doctrines and goals. As I will mention later, there is a revised 2017 Hamas charter that is more political and, frankly, less doctrinal. The key is that the 1988 covenant has never been disavowed. Thus, it remains must reading.
Will it be controversial to quote this covenant? Probably. But it’s real, it’s important and it is a valid launching point for questions about present realities. If you want a journalism piece linked to this covenant, then check out this new piece at The Atlantic: “Understanding Hamas’s Genocidal Ideology — A close read of Hamas’s founding documents clearly shows its intentions.”
Once again, note that this headline uses “ideology,” when the accurate term for the most controversial passages in this covenant would be “theology.” You know the drill: Politics is real. Religion? Not so much.
You can find the 1988 Hamas covenant in quite a few places, often with commentary. But let’s seek a basic academic source for the document itself, care of Yale Law School.
I have chosen, for this post, a few quotations that are directly linked to questions I have seen addressed in some of the mainstream news coverage of the Oct. 7 blitz. For starters, this is from the preamble:
Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it” (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory).
From the river to the sea, Palestine must be free? When I was in the Middle East in 2000, and asked about the river-sea slogan that I saw in different locations, that short covenant passage fits with what I heard.