In A Nutshell
Palestinian terrorist group Hamas seeks the destruction of the state of Israel. But in between suicide bombings and rocket strikes, Hamas makes time for charity work. The organization regularly funds soup kitchens, schools, and orphanages.
The Whole Bushel
Though a prominent terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of hundreds, Palestinian-based Hamas also supports huge charity efforts on the Gaza Strip. Hamas, an acronym for “Harakat al-Muqawana al-Islamiya” (“Islamic Resistence Movement” in Arabic), is a Sunni Islamist organization that was founded in 1987. Hamas makes up one of two major political factions in Palestine.
Hamas has been in control of the Gaza Strip since 2006, where it primarily operates. It seeks the destruction of the state of Israel and the establishment of an Islamist state in Palestine and Israel. Hamas is also adamant that displaced Palestinians should be allowed to return to their homelands in what is now Israel.
They aren’t shy about using violence to express or accomplish these goals. The group has been responsible for the deaths of around 400 Israelis and 25 Americans since 1993 as a result of mortar strikes, rocket launches, and suicide bombings. But the group has also demonstrated willingness to cooperate with the United States and other nations. Additionally, the group has garnered a reputation among locals as being highly averse to political corruption, part of the reason it was able to break into mainstream politics in the region.
Hamas is also huge into charitable works: Of its $70 million annual budget, a sizable proportion goes toward social services. Hamas is responsible for funding schools, orphanages, soup kitchens, mosques, food banks, health clinics, and even sports leagues. Israeli scholar Reuven Paz has suggested that around 90 percent of Hamas’ activities are charitable in nature.
Ironically, most of Hamas’ own funding may come from charity, including Muslim charities based in the United States and Europe. In 2001, the Bush administration even seized the assets of the Holy Land Foundation, a prominent Islamic charity, on suspicion that it was funneling money to Hamas. The rest of Hamas’ funding comes from public Palestinian funds, private donations, and possibly the government of Iran.
For a terrorist group, Hamas enjoys a decent amount of popularity, thanks in no small part to its devotion to social work. However, that popularity has declined in recent years, especially among younger Gazans: About 70 percent would support demonstrations demanding a regime change in Palestine.