Compare and contrast crime and terrorism

            Founded in 1987 amidst the first intifada, Hamas, also referred to as the Islamic Resistance Movement, is a radical Islamic fundamentalist group listed as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, Canada, The European Union and Japan (Department of State). Formed as an outgrowth of the Palestinian Branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas operates primarily in the Gaza Strip where the faction holds considerable power, drawing support from civilians largely due to the social contributions of Hamas in previous years. Hamas’ position in Gaza was secured in January 2006 when Hamas party members gained 42.9%  of the popular vote in the first democratic election held in Palestine, an election that ousted the incumbent Fatah party.

            As an Islamic fundamentalist organization, Hamas’ main goal is the termination of Israel as a recognized state and the establishment of an Islamic-Palestinian nation ruled by the literal interpretation of the Q         ur’an, believing that a great number of problems arise out of a secular approach to socio-political issues. Hamas’ charter, which many officials assert is still adhered to, contains many instances of anti-semitic language, often using “Jew” and “Zionist” interchangeably, insinuating the intentionally misguiding notion that every Jew is a Zionist. Article seven of the covenant, titled “The Universality of the Islamic Resistance Movement” states, “The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the links in the chain of the struggle against the Zionist invaders. It goes back to 1939, to the emergence of the martyr Izz al-Din al Kissam and his brethren the fighters, members of Moslem Brotherhood” (AvalonProject). This is the first mention of Zionism in the covenant and references the Izz al-Din al Kissam (Qassam) Brigades, Hamas’ right-wing military formation founded in 1992 honoring the aforementioned Muslim martyr. The covenant also referencess the widely debunked Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an anti-semitic example of propaganda falsely and deceptively attributed to the Jews, detailing and outlining a continuation of the Zionism which led to the contested creation of the Jewish state of Israel.

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            Essentially, Hamas’ objective is to secure a Palestinian-Islamic state in the areas of what are currently Hamas-controlled Gaza, Israel, and the newly established, Fatah-led West Bank. In explaining the reasoning behind establishing a competing Palestinian liberation movement rather than joining the secular Palestinian Liberation Organization, the covenant explains that,

Secularism completely contradicts religious ideology. Attitudes, conduct and decisions stem from ideologies. That is why, with all our appreciation for The Palestinian Liberation Organization – and what it can develop into – and without belittling its role in the Arab-Israeli conflict, we are unable to exchange the present or future Islamic Palestine with the secular idea. The Islamic nature of Palestine is part of our religion and whoever takes his religion lightly is a loser (AvalonProject)

Thus, Hamas’ decision not to support the PLO stems directly from the PLO’s refusal to adopt Islam as its way of life.

            Recently, the tensions between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah have come to a boil, leading to the dissolution of allied leadership between the two parties which has resulted in a further division between Palestine. Now split politically as well as physically, Fatah has claimed control over the West Bank, ending a U.S. embargo against Fatah since its separation from terrorist-labeled Hamas. Knowledge of the motivations behind Hamas is sparse among many Americans, leading to an easy manipulation of information by a government that supports both Israel and Fatah. The continued support for these two governments from the U.S. is commonly construed by Islamic-Palestinians as simply anti-Muslim, an image that is not beneficial for the United States in foreign territories. An understanding of the deeply rooted religious fundamentalism that permeates the ideology of Hamas could prove to be a useful tool in diplomatic strategies rather than anti-terrorist measures in that an attempt to remedy the basic mistrust many Palestinian Muslims have of the United States will serve the interests of both parties in the future.

            The growing concern of global terrorism, attributed particularly to, and denounced by the current Bush Administration has made the word “terrorism” a convenient umbrella term used to cover a myriad of offenses. Such is the growing list of “terrorist” activities that many Americans, particularly those young of age and growing up in the midst of such rhetoric, may begin to understand a terrorist as simply another type of criminal. However, terrorist activity is generally more complicated, detailed and premeditated than street crimes. The motivations for terrorism and crime are also inherently different in that terrorist groups are acting for a widespread and recognized cause such as the expulsion of a foreign occupation or, conversely, as reinforcement for a dictatorship, while crimes are perpetrated merely for individual benefit. Incidents of murder, rape and domestic assault tend not to be premeditated but rather spontaneous and erratic. Also, the participants of terrorism differ from street criminals in that terrorism is typically a political or religiously motivated activity.

            The definition of terrorism is surprisingly broad, holding that terrorism is the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature ( While this definition does include Hamas, it also includes many other groups and governments not listed on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorists. Close scrutiny must be paid to the actions of every government, not simply those of other religions and races in other parts of the world, to ensure everyone is treated humanely and are kept safe from abusive hegemons.


Avalon Project, (2007). Hamas Covenant 1988. Retrieved June 21, 2007, from Avalon Project at

Yale University Web site:

State Department Foreign Terrorist List. (2002, Oct 23). U.S. Department of State. Retrieved

June 21, 2007, from Foreign Terrorist Organization List Web site:

terrorism. (n.d.). WordNet® 3.0. Retrieved June 21, 2007, from website:

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