- HAMAS, an acronym for Harakat al-Muqāwama al-Islāmiyya, or the “Islamic Resistance Movement,” was founded in 1987 as an offshoot of the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood. The group’s aim is to end Israeli occupation in areas HAMAS considers Palestinian. HAMAS receives funding from Iran, Hizballah, and other sympathizers, including in the United States.
The US State Department designated HAMAS as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997, after its armed element the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade began conducting attacks against Israeli civilians in pursuit of its goal of establishing a Palestinian state.
Since 2007, HAMAS has served as the governing authority of the Gaza Strip, a small self-governing territory on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea bordering Israel. HAMAS continues to target Israel through terrorist strikes and rocket attacks, largely contained within the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Threat to New Jersey: Low
The threat from HAMAS to the United States and New Jersey is low because the group’s resources and efforts are focused on creating a Palestinian state. Nonetheless, the group has supporters and sympathizers in New Jersey, who are primarily focused on fundraising.
- In November 2008, a federal court in Texas convicted representatives of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) charity for funneling $12.4 million to HAMAS. In 2009, the founders of HLF received prison sentences of between 15-65 years. One individual convicted was a New Jersey representative responsible for the HLF’s Paterson (Passaic County) office.
In 2014, more than 30 New Jersey lawmakers and members of the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations pledged their support for Israel and called for the permanent demilitarization of HAMAS.
- Following the death of HAMAS founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in 2004, HAMAS urged retaliatory attacks against the United States; however, HAMAS members have not directly targeted the United States.
In July 2016, lawyers representing the families of five American victims families killed or injured in conflicts in Israel and the West Bank filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Facebook Inc. The lawsuit, currently underway, states HAMAS used Facebook to share operational and tactical information with members and followers, along with instructions for operatives to carry out attacks.