In spite of the record press and media coverage of the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, rarely are Hamas's objectives put in historical perspective. Hamas are not Palestinian nationalists but Islamists. Well-meaning do-gooders talk about the need for an end to violence and for the two sides to sit down and talk. But Hamas, an acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement, simply does not have a negotiating position, short of the annihilation of Israel and the subjugation of Jews to Muslim rule, as per its Charter.
Hamas is the local Gaza branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. This organisation, founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, a teacher, was directly inspired by the rise of Nazism, as well as Mohammed's campaign against the Jewish tribes of Arabia in the Koran. The German-funded Brotherhood's membership rocketed during the 1930s from 800 to 200,000. Its primary target was not colonialism. It has only ever targeted the Jews and other non-Muslims - and more specifically, the Jews of Egypt.
Matthias Kuntzel explains how this campaign, which established the Brotherhood as a mass movement, was set off by the 1936 uprising in Palestine directed against Jewish immigration and initiated by the notorious Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini. Between 1936 and 1938 the Brotherhood organized mass demonstrations in Egyptian cities under the slogans "Down With the Jews!" and "Jews Get Out of Egypt and Palestine!" Leaflets called for a boycott of Jewish goods and shops. The Brotherhood's newspaper, al-Nadhir, carried a regular column on "The Danger of the Jews of Egypt," which published the names and addresses of Jewish businessmen and (allegedly) Jewish newspaper publishers all over the world - attributing every evil, from communism to brothels, to the "Jewish danger." The Jews of Egypt were repeatedly called on to publicly dissasociate themselves from Zionism.
In June 1939 bombs were planted in a Cairo synagogue and Jewish homes, but this was as nothing compared to the violence to come. In November 1945, just six months after the end of the Third Reich, the Muslim Brotherhood carried out what Kuntzel calls the worst anti-Jewish pogroms in (modern*) Egypt's history, when demonstrators penetrated the Jewish quarter of Cairo on the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. They ransacked houses and shops, attacked non-Muslims, and torched the synagogues. Six people were killed, and a hundred more injured. A few weeks later the Islamists' newspapers "turned to a frontal attack against the Egyptian Jews, slandering them as Zionists, Communists, capitalists and bloodsuckers, as pimps and merchants of war, or in general, as subversive elements within all states and societies," as Gudrun Krämer wrote in her study The Jews in Egypt 1914-1952.
The rest is, as they say, history. More riots erupted in 1948, thousands of Jews fled, discriminatory laws were introduced against non-Egyptians and in 1956, a third of Egypt's original 80,000-strong community were expelled and dispossessed. After 1967, hundreds more Jews were interned and expelled.
The pitiful status of Jews in Egypt today would gladden the heart of any Hamas supporter: the country is almost judenrein, and the few dozen fearful Jews still living there - almost all converts to Islam or married to non-Jews - 'know their place'.
*worse pogroms erupted in medieval times