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The Arabic term hamas means “zeal” and is the acronym of the Harakat al-Muqawamat al-Islami-yyah (Islamic Resistance Movement), the largest Palestinian Islamic (Sunnī) resistance movement. While pursuing its main political objective—the establishment of a state based on the principles of Islamic law (or Shari'a) in all of pre-1948 Palestine—Hamas has resocialized the Palestinian public under Israeli occupation around an Islamic identity. Hamas's political, social, and religious objectives are enshrined in both nationalistic and Islamic ideologies. These color the type of actions the movement promotes: jihad (or religious struggle) against Zionism and Israel, martyrdom as death for the sake of God, but also mundane involvement in party politics and the provision of welfare and charitable services to the Palestinian public.

Hamas first appeared under that name in ...

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