Mash'al, Khalid (1956–)

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Mash'al, Khalid

Khalid Mash'al (Khaled Mesh'al, Meshaal, Mashal, Mashaal) is a senior leader in the Palestinian movement Hamas.


Mash'al was born in 1956 in the village of Silwad, near Ramallah in the West Bank (then under Jordanian occu-pation). His father began working in Kuwait in the 1960s and the rest of the family followed him there after the Israeli occupation of the West Bank (along with the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula) in 1967. While in school in Kuwait Mash'al became interested in Palestinian and Islamic activism, and some allege that he joined the Muslim Brotherhood in 1971. As a student at Kuwait University studying physics he founded a student bloc called al-Haqq al-Islami (The Islamic Truth) that challenged Fatah (yasir arafat's group within the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO]) for leadership of the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS). Following his graduation in 1978 he taught physics in Kuwait. He married in 1981 and has seven children.


With the start of the intifada in December 1987 and the creation of Hamas (Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya [the Islamic Resistance Movement]) the following year by the members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine, Mash'al made connections with Hamas. Growing out of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas prioritized Islam as a way of life in addition to the struggle on the national front for the liberation of Palestine. Hamas initially was extremely active in providing health care and educational opportunities to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza (something it has continued to this day), eventually adopting a more organized and militant platform of resistance that included attacks on soldiers and ultimately suicide bombings, a tactic implemented in 1994. Given the large population of Palestinians who lived in Kuwait, as Hamas grew in reputation (both for its provision of social services and its military resistance) Mash'al was able to draw in Hamas supporters in the diaspora.


Name: Khalid Mash'al (Khaled Mesh'al, Meshaal, Mashal, Mashaal)

Birth: Silwad, Jordanian-controlled West Bank, 1956

Family: Wife; four sons; three daughters

Nationality: Palestinian

Education: Kuwait University, physics, 1974–1978


  • 1988: Becomes an active member of Hamas
  • 1991: Moves/is expelled to Jordan
  • 1997: Survives assassination attempt against him by Israeli Mossad agents in Jordan
  • 1999: Expelled from Jordan
  • 2001: Takes up residency in Syria, political leader of Hamas bureau in Syria
  • 2004: Likely becomes head of political wing of Hamas after assassinations of Shaykh Ahmad Yasin and Abd al-Aziz al-Rantisi


We will not recognize the legitimacy of occupation, but that does not mean that we will not deal with reality; we accepted the truce for some time in the past. We will not give up our principles; we are ready to deal with any agreement that does not harm or affect our rights and constants. Oslo Accord is buried and our reference now is the Cairo Agreement with all Palestinian factions and President [Mahmud] Abbas. Hamas knows this phase and believes in transition and moderation and does not impose its ideas on anyone. Christians voted for us and one Christian ran as independent and was supported by us; we will not impose the Shari'a [Islamic law] on anyone. Competence and honesty will be the basis of forming the government. We believe in transition and reality but the map of Palestine does not change. […] Resistance is a legitimate right; our presence in the PLC [Palestine Legislative Council] will reinforce the legitimacy of resistance. With regards to targeting civilians, we said it before, if they stop targeting our civilians, we will do likewise. Resistance is a right we will not give up. Israel is not offering anything; they even did not negotiate with a government formed by Abu Mazin [Mahmud Abbas]. So let us first rearrange our internal front first. No Israeli official who can guarantee security alongside occupation; so they have to decide: Either occupation or security. the Palestinian people are ready to fight for ages and ages. No peace or security with occupation. I call on the EU [European Union] not to link itself to the U.S. and Israeli positions. Europe knows the region more than them so it can play a bigger role. Calm ended by the end of 2005. Today, the Palestinian people are in the process of reforming and rebuilding the PLO. The calm is part of the tactics but it will stay as part of the resistance.


Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 and the first Gulf War in 1991, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians either fled or were expelled from Kuwait after Arafat cast PLO support for Iraq. From the outset of the invasion, Arafat voted against a resolution calling on Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait in the Arab League, and supported saddam hussein because of promises Hussein made to liberate Palestine. Following the liberation of Kuwait from the Iraqi occupiers, the Kuwaitis punished all Palestinians (estimated at 400,000) by expelling them or pressuring them to leave and ending all funding and support for the PLO. Mash'al took up residence in Jordan (as did most of those expelled) and became the head of the Hamas office in Amman. As such, he was in charge of international fund-raising for Hamas and he built relationships in other countries, such as Syria and Iran. Donations and money were sent from this office to the West Bank and Gaza for the social welfare programs run by Hamas, although the United States, Israel, and countries in the European Union (EU) believe that such donations were also used to fund the military resistance, including suicide bombings and attacks on Israeli civilians. Undoubtedly both took place. In January 1995 Hamas was declared a terrorist organization by the United States, and President Bill Clinton issued Executive Order No. 12947, making it a felony to raise or transfer funds to designated terrorist groups or their front organizations.

In a notorious incident that brought Mash'al to the attention of the world, Israel tried to assassinate him in September 1997. The government of Israel (under the leadership of Prime Minister binyamin netanyahu) described Mash'al as the preeminent figure in Hamas and responsible for the murder of innocent Israeli civilians. Israeli Mossad (secret service) agents carrying Canadian passports entered Jordan and poisoned Mash'al on the street by injecting him in the ear with a toxic substance. Two of the men were captured and Jordan's king, hussein bin talal, demanded that Israel provide an antidote for the poison, a demand to which initially Netanyahu refused. Because Jordan and Israel had signed a peace agreement in 1994, initiating full diplomatic relations after forty-six years of war and uneasy truces, the Israeli actions on Jordanian soil were considered a serious breach of trust. The peace agreement between them had been brokered by Clinton, who intervened in the Mash'al case and forced Netanyahu to provide the antidote. In the deal, Jordan exchanged the two arrested agents for the imprisoned spiritual leader of Hamas, Shaykh ahmad yasin among others.

As part of a crackdown on Hamas in 1999 in Jordan, Mash'al and three other Hamas members were imprisoned and then expelled from Jordan, perhaps because of U.S. pressure in the face of a visit of U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright to Jordan. Mash'al moved to Qatar, and then Syria in 2001. The Hamas Political Bureau is now based in Syria, and Mash'al speaks regularly to the press from Damascus. Following the assassination of Yasin in 2004, and then his successor Abd al-Aziz al-Rantisi the following month, Mash'al has been described as the political leader of Hamas and the head of Hamas in Syria.


The United States, Israel, Japan, Canada, and the EU states label Hamas a terrorist organization, and Jordan has banned the movement. Australia and the United Kingdom hold the same position, but only for the Izz al-Din al-Qassam movement, the armed military wing of Hamas. Mash'al is seen certainly as the leader of this movement outside of Palestine and thus is constantly under threat of assassination. The Arab and Muslim world do not share this view of Hamas and Mash'al, and he regularly travels in the Middle East region and speaks publicly.

Following the election of Hamas in the 2006 Palestine Legislative Council elections and their assumption of governmental control in March 2006, funding to the Palestinian Authority (PA) was cut by the United States, Japan, the EU, and Israel (which owes the PA some US$60 million per month that it collects in taxes and customs duties). Hamas has gone to others in states such as Iran and Saudi Arabia for funding for the running of the government, including paying salaries of all government employees, teachers, and health-care workers. Emergency measures were also put in place by United Nations, EU, and U.S. organizations to help pay salaries and alleviate the extreme levels of poverty that have resulted from the economic difficulties and lack of salaries and services.


Mash'al is still fairly new on the Palestinian political scene and is considered a fiery orator. He supports participation in elections while continuing violent struggle for liberation.

Today we are facing a political structure that used to be based on Oslo—true, it resulted from Oslo—but today this structure represents a new reality in the Palestinian scene. The Palestinian people, with its will, its sacrifice, its Intifada, are creating something new, on which this Legislative Council is based. That's why Hamas and the other forces are joining the Legislative Council on the basis of continued resistance, adhering to the weapons of the resistance, adhering to the Palestinian rights, to rectifying internal Palestinian affairs, to reform, to fighting corruption—this is our platform, and we do not base ourselves on Oslo. Restricting ourselves to the option of negotiations and politics alone, without the resistance, will make the enemy view us with more contempt, rather than with respect. On the other hand, the logic underlying the revolutions of all nations was to maintain a political process alongside resistance. (Interview, "Al-Jazeera TV, 23 January 2006)


Mash'al, Khalid. Interview by Rashid Khalidi after 2006 elections. Available from

                                        Rochelle Anne Davis