Islamic Studies Hamas
by
Chrystie Flournoy Swiney
  • LAST REVIEWED: 10 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 April 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0031

Introduction

The Islamic Resistance Movement, or حركة المقاومة الاسلامية (Ḥarakat al-Muqāwamat al-Islāmiyyah) in Arabic, is a national liberation movement that employs a variety of military, political, social, and humanitarian strategies to effectuate its goal of ending the Israeli occupation. Known by its acronym Hamas (meaning zeal), it came into existence in 1987 and is based in the Palestinian Territories, notably the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Prior to 2005 it largely eschewed formal political participation, instead opting for a combination of private humanitarian outreach and militant-terroristic tactics, but after an ideological reassessment, Hamas entered politics in 2005. In the municipal elections of 2005 as well as the Palestinian Legislative Council elections of 2006, Hamas was electorally successful, gaining many seats in the former and the majority in the latter, a result that, under Palestinian law, allowed it to form a new government. Ending four decades of exclusive rule by its political rival Fatah, Hamas entered the political arena and articulated a governing platform, only to see its fortunes quickly reversed when civil conflict led to a two-headed and divided Palestinian government. In 2010 Hamas controlled Gaza, and Fatah, which the United States and large segments of the international community view as the legitimate Palestinian government, controlled the West Bank.

General Overviews

Since Israel’s founding in 1948 and particularly since Israel’s occupation of all Palestinian lands following the 1967 war, Palestinian resistance against the Israeli state has persisted. See Smith 2007 for a balanced and useful overview of the conflict from its origins to the early 21st century. Hamas, a religious-nationalist liberation movement, is one manifestation of this resistance, a resistance that Hamas has exerted since its emergence at the start of the first intifada, or uprising, in 1987. However, Hamas’s roots extend back prior to this period, indeed to the 1920s and the emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. As a branch of this Egyptian umbrella movement, Hamas was formed by disgruntled members of the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood who disagreed with the latter’s pacifistic strategies and tendencies and who wanted to try new, more aggressive methods to end the Israeli occupation. Once formed, Hamas organized itself into a formidable force in the Palestinian Territories, at first helping to fuel and organize the intifada, then creating a network of social services for the Palestinian people, and eventually entering the political sphere to try its hand at governing. Council of Foreign Relations2009 and Chehab 2007 are useful beginner’s guides to understanding Hamas. Hroub 2000 provides a useful and more specific examination of Hamas’s political ideology and goals, while Mishal and Sela 2006 assesses Hamas’s evolution through a more scholarly, political scientist lens. Azzam Tamimi’s two books on Hamas (Tamimi 2007a and Tamimi 2007b) are among the small handful of books written exclusively on and about Hamas (in which Mishal and Sela 2006 may be included). Bin Jusuf 1989 provides an assessment in Arabic of Hamas’s origins.

  • Bin Jusuf, Ahmed. Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya Hamas, Khalifiyyat al-Nash’a wa-Aafaq al-Masir. Worth, IL: al-Markaz al-‘Aalami lil-Buhuth wal-Dirasat, 1989.

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    (The Islamic resistance movement, Hamas, its emergence and horizons of action.) A good introduction to Hamas and the context and political climate in which it emerged. In Arabic.

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  • Chehab, Zaki. Inside Hamas: The Untold Story of the Militant Islamic Movement. New York: Nations Books, 2007.

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    A comprehensive, scholarly overview of Hamas. Largely overlaps with Tamimi 2007a and Tamimi 2007b to offer an in-depth look at Hamas’s rise and development, with particular detail on its political participation in the post-2005 period.

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  • Council on Foreign Relations.Backgrounder: Hamas. 2009.

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    A useful, albeit very concise and general, overview of what Hamas is, what it represents, its goals, and its popularity among the Palestinian population.

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  • Hroub, Khaled. Hamas: Political Thought and Practice. Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 2000.

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    Excellent guide to Hamas’s founding and evolving political ideology, strategies, and objectives. A more detailed examination of its political beliefs and practices, as opposed to its more theological positions, which are emphasized in most other texts and articles on Hamas. However, this book also reveals the arguably inextricable nature of Hamas’s political and theological beliefs.

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  • Mishal, Shaul, and Abraham Sela. The Palestinian Hamas: Vision, Violence, and Coexistence. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006.

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    This is an excellent scholarly assessment of Hamas from a political science perspective, specifically through the lens of international relations theory. Written by two Israeli experts.

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  • Smith, Charles D. Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. 5th ed. New York: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2007.

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    One of the more balanced accounts of the history of the Arab-Israeli and specifically the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that exists in this overpublished field. Will provide useful historical background and a general overview of the circumstances surrounding the rise and development of Hamas.

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  • Tamimi, Azzam. Hamas: A History from Within. Northampton, MA: Olive Branch, 2007a.

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    Similar to Tamimi 2007b though more updated. Covers part of the conflict with Fatah following Hamas’s rise to political power.

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  • Tamimi, Azzam. Hamas: Unwritten Chapters. London: Hurst, 2007b.

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    This is another one of the few books written exclusively on Hamas. It provides a comprehensive overview, including a full and illuminating assessment of Hamas’s decision to enter politics and its involvement in the political sphere, and includes some key documents written by Hamas in the early 21st century (see the appendixes). A helpful and more detailed account than Hroub 2000 and a much shorter and more concise book.

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Historical Evolution

According to Tamimi 2007, on 9 December 1987, the day that the first Palestinian intifada, or internal uprising, began, seven members of the senior leadership of the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood broke ranks and started a new organization, one that embraced armed resistance as a key strategy to confront the Israeli occupation. Somewhat ironically, Israel encouraged its emergence as a way to foment opposition against its rival, Fatah. This break off of the Muslim Brotherhood eventually became the movement known as Hamas. Roy 2003 examines the ways Hamas quickly assumed its influential position in Palestinian society by using Islam to effectuate its political, humanitarian, and military goals, while Nusse 1998 traces its ideological evolution. Hroub 2006 includes a more comprehensive discussion on Hamas’s ideological and historical evolution, and Mishal and Sela 2006 similarly discusses Hamas’s origins and relationship with the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood as well as the broader political context in which they emerged. Milton-Edwards 2005 offers yet another assessment of Hamas’s transformation from a movement exclusively focused on fighting the Israeli occupation through armed resistance to a more inward-looking movement focused on improving governance within the territories. Gunning 2008 is one of the most up-to-date studies on Hamas.

  • Gunning, Jeroen. Hamas in Politics: Democracy, Religion, Violence. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.

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    One of the most up-to-date texts on Hamas, written by a scholar who has followed the organization closely for many years; includes extensive fieldwork and interviews with Hamas leaders. Directly addresses Hamas’s historical and ideological evolution. It is particularly helpful in demystifying the way Hamas is structured.

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  • Hroub, Khaled. Hamas: A Beginner’s Guide. London: Pluto, 2006.

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    See in particular pp. 1–12 covering Hamas’s history and formation. Written in question-and-answer format; a very concise, easy to read, though not particularly substantive review of Hamas. Does not address many of the nuances and debates surrounding Hamas’s rise and its later participation in the Palestinian elections, but covers all the basics of the movement’s rise and evolution.

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  • Milton-Edwards, Beverly. “Prepared for Power: Hamas, Governance, and Conflict.” Civil Wars 7.4 (Winter 2005): 311–329.

    DOI: 10.1080/13698280600682940Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A useful overview of Hamas’s political evolution and involvement, including a discussion of the broader implications within Palestinian society of Hamas’s rise to political power. It includes helpful contextual information regarding changes within the broader movement of Palestinian nationalism and Israel’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza, both of which impacted Hamas’s strategic decision to enter politics.

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  • Mishal, Shaul, and Abraham Sela. The Palestinian Hamas: Vision, Violence, and Coexistence. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006.

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    Excellent assessment, through a political science lens, of the changes, both ideological and behavioral, of Hamas in the wake of its political integration.

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  • Nusse, Andrea. Muslim Palestine: The Ideology of Hamas. New York: Routledge, 1998.

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    This more detailed examination of Hamas’s historical and ideological evolution helpfully contextualizes its thinking with respect to other foundational Islamist thinkers, such as Hassan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb, and al-Mawdudi.

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  • Roy, Sara. “Hamas and the Transformation of Political Islam in Palestine.” Current History 101.13 (January 2003): 13–20.

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    Focuses on the political and social transformation of Hamas within Palestinian society as well as the broader influence of political Islam on its transformation. Also provides a useful discussion on the relationship between Israel and Hamas.

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  • Tamimi, Azzam. Hamas: A History from Within. Northampton, MA: Olive Branch, 2007.

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    Similar to Tamimi 2007a (cited under General Overviews) though more updated. Covers part of the conflict with Fatah following Hamas’s rise to political power.

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Ideology, Strategy, and Objectives

Islam shapes the rhetoric, symbolism, insignia, and aspirations of Hamas, though many have argued that they distort aspects of true Islamic theology. The Hamas Charter 1988, drafted in 1988 after Hamas’s founding, encapsulates its commitment to religious ideals, including an Islamic state with Sharia as its founding law. Hamas’s founding ideology and strategic objectives closely reflect those of the secular Palestinian nationalist movements that came before it, according to Legrain 1997. Hamas’s founding ideology also reflects the ideology of its parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood. El-Awaisi 1998 provides some useful context on the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Palestinian Territories and its position on the “Palestine question.” While many works, including Hroub 2006, argue that Hamas’s ideological commitments to an Islamic state have shifted and evolved, adopting a more moderate stance over time, others, including Levitt 2006, argue the opposite—namely, that Hamas remains just as religiously fanatical and committed to theocratic goals as always. For an overview of Hamas’s ideology, strategy, and objectives, see Kjorlien 1993 and Tamimi 2007; for a less balanced, albeit informative perspective, see Levitt 2006.

  • el-Awaisi, Abd Al-Fattah Muhammad. The Muslim Brothers and the Palestine Question, 1928–1947. London and New York: Tauris, 1998.

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    Explains the rise of the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and its relationship with the politics of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

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  • Hamas Charter. 18 August 1988.

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    Hamas’s original, founding charter, which details its original ideals and goals, including its goal of establishing a Palestinian state on all of historic Palestine. Some scholars, such as Khaled Hroub (Hroub 2006), argue that the 1988 charter no longer represents Hamas, even though Hamas refuses to rescind or amend it.

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  • Hroub, Khaled. “A New Hamas through Its New Documents.” Journal of Palestine Studies 35.4 (Summer 2006): 6–27.

    DOI: 10.1525/jps.2006.35.4.6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A close assessment of several key documents written by Hamas during its campaign and following its election. The documents include Hamas’s 2005 electoral platform, its draft program for a coalition government, and its cabinet platform (the text of a speech). Hroub makes the argument that Hamas has dramatically shifted, both ideologically and politically, as reflected in these new documents and thus should be taken more seriously.

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  • Kjorlien, M. L. “Hamas in Theory and Practice.” Arab Studies Journal 1.2 (1993): 4–7.

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    Short but useful guide on Hamas’s founding ideology, with heavy emphasis on its 1988 charter. Note, however, that some scholars, such as Khaled Hroub, argue that Hamas’s charter is no longer relevant to Hamas’s current ideology, that it is now obsolete.

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  • Legrain, J. F. “Hamas: Legitimate Heir of Palestinian Nationalism?” In Political Islam: Revolution, Radicalism, or Reform? Edited by John L. Esposito, 159–178. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1997.

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    An assessment of the continuity between Hamas’s ideology, rhetoric, and strategies and those endorsed and pursued by the Palestinian nationalists, such as the Palestinian Liberation Organization originally led by Yasser Arafat.

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  • Levitt, Mathew. Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad. Washington, DC: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2006.

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    Levitt argues that Hamas should not be politically accommodated; it is an immutable movement imprisoned within a radicalized ideology. Instead it should be tamed and ideally eliminated but not politically integrated.

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  • Tamimi, Azzam. Hamas: Unwritten Chapters. London: Hurst, 2007.

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    See chapter 7, for a useful and robust discussion of Hamas’s “liberation ideology,” an ideology that links Hamas’s political goals for national liberation with its more theological goals of reuniting the Palestinians with their Holy Land.

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Leadership and Structure

Hamas’s clandestine, impenetrable, and overlapping structure can easily seem elusive to outsiders. Nevertheless, Hamas is a highly structured and meticulously hierarchical entity divided roughly into two “functionally and spatially distinguishable wings”: one assigned to political and social functions and the other to military and security functions (see Gunning 2004, cited under The Debate Over Political Integration). According to Council on Foreign Relations 2009, “Approximately 90 percent of [Hamas’s] work is in social, welfare, cultural, and educational activities, writes the Israeli scholar Reuven Paz.” Levitt 2006 corroborates this view. Sheikh Ahmed Ismail Hassan Yassin (b. 1937– d. 2004), the cofounder of Hamas alongside Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, was considered the movement’s spiritual leader until his assassination by the Israeli military in 2004. Yassin, originally a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, became dissatisfied with the movement’s lack of progress and pacifistic, bottom-up approach to resolving the conflict with Israel. This prompted him to create a new clandestine branch of the brotherhood, focused more heavily though not exclusively on forceful, violent means of effectuating change. See Abu Mar 1997 for an overview of Yassin’s life and influence on Hamas.

  • Abu Mar, Ziad. “Shaykh Ahmad Yasin and the Origins of Hamas.” In Spokesmen for the Despised: Fundamentalist Leaders of the Middle East. Edited by Scott Appleby, 225–256. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.

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    Usefully discusses the importance of Shaykh Ahmed Yassin’s role in the development and formation of Hamas and the ways Hamas’s ideology reflects his beliefs, aspirations, and ideals.

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  • Council on Foreign Relations. Backgrounder: Hamas. 2009.

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    A useful, concise, and general overview of what Hamas is, what it represents, and its goals and popularity among Palestinians.

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  • Levitt, Mathew. Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad. Washington, DC: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2006.

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    Not an entirely balanced or scholarly view but nevertheless contains some useful anecdotal discussions not contained elsewhere. Posits that between 80 and 85 percent of Hamas’s budget is relegated to its political and social work, with only approximately 15 percent going to its militant activities. Also includes a helpful discussion of Hamas’s leadership structure.

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Politics

When Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections of 25 January 2006, it became one of the first Islamic movements in the Arab world to assume majority control of a government following a series of internationally verified elections. Running under the parliamentary bloc name Change and Reform, Hamas won 74 out of the 132 Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) seats, gaining a 56 percent majority position with over 42 percent of the popular vote. This was a significant ideological reversal for Hamas, which had previously rejected all “national-level” political involvement due to a perceived link between the Oslo Peace Accords, which Hamas rejected, and the Palestinian Authority, which was created by the latter. Al-Hamad and al-Barghuthi 1997 discusses Hamas’s earlier position on political involvement, which it embraced at the local level even while it rejected such at the higher, “national” level; whereas Brown 2006, Fuller 2006, and Hroub 2006 discuss Hamas’s later position. Hroub 2000 provides an assessment of these periods and the transitional nature of Hamas’s ideological and strategic orientation during that time. Malka 2005 details Hamas’s decision to participate in the 2005–2006 Palestinian elections, placing it in the broader context of the movement’s earlier rejection of electoral participation. Muslih 2000, while written before Hamas’s ideological transformation on the topic of electoral participation, provides a useful assessment of its original position of rejection, which was closely tied to its rejection of the Oslo peace process.

  • Brown, Nathan J.Aftermath of the Hamas Tsunami. New York: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2006.

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    Excellent, concise, scholarly report discusses Hamas’s electoral victory, offering a useful explanation of why and how Hamas won the elections, its strategies and tactics, and the changes Hamas made to its previous behaviors and beliefs in order to make the movement more appealing to a broader swatch of the Palestinian community.

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  • Fuller, Graham E. “Hamas Comes to Power: Breakthrough or Setback?Strategic Insights 5.2 (February 2006).

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    Also an excellent and interesting analysis of Hamas’s rise to power, offering an overview of both sides of the debate.

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  • al-Hamad, Jawad, and Iyad al-Barghuthi, eds. Dirasa fi al-Fikr al-Siyasili-Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya (Hamas), 1987–1996. Amman, Jordan: Markaz Dirasat al-Sharq al-Awsat, 1997.

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    (A study of the political thought of Hamas, 1987–1996.) Written in Arabic by Arab scholars based in the region. A useful and fascinating look into the political ideology of Hamas.

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  • Hroub, Khaled. Hamas: Political Thought and Practice. Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 2000.

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    A concise and helpful overview, albeit significantly outdated and overtaken by more recent events, of Hamas’s political positions and political involvement and the ways such positions and behaviors align with the organization’s more religious-based ideological views. More specifically, the book usefully examines Hamas’s apolitical stance toward participation in Palestinian politics and its rejection of anything affiliated with the Oslo process, including the Palestinian National Council (PNC) elections. This is particularly interesting in assessing the ways Hamas has transformed over the years, given its 2006 participation (and victory) in the PNC elections.

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  • Hroub, Khaled. “A New Hamas through Its New Documents.” Journal of Palestine Studies 35.4 (Summer 2006): 6–27.

    DOI: 10.1525/jps.2006.35.4.6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A close assessment of several key Hamas documents written during its campaign and following its election. Included are Hamas’s 2005 electoral platform, draft program for a coalition government, and cabinet platform (the text of a speech). Hroub argues that Hamas has dramatically shifted, ideologically and politically, as reflected in these documents and thus should be taken more seriously.

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  • Malka, Haim. “Forcing Choices: Testing the Transformation of Hamas.” Washington Quarterly 28.4 (Autumn 2005): 37–53.

    DOI: 10.1162/0163660054798663Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A good, concise guide to Hamas’s behaviors and words following its election and the ways the movement started to shift in more moderate and acceptable directions.

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  • Muslih, Muhammad. The Foreign Policy of Hamas. New York: Council of Foreign Relations,1999.

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    A fascinating examination of Hamas’s external relations arm, which attempts to foster ties with neighboring countries to help fund its operations.

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Political Islam

To fully understand the origins and motivations of Hamas, it is crucial to have an understanding of the interplay between Islam and politics, which has defined the postcolonial modern era in the Middle East and the Muslim world more generally. To understand the dynamics behind this phenomenon, see Ajami 1978–1979 for the classic argument on why Pan-Arabism gave way to Pan-Islamism following the 1967 war and on the eve of the Iranian Revolution. Esposito 1991, Esposito 1995, and Esposito 1997 are all useful introductory books on this topic as well. Cooper, et al. 2000 offers a detailed examination of specific Muslim intellectuals and the ways they have responded to modernity, while Eickelman and Piscatori 1996 provides the classic textbook on Muslim politics. Abu Amr 1994 gives a useful overview of all the various fundamentalist movements operating within the Palestinian Territories. Though outdated, it provides a good introduction to the place of Hamas within this broader fundamentalist context. Esposito and Voll 1996, while not specifically informative with respect to Hamas, offers a good introduction to the debates surrounding the coexistence and compatibility between Islam and democracy.

International Relations

Hamas is considered by the United States and much of the international community to be a terrorist organization due to its targeting of and retaliatory measures against Israeli citizens during the 1990s and beyond. Following Hamas’s election in 2006, the so-called International Quartet, composed of the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations, refused to recognize Hamas as the legitimate Palestinian government unless it renounced violence or armed resistance, upheld previously signed treaties with the Israeli government, and recognized the existence of Israel as a legitimate state. Though Hamas made strides in this direction, it did not go far enough for the International Quartet and, for a variety of international and domestic reasons, was forced out of power, was involved in a semi–civil war with its rival, Fatah, and was left to govern and function almost exclusively in Gaza. In the early 21st century the international community, headed by the United States, continues to view Hamas as a terrorist movement; Hamas continues to govern, however tenuously, in Gaza; and the movement continues to resist the Israeli occupation through a variety of political and militant strategies. (International Crisis Group 2006) and (International Crisis Group 2007) are extremely helpful in understanding the broader, international dynamics of Hamas’s 2006 electoral victory and the various sides of the debate pertaining to whether Hamas should be engaged or alienated. Mishal and Sela 2006, Muslih 1999, International Crisis Group 2006, and International Crisis Group 2007 discuss the ways Hamas’s own foreign policy positions and relationships with its allies and enemies abroad shifted in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Gunning 2008 is one of the most up-to-date studies on Hamas available.

Israel

Hamas’s raison d’être is the establishment of a Palestinian state and the elimination of the Israeli occupation. In the 1990s Hamas actively rejected and resisted the Oslo peace process, set in motion following the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993. Al-Jarbawi 1994 discusses not only Hamas’s response to these accords, signed by the Palestinians and Israelis on the White House lawn on 13 September 1993, but also the responses by other Islamist movements operating within the Palestinian Territories at that time. Many close observers of Hamas argue that the organization is moving toward, if not already entirely accepting of, the two-state solution, something it originally rejected. This is evidenced in many of its most recent documents, according to Hroub 2006. Nonetheless, the relationship between Hamas and Israel remains antagonistic and tense for the most part, particularly in the wake of the Gaza offensive launched by the Israel Defense Force in January 2009.

  • Hroub, Khaled. “A New Hamas through Its New Documents.” Journal of Palestine Studies 35.4 (Summer 2006): 6–27.

    DOI: 10.1525/jps.2006.35.4.6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Closely assesses Hamas’s transforming and evolving positions toward Israel following its electoral victory in the Palestinian National Council elections in January 2006. By examining several key documents—Hamas’s draft program for a coalition government, cabinet platform, and 2005 electoral platform—Hroub usefully highlights the Hamas’s long-standing positions toward Israel exhibited signs of moderation and progress during its time in politics.

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  • al-Jarbawi, Ali. “The Position of Palestinian Islamists on the Palestine-Israel Accord.” Muslim World 83.1–2 (January–April 1994): 127–154.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1478-1913.1994.tb03593.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An in-depth look at the position of the various Palestinian Islamists movements’ views on the Oslo Peace Accords, including Hamas’s own rejection of the entire peace process.

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Fatah

In the aftermath of Hamas’s stunning 2006 legislative victory, Fatah was determined to regain its power hold, which it had maintained for more than four decades prior to Hamas’s political ascent. The United States and much of the international community sided with Fatah over Hamas and in so doing, according to Rose 2008, stoked and encouraged a civil war between Fatah and Hamas. Rose 2008 outlines the classic argument condemning the United States’ role in stoking civil war between the two Palestinian parties, while Pina 2006 provides a thorough assessment, from the US perspective, of the internal debates and disputes between Fatah and Hamas irrespective of outside influences.

The Debate Over Political Integration

One of the most urgent and fundamental early-21st-century debates on Hamas is whether its political integration should be encouraged, discouraged, or disallowed entirely. The International Quartet has routinely argued for the latter (as well as the work of certain scholars and practitioners, e.g., Levitt 2006), while the work of other scholars, such as Gunning 2004, has argued the opposite—namely, that political integration will have a moderating and positive effect on Hamas’s behavior and rhetoric. The PBS documentary Palestinian Territories: Inside Hamas; After Winning the Vote, Can They Govern? (Gaviria 2006) offers a balanced and insightful examination of both sides of this debate, highlighting the violent history of Hamas while also acknowledging its more recent positive transformations.

  • Gaviria, Marcela, prod. Palestinian Territories: Inside Hamas; After Winning the Vote, Can They Govern?. PBS, 9 May 2006.

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    A fascinating look at the inner workings of Hamas. Based on face-to-face interviews and on-the-ground reporting, Kate Seelye, a correspondent for Frontline World, travels to Gaza and the West Bank to try to understand Hamas’s inner workings. She gets access to not only Hamas’s political leadership but also, amazingly, their secretive military wing. Provides a balanced, objective, and interesting examination of the movement in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

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  • Gunning, Jeroen. “Peace with Hamas? The Transforming Potential of Political Participation.” International Affairs 80.2 (2004): 233–255.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2346.2004.00381.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Gunning presents a persuasive argument that political participation will moderate Hamas’s originally radical ideology and violent tendencies and that thus it should be encouraged.

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  • Levitt, Mathew. Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad. Washington, DC: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2006.

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    Levitt, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) official, takes a very critical and unforgiving approach toward Hamas, painting it as an immutable, hopeless, terroristic movement incapable of change and moderation. He presents one side of the political-integration debate, strongly arguing that Hamas should be excluded from politics because of its past, which for Levitt, will surely dictate its future.

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Palestinian Politics

To fully understand Hamas, one must first understand the dynamics, politics, schisms, and movements that characterize the Palestinian context. For a good but outdated grasp of the Palestinian political sphere, browse Rubin 1999 or Milton-Edwards 1996.

  • Milton-Edwards, Beverly. Islamic Politics in Palestine. London: I. B. Tauris, 1996.

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    A specific look at one facet of Palestinian politics involving the blending of Islamic symbolism and rhetoric with political ambitions. Based on interviews with Palestinian and Jordanian Islamists, includes a useful theory on why and how the Islamic political resurgence evolved in the Palestinian context. Also useful in explaining Israel’s role in encouraging the growth of political Islam as a rival to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). While controversial, some argue that Hamas was one result of this encouragement.

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  • Rubin, Barry. The Transformation of Palestinian Politics: From Revolution to State-Building. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.

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    A good overview of how the political system in the Palestinian Territories is structured, including a detailed look at the Palestinian Legislative Council. Includes some discussion of Hamas on pp. 59–62, 85–86, and 130–137.

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