Hamas: From Resistance to Government by Paola Caridi

Hamas: From Resistance to Government

Seven Stories Press

Acknowledgments, a Foreword and Emotional Prologue  give you a basis for understanding where Caridi is coming from, especially as student of Paolo Spriano, historian of the Italian Communist and participant in the Italian armed Resistance to Nazism and Fascism during World War II (WWII), and an Italian living in the Middle East.

In the first chapter Caridi writes of the emergence and growth of Harakat al-Muqawwama al-Islamiyya (HAMAS) out of the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood during the First Intifada, then backtracks to the Muslim Brotherhood’s emergence in Gaza as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, sometime shortly after WWII, and its participation in the first Arab-Israeli War of 1948.  Other topics include the 1967 war, and how the separated West Bank and Gaza Strip started on different paths influenced by Jordan and Egypt respectively, and how the Muslim Brotherhood developed in those countries.  Other resistance groups such as the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and their struggles with both the Israelis and the Muslim Brotherhood and documented, especially as a new mass student movement took shape in the 1970s and ’80s.  The chapter comes full circle as the First Intifada erupts, and the public declaration of Hamas is decided upon.

The second chapter, “Snapshots from Hamas’s World” focuses on the charitable organizations Hamas members have participated in, how they have related to media including music and dramatic films, and the Hijab.

The third chapter, “Consolidation” focuses largely on Hamas’s participation in the First Intifada, its organizational decision making process which is a form of Democratic Centralism, Israel’s attempts to destroy the organization through waves of arrests and targeted assassinations, and the emergence in new generations of leaders.  The international political situation is kept in perspective as fall out from the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and subsequent Operations Desert Shield and Storm are documented, as Hamas was expelled from Kuwait along with other Palestinians.

The fourth chapter backtracks to the story of Sheikh Izz al-Din al-Qassam, for whom al-Qassam rockets are named, and the Gret Arab Revolt of 1936-9 that his death may have triggered.  The Hebron Massacre of 1994 is also heavily documented to detail settler violence and its effects on the tactics of the Palestinian resistance.  Hamas’s entry into the Second Intifada is also written about, which actually wasn’t until the spring of 2001 after Ariel Sharon’s electoral victory.

The fifth chapter is about Hamas’s decision to enter electoral politics with its Cairo Declaration, a watershed already defined as a before and after moment.  The chapter starts with Yasser Arafat’s death, and the assassination of Hamas leader sheikh Ahmed Yassin some months earlier.  Other elections are written about, and how Hamas had made its decisions on how to relate to them.  various levels of violence continued and are described.

The sixth chapter is about the January 2006 and how Hamas actually wields power.  The politicians are described, and the international policies that attempted to strangle Hamas, and how they tried to rally support to counter them.

The seventh chapter is heavily about the attempts at a national unity government, the Prisoners’ Document that came out of the factions members behind bars that served as a potential model for unity, and the June 2007 street battles between Hamas and Fatah that led to Hamas’s coup in Gaza.

The eighth and final chapter is a more thorough going over of the Hamas governemnt, including international relations and factional struggles such as against the Salafist Islamic fundamentalists.

The Epilogue is a great recap of the book that could stand alone as an excellent essay on Hamas, though I don’t believe it actually added anything to the book except where the author mentions accusations that Hamas has started to serve itself, contrary to many of the mentions of how power hasn’t changed hamas earlier in the text, and an indepth description of Hamas in the West Bank since the 2005/6 elections.

Interviewees for her book include, but are not limited to people such as Abu Musameh, one of the longest-standing members of Hamas who had joined the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1970s, Jamila Abdallah al Taha Shanti, a female Muslim Brotherhood militant since 1980 who co-founder and chief of Hamas’s women’s sector, and Farhat As’ad, a West Bank Hamas leader and campaign organizer for the January 2006 Palestinian elections.

Other major organizations mentioned in the book are Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

After the Epilogue are 60 biographical sketches of variouse Palestinian leaders, that is also a work that could stand on its own and was well worth reading.


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