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Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad

matthew levitt
foreword by dennis ross
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    How does a group that operates terror cells and espouses violence become a ruling political party? How is the world to understand and respond to Hamas, the militant Islamist organization that Palestinian voters brought to power in the stunning election of January 2006?

    This important book provides the most fully researched assessment of Hamas ever written. Matthew Levitt, a counterterrorism expert with extensive field experience in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, draws aside the veil of legitimacy behind which Hamas hides. He presents concrete, detailed evidence from an extensive array of international intelligence materials, including recently declassified CIA, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security reports.Levitt demolishes the notion that Hamas' military, political, and social wings are distinct from one another and catalogues the alarming extent to which the organization's political and social welfare leaders support terror. He exposes Hamas as a unitary organization committed to a militant Islamist ideology, urges the international community to take heed, and offers well-considered ideas for countering the significant threat Hamas poses.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12901-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Dennis Ross

    Who is Hamas? Where did they come from? How do they fund their activities? Why do they seem to have roots in Palestinian society? Can they accept anything but struggle and conflict with Israel? And, will they ever lash out at the United States or will they always restrict their terror to Israel?

    Matthew Levitt addresses these and other questions in his very timely book on the Hamas. In Arabic, Hamas is an abbreviation for the Islamic Resistance Movement. The word literally means “zeal,” and that certainly describes those who have led this group.

    As an organization, Hamas is much...

  4. introduction: hamas’ muddied waters
    (pp. 1-7)

    How does Hamas, a militant Islamist group in a relatively secular society fatigued by conflict, attract and retain its base of operatives and supporters? How does it radicalize, recruit, and dispatch Palestinian suicide bombers and still woo Palestinian voters to vote it into power as the ruling political party? While it may be the case that Hamas’ victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections in January 2006 was in large part a protest vote against the septuagenarian kleptocrats of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah party, the vote undeniably demonstrated that under the right conditions a majority of Palestinians was willing to accept and support...

  5. 1 origins of the hamas dawa
    (pp. 8-32)

    Hamas, both an acronym forHarakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya(Islamic Resistance Movement) and an Arabic word meaning “zeal,” is a Palestinian Islamist group that emerged in 1987 as an outgrowth of the Palestinian branch of the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas was founded in December of that year with the goal of eliminating the State of Israel and establishing in its place an Islamist state in all of what was once British Mandatory Palestine—a territory that today comprises Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. Hamas employs a three-pronged strategy to achieve this goal: (1) social welfare activity that builds...

  6. 2 terror and the hamas political leadership
    (pp. 33-51)

    Despite evidence to the contrary, there persists in the minds of many observers an ethical distinction between the social-political branches of Hamas, popularly known for opposing peacemaking with Israel and for welfare projects that aid needy Palestinians, and its military wing, known for suicide bombers that target Israeli civilians. In fact, the links between members of the Hamas political wing and terrorist activities are symbiotic and have been intertwined since the founding of Hamas in 1987. The goal of this chapter is to describe and provide evidence for links between Hamas’ political and military activities, with the aim of debunking...

  7. 3 economic jihad: how hamas finances terror
    (pp. 52-79)

    Behind every successful suicide bombing lies a network of recruiters, trainers, bomb makers, facilitators, and financiers. Providing these and other means of logistical support are functions of the Hamas dawa.

    The next three chapters, then, focus in detail on how the dawa supports (indeed, makes possible) the paramilitary terrorist activity for which the group is infamous. We will present evidence showing that the dawa—though ostensibly a charitable, non-political, non-military network of social service organizations—facilitates terrorism in five primary ways:

    Raising the massive budgets required to fund terrorist operations;

    Laundering and transferring funds to terrorists via charitable and religious...

  8. 4 the logistics of terror: tactical uses of the dawa
    (pp. 80-106)

    In addition to financing Hamas attacks, dawa activists frequently play essential tactical roles in Hamas terrorism. Among their tactical functions are collecting pre-operational intelligence on potential targets, leading suicide bombers to target sites, and bolstering the cover identity of suicide bombers en route to attacks. Following a Hamas suicide bombing at Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda outdoor market in July 1997, the Israeli Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) wrote an intelligence estimate on the types of preventive missions the agency should conduct “for the purpose of preventing and foiling a bombing attack.” The report found that time and again investigations into Hamas...

  9. 5 teaching terror: how the dawa radicalizes palestinian society
    (pp. 107-142)

    If Hamas has one supreme objective, it is to mutate the essentially ethnopolitical Palestinian national struggle into a fundamentally religious conflict. Accomplishing this goal entails transforming Palestinian society—a relatively secular culture, compared with other Muslim societies in the Arab world—into a more religiously zealous and politically strident one. Such a project of radicalization is the goal of all violent Islamist groups, from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) to Hezbollah in Lebanon. It is also the fundamental aspiration of other Islamist groups that—unlike Hamas—eschew violence in favor of primarily political means to realize their Muslim...

  10. 6 foreign funding of hamas
    (pp. 143-170)

    Most of the money—tens of millions of dollars—raised every year on behalf of Hamas comes from outside the Palestinian territories. A table of donors seized in 2004 in the offices of the Ramallah-al-Bireh charity committee offers a typical example of the disproportional representation of foreign fronts that fund the Hamas social welfare and terrorism network. Of the fourteen donors listed, two are Israeli-Arab charities, one is an “internal” sponsor from the West Bank, and the rest are foreign-based foundations, from Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Britain, Germany, United States, United Arab Emirates, Italy, and France. In this chapter,...

  11. 7 state support for hamas
    (pp. 171-202)

    Beyond the tens of millions of dollars raised by Hamas each year from foreign charities, individuals, businesses, and criminal enterprises, the terrorist organization is also a massive beneficiary of support from foreign governments. State supporters of Hamas have included Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Libya,Sudan,Yemen, and Qatar. Each country’s support of Hamas is different in nature; some nations, like Iran, provide direct state funding, while others help out by providing military training or a safe haven for wanted activists—or by merely turning a willful blind eye to Hamas activity within their borders. Of the countries listed above, Iran, Syria,...

  12. 8 will hamas target the west?
    (pp. 203-228)

    On March 22, 2004, Israeli security forces assassinated Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. His deputy and successor, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, issued a statement implying that Hamas would avenge Yassin’s death with attacks on Israel—and on the United States. “The war against Islam is the same war which is launched in Iraq,” al-Rantissi proclaimed. “In Palestine also, there is a war against Islam. So, the Islamic nation should wake up and shake the land under the feet of those Zionists and the Americans who back them.” Though al-Rantissi withdrew the threat the next day, the State Department immediately issued a...

  13. 9 displacing the hamas dawa
    (pp. 229-250)

    What flows from the analysis thus far is the centrality of Hamas social welfare activity to the success of the group’s political and military activities alike. The dawa provides Hamas with both popular support and ample opportunities to carry out attacks. Critically, academic studies have identified the decline of both popular and logistical support as key prerequisites for the demise of terrorist groups. Denying Hamas the logistical, financial, and recruitment networks provided by its dawa infrastructure would therefore go far toward disrupting its ability to carry out the suicide bombings and other attacks that are its hallmark.¹

    Despite the fact...

    (pp. 251-252)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 253-314)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 315-324)