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Hamas and Civil Society in Gaza

Hamas and Civil Society in Gaza: Engaging the Islamist Social Sector (New in Paperback)

Sara Roy
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 344
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt46n3sw
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    Hamas and Civil Society in Gaza
    Book Description:

    Many in the United States and Israel believe that Hamas is nothing but a terrorist organization, and that its social sector serves merely to recruit new supporters for its violent agenda. Based on Sara Roy's extensive fieldwork in the Gaza Strip and West Bank during the critical period of the Oslo peace process, Hamas and Civil Society in Gaza shows how the social service activities sponsored by the Islamist group emphasized not political violence but rather community development and civic restoration.

    Roy demonstrates how Islamic social institutions in Gaza and the West Bank advocated a moderate approach to change that valued order and stability, not disorder and instability; were less dogmatically Islamic than is often assumed; and served people who had a range of political outlooks and no history of acting collectively in support of radical Islam. These institutions attempted to create civic communities, not religious congregations. They reflected a deep commitment to stimulate a social, cultural, and moral renewal of the Muslim community, one couched not only--or even primarily--in religious terms.

    Vividly illustrating Hamas's unrecognized potential for moderation, accommodation, and change, Hamas and Civil Society in Gaza also traces critical developments in Hamas's social and political sectors through the Second Intifada to today, and offers an assessment of the current, more adverse situation in the occupied territories. The Oslo period held great promise that has since been squandered. This book argues for more enlightened policies by the United States and Israel, ones that reflect Hamas's proven record of nonviolent community building.

    In a new afterword, Roy discusses how Hamas has been affected by changing regional dynamics and by recent economic and political events in Gaza, including failed attempts at reconciliation with Fatah.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4894-2
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. A NOTE ON LANGUAGE AND TRANSLITERATION
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. PROLOGUE
    (pp. xv-xx)

    On a warm, sunny day in the spring of 1999, I was touring an Islamic kindergarten in the Gaza Strip with my friend Ramadan, who would sometimes translate for me. After viewing a class in session, we were escorted into the school courtyard, a large, clean space that was serenely, yet surprisingly, silent. As we stood in this empty expanse, a bell rang. Within seconds, scores of children poured into the vast silence, filling it with laughter and play, their joy utterly infectious. The teachers, all women, also laughed at the children’s apparent insuppressible excitement.

    Our guide, the school director,...

  6. Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION: STRUCTURE, ARGUMENTS, AND CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
    (pp. 1-18)

    The Islamic Resistance Movement or Hamas was established at the beginning of the first Palestinian uprising, which began in December 1987. As the representative of political Islam in Palestine, Hamas has had a long and contentious and, in its own way, remarkable trajectory. Typically, Hamas is misportrayed as an insular, one-dimensional entity dedicated solely to violence and to the destruction of the Jewish state. It has largely, if not entirely, been defined in terms of its terrorist attacks against Israel. Despite the existence of differentiated sectors within Hamas—social (including a nascent economic sphere), political, and military—they are all...

  7. Chapter 2 A BRIEF HISTORY OF HAMAS AND THE ISLAMIC MOVEMENT IN PALESTINE
    (pp. 19-50)

    I do not intend to provide a detailed history of Hamas, nor of the individual personalities within it. Others have already done this,¹ and such a discussion is not this study’s focus. What follows, then, is an overview of key developments in the history of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic movement that I feel are pertinent to the arguments presented in this book.

    The Islamic Resistance Movement (Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya) or Hamas (an Arabic acronym meaning “zeal”) was born with the first Palestinian uprising, or Intifada, in December 1987 (although the exact date of Hamas’s establishment is still debated). The...

  8. Chapter 3 ISLAMIST CONCEPTIONS OF CIVIL SOCIETY
    (pp. 51-69)

    The choice of a civil society model as an informing framework for this study originated with my respondents, particularly those who worked in Islamic associations. They would often characterize their work as either being part of civil society—fundamentally that intermediary space between the ruler (the state) and the ruled (the private sphere), in which institutions operate independently in their own fields for community benefit—or as contributing to its development. When asked what they meant by civil society, how they defined it, and the role of religion within it, their answers, while varied, had common themes:

    One was that...

  9. Chapter 4 THE EVOLUTION OF ISLAMIST SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS IN THE GAZA STRIP: BEFORE AND DURING OSLO (A SOCIOPOLITICAL HISTORY)
    (pp. 70-96)

    It is by now axiomatic when speaking of Hamas social institutions to think of them as part of a larger political and military network engaged in terrorism. It is equally axiomatic when reviewing the historical development of these institutions to draw a dichotomy between social institutions interested in da’wa (religious preaching, education, and community-oriented work aimed at the Islamization of society) before Hamas was established and those committed to jihad (political activism and military struggle) afterward.¹ While it is certainly true that Hamas as an organization has consistently emphasized political objectives over social ones—although this changed visibly during the...

  10. Chapter 5 ISLAMIST SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS: CREATING A DESCRIPTIVE CONTEXT
    (pp. 97-160)

    On Monday, November 24, 2008, U.S. federal prosecutors won sweeping convictions against the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation (HLF) in a retrial of the Muslim charity after having lost their original case in a mistrial in October 2007. This was the largest terrorism-financing case in the United States since the September 11, 2001, attacks. According to the New York Times, “the five defendants, all leaders of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development … were convicted on all 108 criminal counts against them, including support of terrorism, money laundering and tax fraud. The group was accused of funneling millions of...

  11. Chapter 6 ISLAMIST SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS: KEY ANALYTICAL FINDINGS
    (pp. 161-190)

    Hamas regards Islam as a Minhaj al-hayat, an all-encompassing system. What this means was explained by Sheikh Abdel Fattah Dukkhan, cofounder of Hamas, in a December 13, 1996, speech for Hamas’s ninth anniversary:

    Who are we, and where are we?

    We are not a charitable organization (Jam’iyya Khairiyya) nor a political party, nor an objectivist or positivist group that works with limited aims. We are a new spirit at the heart of al-umma. The Quran nourishes this spirit, and we are the new light that shines and destroys the darkness of materialism in favour of a meeting with Allah. The...

  12. Chapter 7 A CHANGING ISLAMIST ORDER? FROM CIVIC EMPOWERMENT TO CIVIC REGRESSION—THE SECOND INTIFADA AND BEYOND
    (pp. 191-225)

    Since the start of the second Palestinian Intifada, both Hamas and the larger Palestinian context, which the second uprising had increasingly come to define, have undergone marked changes. The second Intifada, which began in September 2000 in response to seven years of a “peace” process that not only deepened Palestinian dispossession and deprivation but strengthened Israel’s occupation, reversed the dramatic changes within the Islamic movement. The militarization of the uprising by Fatah effectively marginalized the role of civil society—including both secular and Islamic institutions—in the struggle to end Israeli occupation. This contributed to the reascendance of the political/military...

  13. Postscript THE DEVASTATION OF GAZA—SOME ADDITIONAL REFLECTIONS ON WHERE WE ARE NOW
    (pp. 226-236)

    On December 27, 2008, Israel launched a massive assault against the Gaza Strip that killed 1,417 Palestinians—926 of whom were civilians including 313 children—in three weeks.³ This is nearly equivalent to the number of people killed in Afghanistan during the whole of 2007.⁴ In addition, 5,303 Palestinians were wounded, including 1,606 children and 828 women.⁵ The total number of Israelis killed came to 10 soldiers (4 killed by friendly fire) and 3 civilians, meaning that the ratio of total Palestinians to Israelis killed was around 100:1, while the ratio of civilians killed was around 300:1.

    The immediate pretext...

  14. Appendix ISLAMIST (AND NON-ISLAMIST) SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS
    (pp. 237-238)
  15. AFTERWORD TO THE PAPERBACK EDITION HAMAS IN A CHANGING MIDDLE EAST
    (pp. 239-260)
    Sara Roy

    In the period since this book was completed, there have been some momentous changes in the Middle East. The most dramatic, of course, has been the revolutions in some parts of the Arab world. If nothing else, the Arab uprisings against corrupt dictatorships demonstrate that the Arab street has not died as many analysts had long argued and that the Arab people can indeed alter the regional order (despite the political and economic problems that now attend these new regimes).² Yet, the profound transformations in the region did not reach Palestine or catalyze another Intifada and there are many reasons...

  16. EPILOGUE THE COUP AGAINST THE ISLAMIST GOVERNMENT IN EGYPT—EMERGING NEW DYNAMICS AND THEIR IMPLICATIONS FOR HAMAS
    (pp. 261-270)

    Within a few weeks of completing the afterword, the Islamist government of Mohammed Morsi was overthrown in a coup by the Egyptian military. Key Muslim Brotherhood figures were arrested including President Morsi himself who, at the time of this writing, remains in detention. While the future is unclear and impossible to predict, regional dynamics are again shifting in dramatic new ways. These changes have short- and long-term implications for Hamas and for the people of Gaza that require some brief comment.

    The Arab revolutions that brought Islamists to power in Egypt and Tunisia represented a marked geopolitical shift in the...

  17. NOTES
    (pp. 271-330)
  18. SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 331-350)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 351-362)