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Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad Hardcover – May 1, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Levitt, formerly a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and now a deputy assistant secretary in the Treasury Department, has completed a timely assessment of one of the world's most prolific terrorist organizations. As Hamas wields increasing power within the Palestinian Authority, Levitt offers a sobering analysis of the group's likely priorities and of the quickly dimming prospects for peace in this most intractable of conflicts. Probably the most comprehensive study of the tactics, finances and structures of the Islamic resistance movement ever published, many of the details will primarily interest the specialist. In nine heavily annotated chapters, Levitt explores Hamas's infrastructure, laying out detailed blueprints for indoctrination, money laundering, public outreach and militant activities, charting the anatomy of a typical attack down to the cost of each bullet. Levitt's well-documented assertion that there is essentially no separation between Hamas's military wing and its myriad charitable activities leaves him less sanguine than many commentators in the wake of the recent legislative elections. Levitt is likely to gain some enemies with evidence that, for instance, the Council on American-Islamic Relations is implicated in fund-raising for Hamas, but all his information is impeccably researched and compellingly presented. (May)
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“Matthew Levitt is undoubtedly one of the world's foremost experts on Hamas and an outstanding commentator on terrorism in general. I read everything he writes, and I have a very high regard for his work.”—Daniel Benjamin, former member of President Clinton's National Security Council


(Daniel Benjamin)

"In a compelling and authoritative manner, Matthew Levitt masterfully demonstrates that the charitable and social components of Hamas cannot be separated from its true terrorist nature."—Dennis M. Lormel, former chief of the Terrorist Financing Operations Section at the Federal Bureau of Investigation

(Dennis M. Lormel)

“Far and away the best thing on this subject I’ve ever seen; well-written, careful, professional, fascinating.”—R. James Woolsey, former Director of Central Intelligence



(R. James Woolsey)

“A timely assessment of one of the world’s most prolific terrorist organizations. . . . Impeccably researched and compellingly presented.”—Publishers Weekly

(Publishers Weekly)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; annotated edition edition (May 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300110537
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300110531
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,190,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Matthew Levitt is a senior fellow and director of The Washington Institute's Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. From 2005 to early 2007, he served as deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. In that capacity, he served both as a senior official within the department's terrorism and financial intelligence branch and as deputy chief of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, one of sixteen U.S. intelligence agencies coordinated under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. During his tenure at Treasury, Dr. Levitt played a central role in efforts to protect the U.S. financial system from abuse and to deny terrorists, weapons proliferators, and other rogue actors the ability to finance threats to U.S. national security. In 2008-2009, he served as a State Department counterterrorism adviser to the special envoy for Middle East regional security (SEMERS), General James L. Jones.

Previously, he served as a counterterrorism intelligence analyst at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), where he provided tactical and strategic analytical support for counterterrorism operations, focusing on fundraising and logistical support networks for Middle Eastern terrorist groups. During his FBI service, Dr. Levitt participated as a team member in a number of crisis situations, including the terrorist threat surrounding the turn of the millennium and the September 11 attacks. He has earned numerous awards and commendations for his government service at both the FBI and the Treasury Department.

Dr. Levitt holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Yeshiva University, as well as a master's degree in law and diplomacy and a doctorate from Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He was a graduate research fellow at Harvard Law School's Program on Negotiation and has taught at both Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies and Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

Dr. Levitt has served as an expert witness in several criminal and civil cases, lectured on international terrorism on behalf of the Departments of State, Justice, Defense, and Homeland Security, consulted for various U.S. government agencies and private industry, and testified before the Senate and House on matters relating to international terrorism. He has held fellowships with the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the Homeland Security Policy Institute at the George Washington University, is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and serves as a member of the international advisory board for both the Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Israel and the International Centre for Political Violence & Terrorism Research in Singapore.

Dr. Levitt has written extensively on terrorism, countering violent extremism, illicit finance and sanctions, the Middle East, and Arab-Israeli peace negotiations, with articles appearing in peer-reviewed journals, policy magazines, and the press, including the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and numerous other publications. He is also a frequent guest on the national and international media, and the author of several books and monographs, including Hamas: Politics, Charity and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad (Yale University Press, 2006); Negotiating Under Fire: Preserving Peace Talks in the Face of Terror Attacks (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008); and most recently, Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon's Party of God (Georgetown University Press), all available here on amazon.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Pete W. Moore on May 10, 2007
Format: Paperback
Did anyone at Yale University Press actually review this manuscript? Or does the Washington Institute for Near East Peace send junk to YUP and say here publish this? Matthew Levitt's book is a series of amateur disasters: exclusive reliance on highly suspect evidence, misrepresentation of some of the sources, primitive arguments which do not address any debate, poorly written, and apparently no one at Yale checked his citations or Arabic transliterations because they are hilariously bad. Levitt practices the kind of social science found only inside the beltway. It helps explain why the American government consistently pursues destructive policies in the Middle East. Here is how it goes: start with your conclusion first, select evidence that fits conclusion, glorify the evidence because it was classified at one point, and for god's sake conclude with policy.

Levitt wants to justify the status quo policy isolating the Palestinian government headed by HAMAS, albeit with an insane twist. To do this, he first backtracks by creating a debate in the academic literature that does not exist. Levitt wants the reader to believe that academics and experts "continue to subscribe to the shallow argument that terrorist groups maintain distinct social, political, and militant wings." (p.6) Who argues this? No cite is ever given. Against this straw man, Levitt advances his own myth; HAMAS is an unchanging monolith. Once we buy this then HAMAS is either completely bad or completely good (can't shade monoliths). Guess which one Levitt chooses? And then it's just a skip to conclude no negotiation with HAMAS, rather we need to replace it.

Levitt seems uninformed that scholars view HAMAS and similar organizations (Tamil Tigers, ANC, etc.) as having interrelated parts.
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Michael Griswold VINE VOICE on June 24, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad sets out to put into question and discredit the idea that the Political, Chairitable, and Social Wings of Hamas are seperate and instead offers that they are acting covertly as one large unit with varying wings. Starts off kind of slow, to me at least, but really picks up in the middle. The chapter on the recruitment of suicide bombers within the education system is scary, but facinating stuff. One may ask how could anyone support an organization like Hamas ? The answer as hammered home in this book is that Hamas won the hearts and minds of the Palestinan people by providing the social services like food, school, and medical treatment to their sick and wounded where Fatawh and others had failed and opted instead to line their own pockets greedily. The Hamas model was basic : give the people what they need and you will be rewarded. Due to recent developments in Palestine and Israel's efforts, this book may be a little dated, so it should not be the only book read on Hamas, but it's a pretty good start.
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18 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Paul J. Mcgeough on June 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
Matthew Levitt takes no prisoners. His starting point is terrorism is terrorism is terrorism. In the context of the Middle East many will argue the toss - that he ignores decades of Palestinian frustration and suffering; that the tactics adopted by Hamas could be from today's update of the manual written by Jewish fighters who carved out the state of Israel; that Washington and Jerusalem's new-found urge to do business with the more secular Fatah movement ignores the historic reality that Hamas' late arrival on the Palestinian scene is proof of so much past failure; that desperation produces more desperation.

But for all that, Levitt's exhaustive 324-page HAMAS: Politics, Charity and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad is engrossing, particularly on how Hamas is perceived from the intelligence bunkers of the US and Israel. Its layers of detail, drawn from a mountain of official documents, is as revealing of Hamas as it is of the attempts to thwart its rise - without bravely or deliberately confronting the root causes of the Middle East crisis.

Levitt has gone the Izzy (I.F.) Stone route - trawling thousands of documents, many of them on the public record, for a back-story that gels with the post 9/11 mindset that resistance equals terrorism and that resistance movements, somehow, should grow up. But a reader does not have to don a white or black hat to be fascinated by what he draws from the Israeli records of the interrogation of Hamas captives; from documents captured from the Palestinian security agencies and other institutions; and from his revealing analysis of the Hamas global money trail - particularly in the US.

An FBI counterterrorism analyst before his appointment as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis at the U.S.
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13 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Smith on February 15, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is structurally, organizationally and its content is irrevocably flawed. This book has some good information in it and it will certainly make the reader think, but the flaws are just too much for me. Poor structure and no organization plus the author does not do an adequate job fully and completely covering the topic is why I had to give this book a poor rating.

First off the book follows no linear chronological time line whatsoever. Instead the book jumps around constantly. The book has no semblance of continuity at all. The author can start out a paragraph discussing something from the 90s then jump to the 21 century then next thing you know you're back in the late 80s.The author very easily could have structured this book in a way that would have followed Hamas from its preconception to conception all the way to the present but the author does not do this, and so the reader must suffer the consequences. This lack of structure makes the book a very cumbersome read to say the least.

Next the author reuses paragraphs throughout the book. I counted at least three times the author repeated verbatim a paragraph he had previously used earlier in the book. This to me seemed lazy for a book that was obviously heavily researched and was years in the making. I don't know if it was poor editing or poor writing but it simply contributed to my overall dislike of this book.

Next the author throws numbers at the reader but he never gives them a context or organizes them in such a way as to give the reader a clear picture of what all these numbers mean.
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