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Hamas: A History from Within Paperback – May 30, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In this trenchant history spanning from the first days of the 1987 intifada to the sweeping democratic victory of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) in the Palestinian elections of January 2006, London-based scholar Tamimi argues that seeing Hamas as merely another face of Al Qaeda obscures more than it elucidates. A successor to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas comes out of a transnational Islamic reform movement that grew among Palestinians in the 1970s, largely in reaction to Arab nationalism's failure to champion the Palestinian cause. Increasingly, against a string of failed peace processes and the corruption and concessions of the PLO-led secular leadership, Hamas's popular support has rested heavily on its stance as a militant resistance movement wedded to the Palestinian dream of regaining pre-1948 Palestine, and as provider of essential social services. Tamimi draws extensively on the words of insiders in carefully charting and contextualizing the development of Hamas's highly resilient organization, shifting outlook and embrace of various tactics, including the offer of a truce with Israel and, most controversially, suicide bombing. Although mostly dispassionate and at times critical, this is a generally sympathetic analysis. It will be a key resource in English for any serious assessment of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. (Nov.)
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About the Author
Azzam Tamimi is founder of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought in London and author of Rachid Ghannouchi: A Democrat within Islamism (2001).
Top customer reviews
Mr. Tamimi's work is a chronological history of Hamas from its ideological inception from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood organization all the way to its electoral victories in the Palestinian elections. This book really gives the reader a sense of the evolution of this group from its humble beginnings trying to revitalize Palestinian society that was largely secular to its beginnings as a resistance organization to its eventual ascension to political power. The reader will be able to see how many different factors worked for and against this group and how these factors influenced the evolution of this group.
What I most liked about this book is that it focuses in on leaders and on their philosophy. The author uses their own statements and writings to give the reader a sense of what they believe and what they are fighting for. Too often we hear that this group is simply a violent, racist group that cannot be reasoned with or expected to be reliable brokers at the negotiating table, but what we see in this book is that the leadership is filled with intelligent and articulate people. The author does a good job dispelling some of the myths and clearing up points of contention when it comes to Hamas' positions on things like peace with Israel, its vision of a Palestinian state and its willingness to dialogue with the West.
The author does an excellent job detailing the Hamas position on peace with Israel, and the author describes the impediments as well. Like Hamas's inability to recognize Israel officially, although many would say they have de facto recognized Israel in many statements they have made. The author goes into this problem in detail and also describes how Hamas has suggested ways to overcome these problems through things like hudna which is system of truce. Once a hudna has been reached it is a sin to breach the truce. There are problems and risks inherent in any type of deal for both Israel and the Palestinians, but any possibility for peace no matter how imperfect should be explored, and the one thing that can be said for Hamas they are dedicated to Islam which requires them to respect the terms of the hudna.
Some of my criticism of this book are the same things I praise it for such as its tendancy to focus solely on the leadership. I have been looking for a work that details the grassroots level activism that goes on in this organization. A book that goes into detail describing what Hamas offers the ordinary Palestinian and describes in depth the reason for this groups popularity. On a certain level I understand that they are not corrupt like the PLO and they offer much needed services, but I want to know more about the street level activism and this book's focus is more on the leadership.
Next the author doesn't go much into the al-Qassam brigades. The author makes some statements that seem contradictory to me. He asserts that the military wing is separate from the political wing, but in the book he describes how the military side respects and follows decisions made by the political branch. This leads the reader to question just what the relationship really is. Whether the military branch is really distinguishable in any real way from the political leaders if they have that type of authority.
All in all I would say this is a very good book despite the very real problems I had with certain aspects of the work. The author has a very nice style that makes the book an easy read, and he is obviously very knowledgeable about the issues surrounding this group. Whether the reader accepts the perspective the author offers or not the perspective itself is extremely important to know and understand. Hamas has a large following and millions of sympathizers the world over. All of these people are not racists who want to see Israel destroyed so this group must have something that appeals to people in the East and West. This book will give the reader the insight needed to understand that appeal.