Hamas Contained

9780804797412: Hardback
Release Date: 15th May 2018

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 368

Edition: 1st Edition

Series Stanford Studies in Middle Eastern and Islamic Societies and Cultures

Stanford University Press

Hamas Contained

The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance

Hardback / £23.99

Hamas rules Gaza and the lives of the two million Palestinians who live there. Demonized in media and policy debates, various accusations and critical assumptions have been used to justify extreme military action against Hamas. The reality of Hamas is, of course, far more complex. Neither a democratic political party nor a terrorist group, Hamas is a multifaceted liberation organization, one rooted in the nationalist claims of the Palestinian people.

Hamas Contained offers the first history of the group on its own terms. Drawing on interviews with organization leaders, as well as publications from the group, Tareq Baconi maps Hamas's thirty-year transition from fringe military resistance towards governance. He breaks new ground in questioning the conventional understanding of Hamas and shows how the movement's ideology ultimately threatens the Palestinian struggle and, inadvertently, its own legitimacy.

Hamas's reliance on armed struggle as a means of liberation has failed in the face of a relentless occupation designed to fragment the Palestinian people. As Baconi argues, under Israel's approach of managing rather than resolving the conflict, Hamas's demand for Palestinian sovereignty has effectively been neutralized by its containment in Gaza. This dynamic has perpetuated a deadlock characterized by its brutality—and one that has made permissible the collective punishment of millions of Palestinian civilians.

Contents and Abstracts
1The Rise of Islamic Palestinian Nationalism
chapter abstract

This chapter provides the historic backdrop to Hamas's creation in 1987 and explores the legacy of Islamic Palestinian nationalism that the movement is built on. It narrates the contributions of Izz al-Din al-Qassam and the Muslim Brotherhood to early anti-Zionism, leading up to the 1936 Arab Revolt and the 1948 war. Charting the rise of Fatah and the PLO in the wake of Israel's establishment and the Palestinian nakba (catastrophe) through the liberation era of the 1960s and 1970s, it demonstrates the PLO's recalibration away from armed struggle toward diplomatic engagement. With the outbreak of the First Palestinian Intifada in the late 1980s, a turning point was reached and Hamas emerged as an Islamic Palestinian national movement. Rejecting what it viewed as defeatist concessions by the PLO, Hamas adopted a strategy of jihad and codified its formal charter to liberate historic Palestine.

2Military Resistance Comes Undone
chapter abstract

Mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO marked the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and the onset of the peace process. This chapter explores Hamas's opposition to that process and the campaign of suicide bombing it waged to force the collapse of negotiations. By analyzing the attrition that shaped relations between Israel and Hamas throughout the Second Intifada, the chapter demonstrates how Hamas used violence strategically in an attempt to force Israel's withdrawal from the occupied territories. Ariel Sharon's iron-fist response and Hamas's failure to compel Israel to relinquish control forced the movement to reckon with the limitations of armed struggle as a means of liberation. Sharon's success in aligning Israeli policies toward Palestinian resistance with President Bush's "War on Terror" further constricted Hamas. By the intifada's third year, Hamas was forced into unilateral ceasefires to limit the damage of Israel's military operations against the Palestinians.

3The Politics of Resistance
chapter abstract

This chapter charts Hamas's efforts to move its conception of resistance away from the battlefield and into the political arena. Several events facilitated an opening for electoral participation as the Second Intifada came to a close, including American pressure on the Palestinian Authority to reform, Israel's decision to disengage from the Gaza Strip, and the campaign of targeted assassinations and military operations carried out ahead of this unilateral withdrawal. After several rounds of domestic negotiations, Palestinian factions agreed on the Cairo Declaration, a cornerstone agreement to reform the PLO and incorporate Hamas into the Palestinian polity. Alongside the imminent power vacuum in Gaza, these developments strengthened Hamas's resolve to participate in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections on a "Change and Reform" platform as a way of shaping the future of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.

4Strangling Hamas
chapter abstract

Following Hamas's election victory, the United States and Israel led a diplomatic, financial, and military effort to isolate Hamas's incoming government, and to empower Fatah. These measures were manifest in conditions set forth by the "Quartet." This chapter maps these interventionist efforts and the implications they had for obstructing Hamas's ability to transition into the political arena. It explores Hamas's reactions to these policies and its attempts to mitigate their impact, which in turn exacerbated tension in the Palestinian territories. The efforts to isolate Hamas and circumvent its pragmatic attempts at reconciliation ensured the failure of successive unity governments. After Israel's military operations in Gaza and Lebanon in 2006, which erupted following Hamas's capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, a unity government was finally produced through the Mecca Agreement. The chapter describes how foreign meddling and rapid militarization prevented the agreement from taking hold, precipitating a domestic clash in Gaza.

5Institutionalizing the Division
chapter abstract

In 2007, Hamas took over the Gaza Strip. This chapter charts the first five years of Hamas's governance and the implications of the crippling Israeli blockade imposed on the strip. In the face of this stranglehold, Hamas consolidated its control over Gaza and pursued initiatives to circumvent the blockade, including the construction of tunnels under the Rafah border with Egypt. Throughout this period, Hamas integrated "resistance" into its institutions of governance, defiantly forging a de facto administration to serve the movement's liberation goals. These efforts created a new dynamic with Israel, culminating with Operation Cast Lead in 2008. While both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority paid lip service to reconciliation during this time, this chapter argues that each faction pursued its own agenda and ultimately locked the Palestinian leadership into a zero-sum competition. This rivalry was adeptly leveraged by Israel to sustain and institutionalize a Palestinian national division.

6Regional Misfortunes
chapter abstract

Surveying the 2011 upheaval across the Middle East, often referred to as the "Arab Spring," this chapter tracks Hamas's efforts to manage its regional relations at a time of flux. It examines the initial good fortune enjoyed by the movement as Islamic parties rose to power in North Africa, and assesses the implications for Hamas's ability to consolidate its grip on Gaza and revive reconciliation attempts. At the same time, Israel sustained a dual-pronged strategy of isolation and deterrence aimed at managing Hamas's military capacity. The removal of the Muslim Brotherhood from power in Egypt in 2013 reversed the movement's advance, precipitating a series of unexpected and damaging events that severely undermined Hamas's ability to sustain its government in Gaza. Israel's blockade ultimately achieved its alleged purpose of weakening Hamas and pushing the movement to relinquish its government through the signing of the Shati Agreement in 2014.

Conclusion: Containment and Pacification
chapter abstract

The conclusion situates the destruction wrought by Israel's Operation Protective Edge in 2014 as the culmination of dynamics unfolding over a decade of Hamas rule in Gaza. It demonstrates the application and consequences of a broader strategy of containment and pacification. Rather than encouraging Hamas's political overtures, Israeli leaders have misrepresented the movement as little more than a terrorist organization committed to Israel's destruction. These accusations draw on Hamas's Islamist character, conflating the movement with transnational groups such as al-Qaeda, eliding its deeply nationalist commitments tethered to political aims. Israel's policies of isolation have successfully entrenched Hamas in Gaza, and intermittent rounds of military operations to "mow the lawn" have forcefully imposed an ongoing process of pacification. Against this backdrop, the conclusion assesses Hamas's role in politics and Palestinian nationalism, and Israel's broader strategy toward Gaza and the Palestinian territories as the continuation of conflict management rather than resolution.

Tareq Baconi is a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University's Middle East Institute and a Visiting Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. He received his PhD from Kings College London. His writings have appeared in The Nation, Foreign Affairs, and The Guardian, and he has provided commentary on Middle East affairs to National Public Radio, Democracy Now, and Al Jazeera.

“Judicious and impartial, …this important … work adds nuance to the portrait of one of the Middle East’s most divisive players."—Publishers Weekly

"Tareq Baconi has written a detailed and thoughtful book about the history of Hamas and its effect on the Palestinian national movement. Avoiding black and white simplifications, Baconi puts the story of Hamas within its proper context—the tragedy of an occupation."

Marwan Muasher, Vice President
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

"Hamas Contained is by far the best book on this vital topic. Meticulous and deeply sourced, this is essential reading for anyone with a serious interest in Hamas, Palestine, Israel, or Islamist political movements anywhere in the Middle East."

Rashid Khalidi
author of Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East

"Judicious and impartial, this important work adds nuance to the portrait of one of the Middle East's most divisive players."

Publishers Weekly

"Groundbreaking, rigorously researched, and strikingly fair-minded, Hamas Contained is essential reading to understand Middle East politics today. Tareq Baconi weaves a counter-narrative, upending common assumptions about the controversial Islamic organization. He persuasively argues that there can be no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without diplomatic engagement with Hamas."

Avi Shlaim
author of The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World