Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
In this important comprehensive study of Hamas, Tareq Baconi studies the development of the movement from its beginnings at the start of the Intifada (1987) to the present. Doing so, Baconi has used a wide range of the movement's own primary sources, conducted a series of interviews and drawn on an extensive number of secondary sources. Baconi shows that while Hamas is both an Islamist movement and a Palestinian nationalist movement, it makes far more analytical sense to primarily see it as part of the broader Palestinian nationalist movement. All its major demands fit better with that model of understanding than if one sees it primarily through an Islamist lens. Beyond looking at the internal developments within Hamas, Baconi investigates the political dynamics between Hamas and central actors in Palestine, most notably Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but also external actors who seek to influence events, such as Egypt and the United States. These dynamics have led to a terrible state of affairs in Hamas-controlled Gaza. Hamas has tried to both run Gaza as if it was a liberated state and continues to function as a movement in a state of war of national liberation. Israel, for its part, has tried to destroy the movement as well as to manage it, thereby creating a stark policy known as 'mowing the lawn'. The Palestinian Authority too has a long and deepening enmity with the movement. The victims in all of this are the people of Gaza who reside in unlivable conditions in a state of limbo between one war and the next. This excellent and highly readable study is deeply recommended.