Hamas Through a Difference Lens: What Memoirs Reveal About the Organization’s Competing Priorities

By Lyndall Herman
Submitted to Session P5010 (Invoking Religion in and against Imperialism, Occupation, and War, 2017 Annual Meeting
Intl Rltns/Aff
Middle East/Near East Studies;
LCD Projector without Audio;
Hamas is one of the primary Palestinian political actors, and while much has been written about the organization this literature tends to address the group as either a terrorist organization or an Islamic social movement. Very little has been written that addresses the impact that the personal background and experiences of senior level members has on the goals of and approaches used by the organization. While the existent literature discusses both the political and militant branches of the organization, at a person-based level much of the focus has been on the founder, Sheikh Ahmad Yasin, and very little has been written to addresses the role and influence of other senior level members of the group. This project fills this gap through an examination of the memoirs and published speeches of senior level members from the internal (Gaza and West Bank) and external (outside of the occupied Palestinian territories) branches of the political wing of the organization. These two branches were chosen over the prison branch because of realistic access to source material. Through an analysis of these memoirs and interviews, this project argues that the competing interests of the internal branch (particularly as espoused by those senior members in the Gaza Strip) consistently put the organization at odds with itself. In particular, these internal conflicts occur over policies related to the organizations broader ideology, as defended by those in the external branch, versus the need for compromise as a pragmatic approach to governance, as favored by those in the internal branch. Additionally, those senior level members who rose through the ranks of the military branch (rather than the political branch) or who have spent time in jail promote a more hawkish policy, regardless of their background. This project promises to offer new insight into and explanation of the policies and approaches offered by the leadership of the internal and external branches of Hamas’ political wing.