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Gaza Under Hamas: From Islamic Democracy to Islamist Governance

Gaza Under Hamas: From Islamic Democracy to Islamist Governance
Bjorn Brenner

Introduction by: Magnus Ranstorp

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Hamas is designated a terrorist organization by Israel, the EU, the USA and the UN. It has made itself notorious for its violent radicalism and uncompromising rejection of the Jewish state. So after its victory in the 2006 elections the world was watching. How would Hamas govern? Could an Islamist group without any experience of power - and with an unwavering ideology - manage to deal with day-to-day realities on the ground? Bjorn Brenner investigates what happened after the elections and puts the spotlight on the people over whom Hamas rules, rather than on its ideas. Lodging with Palestinian families and experiencing their daily encounters with Hamas, he offers an intimate perspective of the group as seen through local eyes. The book is based on hard-to-secure interviews with a wide range of key political and security figures in the Hamas administration, as well as with military commanders and members of the feared Qassam Brigades. Brenner has also sought out those that Hamas identifies as local trouble makers: the extreme Salafi-Jihadis and members of the now more quiescent mainstream Fatah party led by Mahmoud Abbas.

The book provides a new interpretation of one of the most powerful forces in the Israel-Palestine arena, arguing that the Gazan Islamists carry a potential to be much more flexible and pragmatic than anticipated - if they would think they stand to gain from it. Gaza under Hamas investigates the key challenges to Hamas's authority and reveals why and in what ways ideology comes second to power consolidation.

Author Info

Bjorn Brenner is Lecturer at the Swedish Defence University in Stockholm and Research Fellow at Institut francais du Proche-Orient in Amman, Jordan. He holds a doctorate in Peace and Development Studies from the University of Gothenburg and an MA in Political Science from Uppsala University. He is the author of numerous articles on Palestinian and Israeli politics and is a frequently appearing commentator in the media on Middle Eastern affairs.


“In Gaza under Hamas, Björn Brenner provides an inside view of Hamas in power, based on extensive fieldwork alongside trenchant insights and incisive analysis. His book is an important contribution to the literature by greatly enhancing our understanding of the evolution of terrorist organizations from grassroots violence to formal governance.” - Bruce Hoffman, Georgetown University. 

“This is one of the rare books about Hamas that manages to be both balanced and insightful. Based on a broad range of primary sources, this in-depth study of Gaza under Hamas rule provides as full and comprehensive a picture as possible. A must-read for scholars, students, and diplomats alike!” - Peter Neumann, King’s College London

“For academic researchers, policy makers, NGOs and broader civil society members interested in Islamist experiences and practices of governance this is a must read. The book not only helps address many misconceived notions about the challenges which Hamas has faced since it was elected in 2006 but it also assists readers in nuancing the particular context in which such a case of Islamist governance actually operates.” - Michelle Pace, Roskilde University

“Gaza under Hamas is a fascinating, original, and uniquely well-researched analysis of how Hamas governs. Drawing on four years of ethnographic research, the author combines empirical granularity and analytical clarity to provide a wealth of new insights on the domestic politics of the Gaza Strip. The book will become the standard work on the Hamas administration and a must-read for anyone interested in rebel governance, political Islam, Middle East politics, Islamic Law, or Palestinian history.” - Thomas Hegghammer, Norwegian Defence Research Establishment

“Brenner provides a well-researched, timely and extensive account of Hamas’s complex approach to governance, also offering a very interesting portrait of life in the Gaza Strip.” - Benedetta Berti, Institute for National Security Studies

"What makes Brenner’s account especially valuable is its focus on how Hamas has managed to create a functioning government in Gaza – a subject that is little known This access to Hamas leaders and operatives will not be found in other studies." - Perspectives on Terrorism, reviewed by Joshua Sinai

"Brenner’s conclusion is a far cry from the clichéd statements about Hamas ... Apart from establishing the centrality of Hamas rule to a political solution for Palestine, the book also expounds upon the spectrum of misconceptions, strengths and flaws associated with the movement. This approach provides a detailed assessment of Hamas in relation to Gaza and its unique circumstances, while dispelling mainstream manipulation, to which, as Brenner points out, academia has also contributed." - Middle East Monitor, reviewed by Ramona Wadi

“Brenner’s book constitutes an important contribution to our understanding of Hamas and how Islamist ideas are translated into political practices. Rarely do we have the opportunity to take stock of empirical research of a such a timely case. This book also provides a great opportunity for researchers to learn from Brenner’s best practices in how to conduct field research in conflict zones.” - Swedish Journal of Political Science, reviewed by Anders Malm

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.
Series: Library of Modern Middle East Studies

ISBN: 9781784537777
Publication Date: 18 Dec 2016
Number of Pages: 256
Height: 216
Width: 138

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