INSIDE HAMAS: The Untold Story of the Militant Islamic Movement, Zaki Chehab, Nation Books, New York, 2008, 250 pages, $15.95.
Throughout his career, journalist Zaki Chehab, a Palestinian refugee from Lebanon, interviewed leaders from the many factions who competed for power among the Palestinians. From his experiences, Chehab writes about Hamas--the controversial, Islamic militant group that shocked the world when it won the 2006 national elections.
Although Chehab supports the Palestinian cause, he is frank in his presentation of the challenges to and failures of Hamas from infancy to the post-election period. Born of the rise of the Islamist movement in the 1960s and influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas was as a rival to the secular Fatah organization. Chehab relies on interviews with founding members to describe the group's initial organizational structure and strategy. He credits Israel's passive endorsement of the organization as a counter to Fatah for allowing Hamas to survive. He provides details of personalities and deeds of the group's founding members and subsequent leaders that only someone with his access could provide. He describes the humble beginnings of the Al Qassam Brigades, Hamas's military wing, and their growth from a few disparate cells into a force estimated at 18,000. Chehab views the conflict through the eyes of common Palestinians, as well as those of martyrs and their families. He describes how Hamas recruits and employs suicide attackers, how the Israel intelligence services and other organizations penetrated Hamas, and how killing informants led to a continuing cycle of violence. Although Hamas' structure has evolved, it refuses to recognize the state of Israel and seeks to reclaim Palestine. …