Hamas in Politics: Democracy, Religion, Violence

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Hamas in Politics: Democracy, Religion, Violence. By Jeroen Gunning. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008. 3 10 pp. $36.50.

Gunning, a lecturer at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, lived in the Gaza Strip for nine months in 1998. This book, completed nine years later, is the culmination of his studies about the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.

Unfortunately for Gunning, he completed his manuscript before the civil war between the rival Hamas and Fatah factions in 2007; presumably, he regrets discounting the possibility of that conflict. Gunning erroneously predicted that in its struggle with Fatah, "Hamas is more likely to employ symbolic rather than actual violence." He even postulated that Hamas would not carry out violence "against . . . civilian government institutions." In all this, he could not have been more wrong. In the battle for Gaza, Hamas stormed government buildings and brutalized Palestinian Authority forces in a battle that killed 161 Palestinians and wounded some 700. 2 Gunning's analysis, therefore, is proven to be both naive and spectacularly wrong.

To make matters worse, Gunning apologizes for Hamas, starting with his repetitious use of "resistance" instead of "terrorism" when referring to attacks on Israeli civilians or his repeated insistence that "political conditions" imposed by Israel drove Hamas to suicide bombings and rocket attacks. …