As Yasir Arafat struggles to make something out of the flawed agreement that he signed with Israel on the White House lawn, his most vigorous opponents in the Palestinian camp are the Islamists. For many years, however, the Islamist trend in Palestinian politics was hardly visible. As Abu-Amr argues, it took the intifada of 1987 to shake up the bureaucratic structures and authority of the PLO and to mobilize new activists in the West Bank and Gaza. Many found the mosque an appealing arena for politics, and preexisting organizations, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, were ready to give shape to the movements that soon became known as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. This short monograph supplies much relevant background, but the author has not done much to update the earlier Arabic version, so it casts little light on recent years. As for the future, Abu-Amr contents himself with a few general observations. As many as 40 percent of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza may support the Islamic trend (recent polls put the figure closer to 20 percent). If the PLO fails to deliver on its promises of an independent Palestinian state, the Islamic trend will gain ground. Social conservatism will grow hand in hand with Islamism. Despite some limitations in scope, this is the best book for gaining an insight into the convoluted relationship of the Palestinian nationalist mainstream and the Islamic tendency.
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