Hamas in Politics: Democracy, Religion, Violence

In This Review

Hamas in Politics: Democracy, Religion, Violence

By Jeroen Gunning
Columbia University Press, 2008
320 pp. $34.50
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Here is a book that refreshingly avoids the pitfalls of either dismissing Hamas as a terrorist organization or presenting it as being on the threshold of achieving both peace and democracy. Gunning offers his reader good social science, starting with just enough discussion of theory and methodology and then moving on to separate chapters setting out the historical roots of Hamas, its political philosophy, its organizational structure, and its contradictory dealings with Fatah, Israel, and the outside world. , solidly grounded in field research and reflecting a diligent digestion of the considerable scholarly literature on this topic, presents Hamas as a distinctive but still comparable example of a political party caught up in that most difficult political process: the transfer of power from alien to indigenous rule. As always, it will not be without violence. The future outcome is unclear, but Gunning concludes that rather than asking if Hamas is capable of democracy or will accept a negotiated settlement, it is better to ask, "Under what conditions is Hamas likely to be(come more) democratic" and to move toward such a settlement?