Hamas and Civil Society in Gaza: Engaging the Islamist Social Sector

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Overview

Many in the United States and Israel believe that Hamas is nothing but a terrorist organization, and that its social sector serves merely to recruit new supporters for its violent agenda. Based on Sara Roy's extensive fieldwork in the Gaza Strip and West Bank during the critical period of the Oslo peace process, Hamas and Civil Society in Gaza shows how the social service activities sponsored by the Islamist group emphasized not political violence but rather community development and civic restoration.

Roy demonstrates how Islamic social institutions in Gaza and the West Bank advocated a moderate approach to change that valued order and stability, not disorder and instability; were less dogmatically Islamic than is often assumed; and served people who had a range of political outlooks and no history of acting collectively in support of radical Islam. These institutions attempted to create civic communities, not religious congregations. They reflected a deep commitment to stimulate a social, cultural, and moral renewal of the Muslim community, one couched not only--or even primarily--in religious terms.

Vividly illustrating Hamas's unrecognized potential for moderation, accommodation, and change, Hamas and Civil Society in Gaza also traces critical developments in Hamas's social and political sectors through the Second Intifada to today, and offers an assessment of the current, more adverse situation in the occupied territories. The Oslo period held great promise that has since been squandered. This book argues for more enlightened policies by the United States and Israel, ones that reflect Hamas's proven record of nonviolent community building.

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Editorial Reviews

Economist
Ms. Roy strives not to speak for Palestinians, but to let their voices reverberate. . . . [Hamas and Civil Society is] rigorous and precise. . . . [T]his is an important book, which challenges lazy views about the Palestinians and highlights how they go about securing basic services.
Forward
A focused study of how the Islamist organization turned itself into the most powerful political entity in the southern Palestinian territory, Roy's portrait of Hamas is every bit the multifaceted portrait it ought to be. Emphasizing the organization's civic activities, Hamas comes off sounding far more secular than it is generally portrayed in the media, characterized, as it often is, as an Iranian-style agent of religious coercion. If you want to understand why its base of support became so broad, Roy has the answer.
— Joel Schalit
Arab News
Resolutely unbiased, Roy sets the tone of the book from the very beginning. She has always made it a priority to live among Palestinians and even 'walk in their shoes.' This empathy, present throughout the book, helps the author go beyond the usual stereotypes and falsities so often portrayed in the foreign press. . . . Hamas and Civil Society in Gaza shows the Palestinian Islamist movement in a new light. The author analyzes a complex subject with a sound judgment and a remarkable, unbiased approach. By recognizing Hamas' potential for moderation, adaptation and change, Roy uncovers the wall of lies and deceit built around the Islamist movement as well as the need for just, non-discriminatory and fair-minded policies.
Race & Class
Sara Roy has chosen to write about Hamas from the wholly original perspective of the organization's relations with civil society in Gaza. What she has found is a profound challenge to the very basis of US and European policy towards political Islam in Palestine and will be warmly welcomed by the many officials and scholars who have tried in vain to deflect the juggernaut of western policy, which has driven the region into the militarised cul de sac that is Israel today. . . . This is an academic's book, not a journalist's, and reflects the weight of the twenty-five years Roy has devoted to research on the Occupied Palestine Territories.
— Victoria Brittain
Choice
This is an outstanding study of social institutions mainly in Gaza but sometimes in the West Bank, particularly those connected to Hamas. . . . Anyone looking for an in-depth study of the history, ideology, and activities of Hamas will find Roy's book indispensable, as will those concerned with broader topics such as civil society in relation to Islam and Islamist movements.
Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs
Roy's work provides an interesting and emphatic description of the sociopolitical life in Gaza, while offering much-needed insight into the development and functioning of the Islamist social sector in the strip. . . . [T]his well-written book is worth reading.
— Benedetta Berti
Journal of Palestine Studies
Roy combines scholarly rigor and moral clarity to examine and challenge 'the conventional frame that defines Hamas only as a terrorist organization'. . . . Defining Zionism as a racist settler-colonial ideology, and the Israeli state as a supremacist ethnic Jewish state, is not about sloganeering, and for that purpose the book is an essential contribution.
— Nubar Hovsepian
Forward - Joel Schalit
A focused study of how the Islamist organization turned itself into the most powerful political entity in the southern Palestinian territory, Roy's portrait of Hamas is every bit the multifaceted portrait it ought to be. Emphasizing the organization's civic activities, Hamas comes off sounding far more secular than it is generally portrayed in the media, characterized, as it often is, as an Iranian-style agent of religious coercion. If you want to understand why its base of support became so broad, Roy has the answer.
Race & Class - Victoria Brittain
Sara Roy has chosen to write about Hamas from the wholly original perspective of the organization's relations with civil society in Gaza. What she has found is a profound challenge to the very basis of US and European policy towards political Islam in Palestine and will be warmly welcomed by the many officials and scholars who have tried in vain to deflect the juggernaut of western policy, which has driven the region into the militarised cul de sac that is Israel today. . . . This is an academic's book, not a journalist's, and reflects the weight of the twenty-five years Roy has devoted to research on the Occupied Palestine Territories.
Journal of Palestine Studies - Nubar Hovsepian
Roy combines scholarly rigor and moral clarity to examine and challenge 'the conventional frame that defines Hamas only as a terrorist organization'. . . . Defining Zionism as a racist settler-colonial ideology, and the Israeli state as a supremacist ethnic Jewish state, is not about sloganeering, and for that purpose the book is an essential contribution.
Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs - Benedetta Berti
Roy's work provides an interesting and emphatic description of the sociopolitical life in Gaza, while offering much-needed insight into the development and functioning of the Islamist social sector in the strip. . . . [T]his well-written book is worth reading.
Middle East Monitor - Ramona Wadi
Sara Roy's detailed study is ingrained within history, culture and the ubiquitous illegality of the Israeli occupation. . . . By not resorting to the prejudice of external observers involved in promoting an imperialist agenda, Roy empowers Palestinians in their role of protagonists in her treatise, participants in a framework which continues to strengthen a constantly evolving identity.
Middle East Policy - Irene Gendzier
Sara Roy's studies of Gaza have come to be recognized internationally as unequalled resources that, in the context of the United States, are essential antidotes to indifference as well as ignorance. They have contributed to our understanding of the history and political evolution of a region that continues to be marginalized in the abortive discussion of the broader Arab-Israeli conflict of which it is an integral part.
From the Publisher

Winner of the 2012 British-Kuwait Friendship Society Prize in Middle Eastern Studies

Winner of the 2012 Academic Palestine Book Award, Middle East Monitor

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for the Top 25 Academic Books for 2012

"Ms. Roy strives not to speak for Palestinians, but to let their voices reverberate. . . . [Hamas and Civil Society is] rigorous and precise. . . . [T]his is an important book, which challenges lazy views about the Palestinians and highlights how they go about securing basic services."--Economist

"A focused study of how the Islamist organization turned itself into the most powerful political entity in the southern Palestinian territory, Roy's portrait of Hamas is every bit the multifaceted portrait it ought to be. Emphasizing the organization's civic activities, Hamas comes off sounding far more secular than it is generally portrayed in the media, characterized, as it often is, as an Iranian-style agent of religious coercion. If you want to understand why its base of support became so broad, Roy has the answer."--Joel Schalit, Forward

"Resolutely unbiased, Roy sets the tone of the book from the very beginning. She has always made it a priority to live among Palestinians and even 'walk in their shoes.' This empathy, present throughout the book, helps the author go beyond the usual stereotypes and falsities so often portrayed in the foreign press. . . . Hamas and Civil Society in Gaza shows the Palestinian Islamist movement in a new light. The author analyzes a complex subject with a sound judgment and a remarkable, unbiased approach. By recognizing Hamas' potential for moderation, adaptation and change, Roy uncovers the wall of lies and deceit built around the Islamist movement as well as the need for just, non-discriminatory and fair-minded policies."--Arab News

"Sara Roy has chosen to write about Hamas from the wholly original perspective of the organization's relations with civil society in Gaza. What she has found is a profound challenge to the very basis of US and European policy towards political Islam in Palestine and will be warmly welcomed by the many officials and scholars who have tried in vain to deflect the juggernaut of western policy, which has driven the region into the militarised cul de sac that is Israel today. . . . This is an academic's book, not a journalist's, and reflects the weight of the twenty-five years Roy has devoted to research on the Occupied Palestine Territories."--Victoria Brittain, Race & Class

"This is an outstanding study of social institutions mainly in Gaza but sometimes in the West Bank, particularly those connected to Hamas. . . . Anyone looking for an in-depth study of the history, ideology, and activities of Hamas will find Roy's book indispensable, as will those concerned with broader topics such as civil society in relation to Islam and Islamist movements."--Choice

"Roy combines scholarly rigor and moral clarity to examine and challenge 'the conventional frame that defines Hamas only as a terrorist organization'. . . . Defining Zionism as a racist settler-colonial ideology, and the Israeli state as a supremacist ethnic Jewish state, is not about sloganeering, and for that purpose the book is an essential contribution."--Nubar Hovsepian, Journal of Palestine Studies

"Roy's work provides an interesting and emphatic description of the sociopolitical life in Gaza, while offering much-needed insight into the development and functioning of the Islamist social sector in the strip. . . . [T]his well-written book is worth reading."--Benedetta Berti, Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs

"Meticulously researched, Hamas and Civil Society in Gaza is a significant study of Hamas and Gaza's social institutions."--Ramona Wadi, Middle East Monitor

"Sara Roy's studies of Gaza have come to be recognized internationally as unequalled resources that, in the context of the United States, are essential antidotes to indifference as well as ignorance. They have contributed to our understanding of the history and political evolution of a region that continues to be marginalized in the abortive discussion of the broader Arab-Israeli conflict of which it is an integral part."--Irene Gendzier, Middle East Policy
"Sara Roy's detailed study is ingrained within history, culture and the ubiquitous illegality of the Israeli occupation. . . . By not resorting to the prejudice of external observers involved in promoting an imperialist agenda, Roy empowers Palestinians in their role of protagonists in her treatise, participants in a framework which continues to strengthen a constantly evolving identity."--Ramona Wadi, Middle East Monitor

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691124483
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 5/5/2011
  • Series: Princeton Studies in Muslim Politics Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Sara Roy is senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. Her books include "Failing Peace: Gaza and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict" and "The Gaza Strip: The Political Economy of De-development".

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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments xi
A Note on Language and Transliteration xiii
Prologue xv
Chapter 1: Introduction: Structure, Arguments, and Conceptual Framework 1
Chapter 2: A Brief History of Hamas and the Islamic Movement in Palestine 19
Chapter 3: Islamist Conceptions of Civil Society 51
Chapter 4: The Evolution of Islamist Social Institutions in the Gaza Strip: Before and during Oslo (a Sociopolitical History) 70
Chapter 5: Islamist Social Institutions: Creating a Descriptive Context 97
Chapter 6: Islamist Social Institutions: Key Analytical Findings 161
Chapter 7: A Changing Islamist Order? From Civic Empowerment to Civic Regression-the Second Intifada and Beyond 191
Postscript: The Devastation of Gaza-Some Additional Reflections on Where We Are Now 226
Appendix: Islamist (and Non-Islamist) Social Institutions 237
Notes 239
Selected Bibliography 289
Index 309
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