Hamas Contained
Hamas Contained
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Hamas Contained

The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance

Tareq Baconi

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📖 eBook - ePub

Hamas Contained

The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance

Tareq Baconi

About This Book

The book is a thirty year history of Hamas that illustrates the movement's effort to carry forward the mantle of Palestinian resistance conceded by the PLO in 1988 and its effective pacification and entrapment within the Gaza Strip by 2017, marking the failure of the latest phase of Palestinian nationalism.

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CHAPTER ONE
THE RISE OF ISLAMIC PALESTINIAN NATIONALISM
On the night of December 9, 1987, a group of men crowded into a small house in the Shati refugee camp, named for its location close to the beachfront (shatt), in the north of the Gaza Strip. The gathering was hosted by Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, a soft-spoken paraplegic man with a long white beard. Yassin was a refugee from the village of al-Jura, near the town currently known as Ashkelon in Israel, which he had fled in 1948.1 His visitors were also refugees from towns and villages now within Israel’s borders. They had come together that night in haste to discuss the events erupting around them. A day earlier, an Israeli army vehicle had crashed into a line of cars carrying Palestinian day laborers commuting from their jobs in Israel back to their homes in the Gaza Strip. The accident had killed four Palestinian men, three of whom were from the Jabalia refugee camp.2 Also located in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, the Jabalia camp, known as the “camp of the revolution,” is one of the largest refugee camps in the Palestinian territories and one of the most densely populated plots of land in the world. Within hours of the accident, the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, as well as areas within Israel itself, were awash with protests, demonstrations, and acts of civil disobedience. Spreading from the epicenter of the Jabalia camp, the First Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, had begun.3
The intifada was a spontaneous and seemingly leaderless mass upheaval. Almost overnight, Palestinians collectively took to the streets to protest Israel’s occupying presence within their land. Israel’s occupation had begun twenty years prior, in 1967. Although Palestinians had enjoyed periods of relative prosperity during this time, the occupation itself was premised on the economic subjugation of the territories and the denial to Palestinians of their political rights. Over the course of two decades, Israel had expropriated Arab land; expanded an illegal settlement enterprise that fragmented the Palestinian territories; and maintained a repressive military occupation that routinized human rights violations of Palestinians under its rule, including arrests, deportations, home demolitions, indefinite detentions, curfews, and killings. With the intifada, Palestinians rose to shake off the yoke of military rule. They boycotted Israeli goods and refused to comply with the administrative processes underwriting their oppression, including procedures such as the issuance of ID cards and tax collection by the Israeli authorities.
The image of Palestinian youth hurtling stones at Israeli tanks came to denote the spirit of this period. Over the course of four years, the intifada resembled an anticolonial struggle.4 Protesters clashed with the Israeli army using stones, sticks, and occasionally Molotov cocktails as the Israeli military struggled to quash what was predominantly a civilian uprising. Throughout the territories, decentralized popular committees emerged to organize mass action and shelter the identities of local leaders for fear of reprisals. Demonstrations were soon coordinated clandestinely. Appeals for strikes and instructions for acts of civil disobedience surfaced almost surreptitiously in leaflets left on car windscreens and graffiti sprayed on shop shutters. These memos often carried the imprint of the United National Leadership of the Uprising, a coalition of factions that was created early in the intifada to coordinate activities among the different towns and villages in the occupied territories. The intifada’s leaflets articulated the political goals of the uprising: to achieve independence from Israel’s occupation and establish a Palestinian state.5
Thousands of miles away, the indefatigable Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat watched the spreading protests from his exile in Tunis. Under his guidance, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the official representative of the Palestinian people and effectively the government-in-exile, scrambled to assume a leadership role over this unexpected mass mobilization. Through its offices in Amman and Tunis, the PLO coordinated with local leaders inside the occupied territories to shape the intifada’s trajectory and ensure it remained nonviolent. Simultaneously, and unbeknown to Arafat and the exiled leadership, the men gathered in Sheikh Yassin’s home in Gaza also understood the importance of harnessing this outburst of popular sentiment. Less than a week after the Palestinian streets first exploded with pent-up frustration, on December 14, Yassin and his colleagues published and circulated a leaflet that hailed the eruption of the intifada as a rejection of the bloody years of Israel’s military rule and a reaffirmation of Palestinian perseverance and steadfastness. “Islam is the solution and the alternative” to the current path the Palestinian struggle had taken, the memo read.6 Its authors denounced the PLO for failing to end the occupation as they presented an alternative liberation project. The unusual memo did not yet bear the name HAMAS, the Arabic acronym for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya (Islamic Resistance Movement), also meaning “zeal.”7 Nonetheless, this leaflet marked Hamas’s first appearance within the Palestinian territories and, with it, the first formal indication that a new force had emerged to shape this latest phase of the Palestinian struggle for liberation.
ANCESTRAL LEGACIES
Led by Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, Hamas’s cofounders viewed the intifada as an opportune time to leverage all the preparation that had been taking place clandestinely for years to create an organization dedicated to “rais[ing] the banner of God over every inch of Palestine.”8 Their leaflets were inconsistently signed at first as the leaders experimented with what to call their nascent organization. Names such as “The Islamic Faction,” “Path of Islam,” and “Islamic Defense” were tried and tested. In January 1988, a few weeks after the intifada had begun, the name HAMAS was finally chosen. Hamas’s creation built on a solid institutional base that had been developed, primarily within the Gaza Strip, over the course of several decades. The new movement was defined as the latest “link in [a long] chain of the Jihad against the Zionist occupation.”9 To bolster Hamas’s standing, the founders reached back to the turn of the century and constructed a rich lineage that could be traced to the early days of the Zionist project.
Yassin was instrumental in linking Hamas’s founding in 1987 with this legacy of jihad from the 1920s. As a twelve-year-old, Yassin was injured in an athletic accident and developed an acute form of quadriplegia. His deteriorating health prevented him from completing his education in Egypt, where he was enrolled at the prestigious al-Azhar University. Upon his return to Gaza, where his family had settled as refugees, he worked as a teacher and an imam and, in the 1950s, joined the Muslim Brotherhood chapter in Palestine. The Muslim Brotherhood had been founded in 1928 in Egypt by Hassan al-Banna, an Islamic thinker who advocated for the Islamization of society.10 Throughout the 1930s, al-Banna grew his organization into an Islamic welfare association where groups of young brothers gathered to study and learn Islamic scripture, lead virtuous lives, build their nation, and safeguard it against Western influence and colonialism. Al-Banna’s vision was to create a modern Islamic society that assimilated Western progress, such as in the sciences, while remaining true to Islamic virtues.11
Although the brotherhood was mainly preoccupied with Egyptian affairs and the British occupation of Egypt, it was also committed to the broader region, with al-Banna viewing Egyptian nationalism as a stepping stone toward pan-Arab and pan-Islamic unity.12 Underpinning this gradualist approach, from national to Arab to Islamic unity, was the belief that Islamic fraternity superseded loyalty to the nation. Therefore, looking eastward, the brotherhood noted with concern the developments taking place within Palestine, which was conquered by the British from the Ottoman Empire during World War One. In 1922, Palestine was made into a British Mandate under the supervision of the League of Nations, which meant that the British were responsible to guide it toward independence.13 This charge conflicted with commitments the British had made to the Zionist movement, which had emerged in Europe at the turn of the century and sought to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine.14 By the 1920s, Jewish immigration into Palestine was increasing against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution and growing European anti-Semitism. The brotherhood viewed Zionist plans in Palestine and expanding Jewish immigration as one of the most tangible threats facing the Muslim world.15
Opposition to Zionism was also gathering pace among the indigenous Arab population of Palestine. Nationalism had slowly begun taking hold in the region as former Ottoman provinces became European colonies. By the time the British Mandate had been instituted, a growing sense of Palestinian nationalism and anti-Zionism had already permeated the elite class of Palestinian urban traders and professionals.16 These leaders demanded that Britain renounce its commitment to Zionism, stop Jewish immigration, and move Palestine toward independence as an Arab-majority county. Rural Palestinians were also objecting to the economic impact of dispossession from their agricultural land by Jewish newcomers.17 The powerful religious establishment, headed by the Mufti of Jerusalem, wielded influence in shaping this nascent nationalism.18 It issued Islamic legal rulings supporting anti-land-sale campaigns to stop Arab landowners from selling their estates to Jewish immigrants, as well as calling for the protection of Islamic holy sites. The Mufti reached out to the international Muslim community as he sought to internationalize the cause of Palestine by hailing the political and religious significance of its Islamic holy places.19 Despite these efforts, the Palestinian political and religious elite were ineffective in quelling the influx of Jewish settlers. Their subservience toward their British patrons, their conviction that they could lobby the British peacefully, and their bitter factionalism prevented them from successfully promoting Palestinian nationalism.20
The failure of the Palestinian leaders facilitated the growth of populist resistance to Zionism within Palestine, led by individuals such as Izz al-Din al-Qassam.21 A popular speaker, al-Qassam had preached against French colonialism around his birthplace of Latakia, a coastal town in modern-day Syria. Al-Qassam called for jihad, a call to arms, against the domineering European powers.22 Facing a death sentence for his role in the failed Syrian resistance, al-Qassam fled southward to Haifa, a Mediterranean city in Palestine, where he soon gathered a following by preaching in mosques. Al-Qassam was critical of the Palestinian elite and the religious institutions. He spoke of the need to pursue the modernization of Muslim society, as well as a stricter adherence to Islamic orthodoxy as a framework for progress.23 From his base in Haifa, al-Qassam resumed the anticolonial struggle that he had commenced in Syria. He roamed throughout northern Palestine, preaching in rural areas to an expanding base of followers composed of predominantly poor and pious peasants. His message centered on the need to support Palestinian nationalism in its struggle against Zionism and colonialism through education, a return to a purer religious life, and jihad.
Al-Qassam presented jihad as a religious responsibility for all Muslims to militarily resist the British Mandate government and Zionism. As one of al-Qassam’s followers explained, “All that pertains to such a jihad is dictated in familiar ayat [verses of the Quran]. . . . ‘This is jihad, victory or martyrdom,’ and such a jihad is one of the religious duties of the Islamic creed.”24 Al-Qassam obtained a decree from the Mufti of Damascus who legitimated the use of violence against the British and the incoming Jewish settlers.25 By making resistance a core duty of faith, al-Qassam popularized the notion of jihad. The Syrian preacher increased his following and began planning clandestine military operations to counter the Zionist threat and wage a war of liberation against the British.26 As al-Qassam was laying the groundwork for resistance to Zionism and British rule in Palestine, the Muslim Brotherhood was expanding its own base of operations in Egypt. By the 1930s, it had developed into a sizable welfare association and had begun making connections with the Mufti of Jerusalem.27
In October 1935, the threat of the Zionist forces in Palestine was confirmed. The discovery of a secret arms shipment in the Jaffa harbor affirmed to the Palestinians that the Jewish settlers in their midst were arming their militias for an eventual confrontation t...

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APA 6 Citation
Baconi, T. (2018). Hamas Contained (1st ed.). Stanford University Press. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/745999/hamas-contained-the-rise-and-pacification-of-palestinian-resistance-pdf (Original work published 2018)
Chicago Citation
Baconi, Tareq. (2018) 2018. Hamas Contained. 1st ed. Stanford University Press. https://www.perlego.com/book/745999/hamas-contained-the-rise-and-pacification-of-palestinian-resistance-pdf.
Harvard Citation
Baconi, T. (2018) Hamas Contained. 1st edn. Stanford University Press. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/745999/hamas-contained-the-rise-and-pacification-of-palestinian-resistance-pdf (Accessed: 14 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Baconi, Tareq. Hamas Contained. 1st ed. Stanford University Press, 2018. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.
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