Hamas is designated a terrorist organisation by Israel, the EU, the USA and the UN. It has made itself notorious for its violent radicalism and uncompromising rejection of the Jewish state. So after its victory in the 2006 elections the world was watching. How would Hamas govern? Could an Islamist group without any experience of power – and with an unwavering ideology – manage to deal with day-to-day realities on the ground?
Björn Brenner investigates what happened after the elections and puts the spotlight on the people over whom Hamas rules, rather than on its ideas. Lodging with Palestinian families and experiencing their daily encounters with Hamas, he offers an intimate perspective of the group as seen through local eyes.
The book is based on hard-to-secure interviews with a wide range of key political and security figures in the Hamas administration, as well as with military commanders and members of the feared Qassam Brigades. Brenner has also sought out those that Hamas identifies as local trouble makers: the extreme Salafi-Jihadis and members of the now more quiescent mainstream Fatah party led by Mahmoud Abbas.
The book provides a new interpretation of one of the most powerful forces in the Israel-Palestine arena, arguing that the Gazan Islamists carry a potential to be much more flexible and pragmatic than anticipated – if they would think they stand to gain from it. Gaza under Hamas investigates the key challenges to Hamas’s authority and reveals why and in what ways ideology comes second to power consolidation.
This updated edition covers recent events since 2016, revisits original conclusions and reflects on the future for Hamas. The new features include a foreword by Shaul Mishal, an introduction by Magnus Ranstorp and an epilogue by Benedetta Berti. An added chapter by Björn Brenner discusses Hamas’s new Charter, shifting power-balance within, changing regional dynamics – and how we can understand the relationship between Hamas and democracy today. Gaza Under Hamas was named winner of the PALESTINE BOOK AWARDS 2017; and runner-up to the British Middle East Studies Association BRISMES BOOK AWARDS 2018.
“Björn Brenner has given us a rare and quite useful contribution to the scant academic literature on how Hamas has actually functioned as the de facto power in Gaza since 2006. The book will be welcomed by students of Islamist politics and Palestinian studies.”
Journal of Islamic Studies
“Against heaps of reductionist literature and media portrayals that render Hamas as an extremist terrorist group, Björn Brenner provides in this book an authoritative and empirical study that debunks such Western, and mainly official, depictions of the movements. Disinterested in either vilifying or glorifying Hamas, this finely structured book is based on four years of direct field research, first hand observations, and data collection.”
Journal of Palestine Studies
“What makes Brenner’s account especially valuable is its focus on how Hamas has managed to create a functioning government in Gaza – a subject that is little known – as opposed to Hamas’s behaviour towards Israel, which the author explains is not discussed in this book as it has been extensively studied by others […] This book is recommended for providing other insights into the nature of its [Hamas’s] rule which, due to the author’s access to Hamas leaders and operatives, will not be found in other studies.”
Perspectives on Terrorism
“A useful contribution to the study of Hamas’s exercise of state power.”
The Times Literary Supplement
“Björn Brenner has contributed invaluable research through his book Gaza Under Hamas. Apart from establishing the centrality of Hamas rule to a political solution for Palestine, the book also expounds upon the spectrum of misconceptions, strengths and flaws associated with the movement. This approach provides a detailed assessment of Hamas in relation to Gaza and its unique circumstances, while dispelling mainstream manipulation, to which, as Brenner points out, academia has also contributed.”
Israel Book Review
“Constitutes a significant contribution to the Hamas-related literature. It departs from the conventional discussion about the group’s role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and treats Hamas as an instance of Islamic governance. Moreover, the book is written in a way that renders it useful to both the specialized and the general readership. It contains information that helps one reconstruct the conditions leading to the status quo in the Gaza Strip and also provides the full picture, including the background and aftermath, of incidents that made headlines but soon fell into oblivion.”
Middle East Policy
“It is good to see academics tackling subjects which are normally left to journalists, hardly the most objective of professionals at the best of times. The author is to be commended for taking on a complex situation and trying to make sense of it.”
Middle East Monitor
“In Gaza Under Hamas, Dr Björn Brenner takes a closer look at how a group that has been seen as having an ideological commitment to violence has actually governed, and discovers an organisation that is able to govern in ways that can be variously seen as Islamist but also secular, and democratic but then authoritarian.”
Middle East Eye
“Björn Brenner’s book constitutes an important contribution to our understanding of Hamas and how Islamist ideas are translated into political practices. Rarely do we have the opportunity within the Political Science discipline to take stock of empirical research in a timely case such as Hamas and its first entry onto the political stage. This book also provides a great opportunity for researchers to learn from Brenner’s best practices in how to conduct field research in conflict zones.”
Swedish Journal of Political Science
“Gaza Under Hamas is a superb corrective to the polemic narratives peddled on either side of the bitter conflict in that sad territory.”
Sir Roger Tomkys, former British diplomat, former Master of Pembroke College, University of Cambridge.
“The book is particularly commendable for its strictly scientific analysis of an otherwise much politicised issue.”
Karma Nabulsi, Professor in Politics and International Relations, Oxford University.
“In Gaza Under Hamas, Björn Brenner provides an inside view of Hamas in power, based on extensive fieldwork alongside trenchant insights and incisive analysis. His book is an important contribution to the literature by greatly enhancing our understanding of the evolution of terrorist organizations from grassroots violence to formal governance.”
Bruce Hoffman, Professor and Director of Security Studies, Georgetown University.
“This is one of the rare books about Hamas that manages to be both balanced and insightful. Based on a broad range of primary sources, this in-depth study of Gaza under Hamas rule provides as full and comprehensive a picture as possible. A must-read for scholars, students, and diplomats alike!”
Peter Neumann, Professor of Security Studies at the War Studies Department, King’s College London; Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation.
“For academic researchers, policy makers, NGOs and broader civil society members interested in Islamist experiences and practices of governance this is a must read. The book not only helps address many misconceived notions about the challenges which Hamas has faced since it was elected in 2006 but it also assists readers in nuancing the particular context in which such a case of Islamist governance actually operates.”
Michelle Pace, Professor of Politics and International Studies, Department of Social Sciences and Business, Roskilde University.
“Gaza under Hamas is a fascinating, original, and uniquely well-researched analysis of how Hamas governs. Drawing on four years of ethnographic research, the author combines empirical granularity and analytical clarity to provide a wealth of new insights on the domestic politics of the Gaza Strip. The book will become the standard work on the Hamas administration and a must-read for anyone interested in rebel governance, political Islam, Middle East politics, Islamic Law, or Palestinian history.”
Thomas Hegghammer, Professor of Political Science at the University of Oslo; Director of Terrorism Research at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment FFI.
“Björn Brenner provides a well-researched, timely and extensive account of Hamas’s complex approach to governance, also offering a very interesting portrait of life in the Gaza Strip.”
Benedetta Berti, Head of Policy Planning at North Atlantic Treaty Organisation NATO; Robert A. Fox Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute; TED Senior Fellow.