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Evaluating Hamas’ Struggle in Palestine

This article examines the history and outcomes of Hamas’ involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. By using published sources and conducting interviews with five incumbent Hamas officials living abroad, the article evaluates the group’s achievements and failures since the onset of its active role in the military struggle against Israel and in Palestinian politics against the other main actor, Fatah. It concludes that Hamas, while achieving some success in its military struggle against Israel, has not delivered the expectations of the Palestinian people, partly because it was squeezed into to the Gaza Strip by the Palestinian Authority, and partly because international actors have blocked aid from entering the Hamas-controlled areas. Hamas is expected to continue fighting, but may partially withdraw from politics, as the people of Gaza are not happy with its governance due to higher unemployment, as well as the Israeli blockade and attacks.

Evaluating Hamas Struggle in Palestine
Ismail Haniyeh sways a Palestinian flag during a protest within the “Great March of Return” and “Palestinian Land Day” at Israel-Gaza border, March 30, 2019. ISMAIL HANIYEH’S PRESS OFFICE / AA Photo
 

Received Date: 12/26/2019    Accepted Date: 01/31/2020  

 

 

Introduction

 

As a state-like and armed non-state actor, Hamas (Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya, Islamic Resistance Movement) has a complex identity. Since its foundation in 1987, the organization has been a dominant actor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict due to its ongoing combat against Israel. However, the organization’s military combat and political activities have had intra-community, regional, and international implications. Domestically, Hamas is now contending with its main Palestinian rival, Fatah, and striving to meet the needs of the Gazan population. Meanwhile, Israel’s pressure on Palestine has risen due to Hamas’ armed resistance and hardline politics. The group’s militant image also threatens to undermine sympathy and support for the Palestinian cause. However, a non-state armed group such as Hamas would inevitably come into being since Palestine is under Israeli occupation. Hamas is not the first Palestinian armed group, and if current circumstances continue unchanged, it will not be the last one that opts to fight to find a solution to the conflict. However, whether fighting is the correct way to realize a non-state actor’s goals is questionable.

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