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.
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.
"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
Table of Contents:
A Note on Language and Transliteration xiii
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
Selected Bibliography 289
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Sara Roy: