Hamas’s strategy

Page last updated 24 Jun 2015


There is little for secular democrats to defend about Hamas – an antisemitic Charter, a fundamentalist religious outlook, for sex segregation in schools in Gaza, a ruthlessness in dealing with its enemies in Fatah, lavish use of the death penalty, rockets fired into southern Israel and more. And yet Hamas is a complex political actor, not reducible to sound-bites about terrorism and Jew-hatred. It came to power in open and fair democratic elections in 2006 out of fury and frustration at Fatah’s ineptness and corruption. It expressed, among other things, a serious desire for change in Palestinian society. But both Israel and the United States were appalled that their strategy had backfired and proceeded to isolate Hamas, forcing it into continued intransigence by a policy of non-recognition, making life in Gaza intolerable, and assassinating Hamas leaders when and where possible, and, of course, waging period asymmetric war. Almost all serious commentators and  political actors believe there has always been room for manoeuvre and negotiation.

Related issues are dealt with in our section Is Hamas to blame?. Here we merely link to some articles which give an insight and better understanding of what Hamas is and what it wants. There have been many, many postings on our website centrally concerned with Hamas. A selection of these is given below.


1. Hamas 2006-present
Mariam Ali, Open Democracy, 14 Sep 2014

Resistance movement, terrorist organisation, political partner, sole obstacle to or guarantor of peace; these are just some of the faces of and designations for Hamas. Whatever it is or is not, it has been a major player in Israel-Palestine – whether or not this is acknowledged. This timeline of articles from the oD archives traces the evolution of Hamas from its (perhaps not-so) surprising landslide election win in 2006 to present, as well as situating it in a broader context and providing an overview of some of the ways in which it has been written about.


2. Hamas wants calm and prosperity says IDF General 
Dan Williams, Reuters, JfJfP 13 May 2015

Again, a senior officer in the IDF, Major-General Sami Turgeman of Southern Command, ignores the political rhetoric about the evil of Hamas to assert that Hamas, like Israel, wants calm, growth, prosperity – and that it’s better for Hamas to govern Gaza than either the IDF or ISIL.

3. The choice for Hamas – war, or slow strangulation
Nathan Thrall, London Review of Books Vol. 36 No 16, JfJfP 9 Aug 2014

Nathan Thrall reviews the options that faced Hamas after former allies in Egypt, Iran and Syria demanded unacceptable terms for their continued support. One of these is trying to make the unity government work, something which Israel will also have to consider.


4. The Hamas Charter – reform or junk it?
Composite posting JfJfP 11 Jun 2014

The Palestinian unity government is having to deal with terrorist attacks against Israel by jihadist groups and at the same time develop working relationships with the US, Israel and EU. The Hamas charter – an antisemitic document – is being held up by Netanyahu as an insuperable block to change. No senior Hamas figure now defends it.


5. How the US manipulated Palestinians and got Hamas
David Rose, Vanity Fair, JfJfP 14 Dec 2012

A long 2008 piece detailing the manipulation by the US security apparatus, blinded by its own mindset, of Palestinian affairs. The resulting civil war entrenched Hamas control of Gaza. Be careful what you wish for.


6. What Israel doesn’t know and doesn’t want to know about Hamas
Zvi Bar’el, Ha’aretz, JfJfP 20 Sep 2012

“The illusion that a movement structured like Hamas is running a mini-government that depends on only a handful of people [who can be assassinated], without whom it would not exist, is at the heart of the deceit nurtured by Israel” writes Zvi Bar’el in this review of a new Israeli book, Lehakir et Hamas ‏(Getting to Know Hamas‏) by Shlomi Eldar, about Hamas. It reveals a more strategic body, willing for dialogue with Israel, than the rhetoric of ‘security’ permits to be known.

7. Can Hamas be sprung from its big freeze?
Middle East Report N°12914, International Crisis Group, JfJfP 14 Aug 2012

The International Crisis Group asks a rare question in international relations – how can Hamas move out of the impasse in which it has been frozen for many years? Or should it just stay on the spot waiting for the Arab uprisings to work out in its favour? Many factors are considered, including the loss of its Syrian patron and the pressing demand for Palestinian unity. There are more questions than answers.


8. Hamas between resistance and partnership
Ramzy Baroud, Gulf News, JfJfP 22 Dec 2011

In an assessment of Hamas at 24, Ramzy Baroud ponders the dilemma for an organisation whose popularity depends on showing the symbols of resistance but which also wants to come in from the cold . Reuters reports Hamas is in talks to join the PLO.

9. Two dozen EU leaders say recognise Hamas as Palestinian partner
Open Letter on Middle East Policy: ‘Lasting Peace Only Possible with Hamas On Board’, Spiegel Online, JfJfP 14 Jun 2011

An open letter from 24 EU leaders say that Palestinian unity, and thus recognition of Hamas, is essential for movement on the Middle East in the Arab Spring


10. Analysis of the new direction of Hamas
Khaled Hroub, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol 35, no. 4, JfJfP 5 May 2011

This study of various, little-known, recent documents from Hamas, which concentrate on building civil society and its institutions, will surprise those who know the organisation only by its violent words and deeds.


11. On Gilad Shalit and keeping Hamas in its place
Composite posting JfJfP 8 Jul 2010

Jeremiah Haber writes: “There should have been a prisoner exchange a long time ago for Gilad Shalit. In fact, it would have been better had Israel freed Palestinian prisoners as part of a general amnesty in order to improve the chances for a comprehensive settlement…” Plus David Grossman on the need for Israel to reach a broader understanding with Hamas; and Uri Avnery on two sit-ins in Jerusalem, one by the Shalit family, the other by three members of the Palestinian parliament. The link: Hamas


12. Courage to Refuse says “Talk to Hamas”
Arik Diamant and David Zonsheine, Guardian Comment is free, JfJfP 15 Feb 2010

“A year after this brutal war, a change of strategy is needed. Israel should commence immediate talks with Hamas, negotiating not only a ceasefire but also the ‘core issues’ to be part of an end-of-conflict agreement. An open dialogue with Hamas is clearly in Israel’s interest…”


13. Britain ‘should approach Hamas’
BBC Report, JfJfP 26 Jul 2009

“The UK government has come under rising pressure from MPs to start making contact with Palestinian group Hamas. A Foreign Affairs Committee report also said it was ‘regrettable’ UK-supplied military items were ‘almost certainly’ used by Israel in the Gaza conflict.”


Contents of this section


a) Negotiating for peace
b) Palestinian popular resistance
c) Boycott, divestment, sanctions

Some early history
The campaign against settlement goods and institutions
Arms boycott
Boycott of companies profiting from the occupation
Academic and cultural boycott
Sanctions: the EU and Israel-Palestine

d) Israeli social movement opposition
e) Solidarity with Palestinian and Israeli campaigns and activities
f) Hamas’s strategy
g) The call for equal rights
h) Using International Law

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