Historical survey rather than a polemical view of the problematic Islamist movement that has both sounded the Palestinians’ needs and plagued Israel since the group's founding in 1987.
In this capable, evenhanded work of research, proficiently translated from the Italian, journalist and historian Caridi carefully tracks the founding of Hamas from its offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood to its West-defining period of terrorism to its eventual, effectual embrace of political representation since 2006. With the de facto protectorate of Egypt over the Palestinian territories after Israel’s 1967 war, the Gaza Strip became the locus of the Islamic resistance movement that evolved from the Muslim Brotherhood, implementing social programs as well as political education in rebuilding the Palestinian identity. The First Intifada of 1987 ignited Hamas and prompted its fledgling leaders to the nettlesome Palestinian National Congress, calling for the elimination of Zionism, which has stuck in Israel’s craw ever since, proving nothing but an embarrassment to the movement. Caridi claims that the Charter’s “significance has in actual fact been overestimated,” and more or less supplanted by more conciliatory language once Hamas acquiesced to participate in elections in 2006, yet the anti-Israel phrasing was never revoked. Women make up a good half of its membership, although polygamy is accepted and the wearing of the hijab expected; terrorism in the form of suicide bombing was activated in retaliation for Baruch Goldstein’s shooting inside Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque in 1994, killing 29 Muslims; and the movement has stubbornly opposed the Oslo peace negotiations. Hamas’ relationship with Fatah (Yasser Arafat’s political organization) has been prickly, and its 2006 election victory has brought it to power as well as to grief.
Somewhat densely plotted, this is nonetheless an intriguing study of Hamas’ tortuous movement from “pebbles to power…from terrorist attacks to ministries.”