Hamas: Juggling Pragmatism and Resistance in Gaza

Stream: Panel 25 - Comparative Politics: Faithful Contestations: Democratic Learning Curve of Islamists
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 11.30 am – 1.00 pm


The majority of the international relations literature on Hamas posits the Islamist movement as a terrorist group perennially bent on the destruction of the Israeli state. However, these securitised analyses mask or ignore the significant shifts in political behaviour undertaken by Hamas since the end of the Second Intifada in 2005. The reaction of the Palestinian public to the methods used by Israel to crush the Intifada, caused Hamas to develop and implement a Dual Resistance Strategy (DRS) that incorporated political resistance into its established armed resistance narrative. This strategy was put to the test on 26 January 2006 after Hamas won a surprising election victory in the first free and fair elections in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). In spite of having to deal with a debilitating political and economic siege imposed in the election’s aftermath, episodic Israeli invasions and a political schism with Fatah, Hamas has been able to govern Gaza with modest success for a decade. Using the Inclusion-Moderation hypothesis as an analytical framework, this chapter argues that the employment of a DRS by Hamas drives these shifts in its political behaviour post-2005 as it seeks to maintain and defend its political legitimacy. The chapter investigates how Hamas operationalises its political resistance through the implementation of its policies of ‘soft-Islamisation’ and ‘soft-authoritarianism’ that are aimed at cementing its political authority in Gaza. These processes have lead to Hamas adopting a more moderate political stance overall.


Martin Kear (Presenter), University of Sydney
Martin Kear is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. He recently submitted his thesis titled ‘Is This the Way to Palestine? Hamas and the Contested Road to Statehood’ for examination. The thesis critically examined the scope, limits and causation of the shifts in Hamas’s political behaviour between 2005 and 2015. His research interests include the political participation of Islamist movements and the function of violence in the narrative of Islamist movements.