Crescent and Sword: The Hamas Enigma
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This paper analyses the popular support to Hamas, the mostimportant of the Palestinian Islamist movements today. Thepaper charts the movement’s historical ascendancy from afringe Gaza-based group to a mainstream Islamist movementand mouthpiece for dispossessed Palestinians. Since 2001,Hamas’s leadership has come under increasing attack fromIsrael, killing a number of the movement’s leaders and seniormembers, most prominently Sheikh Yasin, the movement’sfounder and spiritual leader, and his successor as Hamasleader, Abd al-Aziz Rantissi. Nonetheless, Hamas’s duality as“worshippers” and “warmongers” has made the organisationextraordinarily popular among dispossessed Palestinians and amounting political challenge to the secular nationalism of thePLO. At present, two-thirds of the Palestinians live below the“poverty line” and it is likely that it is in this disenfranchisedsegment of the population that Hamas finds its core support.Presently, about one in every six Palestinians in the OccupiedTerritories benefits from support from Islamic charities.Hamas, on its part, allocates almost all of its revenues to itssocial services, but there is no evidence that Hamas or the otherIslamic charities provide assistance conditional upon politicalsupport.
PublisherChr. Michelsen Institute
SeriesCMI Working paper
WP 2004: 14