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Sara Roy Censored from Academic Journal

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    BOOK REVIEW Hamas: Politics, Charity and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad by Matthew Levitt. Yale University Press, in cooperation with the Washington
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 4, 2007

      Hamas: Politics, Charity and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad by
      Matthew Levitt. Yale University Press, in cooperation with the
      Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2006. 324 pages, $26.00,

      Sara Roy
      Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University

      Author's Note:
      This review, published here in its entirety, was originally
      commissioned by The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, the official
      foreign-policy journal at the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

      Between the time I was invited to write the review and the time I was
      told it would be published, over two months had passed during which I
      had had several exchanges, some of them difficult, with the editorial
      staff. However, by the end of the process the editor-in-chief, with
      whom I had been working, was pleased with the review, and so was I. He
      sent me an e-PDF of the review as it would appear in the journal
      (Volume 31:1 Winter 2007). The PDF version of the page proofs revealed
      that the editor had excerpted two relevant sentences (featured in
      sidebars) to highlight observations that I had offered in the review:

      1. "While there can be no doubt that, since its inception, Hamas has
      engaged in violence and armed struggle, and has been the primary force
      behind the horrific suicide bombings inside Israel, Levitt's
      presentation reduces this increasingly complex and sophisticated
      organization to an insular, one-dimensional...entity dedicated solely
      to violence...and Israel's destruction."
      2. "The ability of Hamas to reinterpret itself over time through
      processes of radicalization, de-radicalization, de-militarization, and
      re-radicalization is a pronounced and common theme in its historical
      During a subsequent exchange the editor-in-chief wrote, "Thank you for
      your hard work as well. It's a good review." I believed that was the
      end of the matter. Just a few days later, I received the following
      e-mail message from the same editor-in-chief:

      Dear Ms. Roy:
      …After careful review and much consideration of the merits of your
      piece, we have decided that we are ultimately unable to publish your
      review for this edition. Your review was evaluated by several of our
      editors and an external editor for objectivity. Unfortunately, they
      disagreed with my decision to publish your review for the following
      reasons: despite their agreement with many of your points, all
      reviewers found the piece one-sided. This one-sidedness dissuaded
      readers from reading the piece to the end; ultimately, this last point
      is the most important. Although I found your arguments valuable, if
      readers consistently feel this way, I am unable to move forward with a
      piece. My apologies for the way in which this process was carried out,
      and for the time that you spent on editing the piece. Thank you once
      again for your submission and your efforts. If you would like to
      discuss this further, please feel free to e-mail me.

      In more than 20 years of writing and publishing I have never
      experienced such behavior or encountered what to me, at least, is so
      blatant a case of censorship. I am therefore extremely grateful to
      Anne Joyce and Stephen Magro for agreeing to publish the review in
      Middle East Policy.


      At the beginning of the first Palestinian uprising, I was living in
      Gaza and spent much time in the refugee camps interviewing families
      about the political and socioeconomic changes taking place around
      them. Despite the harsh living situation, Palestinians were filled
      with a palpable sense of hope and possibility that has since
      evaporated. Hamas was then struggling to create a popular
      constituency, despite overwhelming support among Palestinians for
      secular nationalism. That was 18 years ago, and neither I nor anyone
      else ever thought that Hamas would one day emerge as a major political
      actor: democratically winning legislative elections, defeating the
      majority Fatah party and heading a Palestinian government.

      In his recent book, Matthew Levitt, who is deputy assistant secretary
      for intelligence and analysis at the U.S. Department of the Treasury
      and an expert in financial counterterrorism, argues that Hamas is
      strictly a terrorist organization that is not only a domestic threat
      but a global one, a part of an international jihad network with links
      to al-Qaeda that must be met with force. He further argues — and this
      is the core of his book — that despite the existence of differentiated
      political, social and military sectors within Hamas, they are all part
      of the same "apparatus of terror."

      Levitt devotes significant attention to attacking the Islamist social
      sector (dawa) and Hamas's charitable institutions. It is the principle
      aim of his book to show how Hamas uses its extensive social-service
      network-mosques, schools, kindergartens, orphanages, hospitals,
      clinics, sports clubs, youth clubs-to further its primary political
      agenda, which he claims is the destruction of Israel. He argues that
      through its social support structure and services, "Hamas leverages
      the appreciation (and indebtedness) it earns through social welfare
      activities to garner support — both political and logistical — for its
      terrorist activities." Levitt summarizes his argument as follows: "The
      general deprivation of the Palestinian people in the Israeli-occupied
      territories predisposes them to favor the much-needed social support
      that Hamas provides." He continues, "In addition to purchasing
      goodwill, charities also create a built-in logistical support umbrella
      underneath which terrorist operations are sheltered and operate." He
      explains that the dawa network operationally supports terrorism
      through recruitment, employment and financing and by providing
      institutional legitimacy.

      His evidence, at times interesting, particularly with regard to
      Hamas's external sources of financing, is more often than not based on
      assumption, extrapolation and generalization. For example, as evidence
      for how religious organizations raise money for Palestinian terrorism,
      Levitt quotes from a pamphlet produced by a Quranic memorization
      center that was sponsored by the Ramallah-al Bireh charity committee.
      The pamphlet listed 30 ways to enter heaven, including "Jihad for the
      sake of Allah by fighting with one's soul and money."

      In another example of how hospitals are used to support terrorism,
      Levitt briefly describes the Dar al-Salam Hospital: "According to
      information cited by the FBI," the hospital is considered a Hamas
      institution because it was founded with "Hamas funds and protection."
      But Levitt fails to provide any real evidence of these funds or how
      and why they are considered "Hamas." The assumption is that these
      ties, even if they are shown to exist, are inherently evil and can be
      nothing else.

      In a chapter on how the dawa teaches terror and radicalizes
      Palestinian society, Levitt writes, "Recipients of Hamas financial aid
      or social services are less likely to turn down requests from the
      organization such as allowing their homes to serve as safe houses for
      Hamas fugitives, ferrying fugitives, couriering funds or weapons,
      storing and maintaining explosives, and more." He cites as evidence
      for this sweeping statement one resident of Jabalya refugee camp in
      Gaza who fed Hamas militants daily. The possibility that Palestinians
      receive support from Hamas institutions without preconditions or that
      popular support requires more than the lure of financial incentives
      and free social services does not enter Levitt's argument. Levitt also
      claims, "When angry, frustrated or humiliated Palestinians regularly
      listen to sermons in mosques in which Jews, Israelis and even
      Americans are depicted as enemies of Islam and Palestine, Hamas's
      official policy may not restrain individual enthusiasm." One wonders
      how Mr. Levitt knows these things, given that he appears never to have
      stepped inside a Hamas institution in Gaza or the West Bank or to have
      conducted any fieldwork at all.

      While these arguments are oft-repeated in today's media, Levitt does
      little to address research that supports a very different conclusion
      regarding the Hamas dawa. Some of the key findings of this research
      point to institutional features that demonstrate no preference for
      religion or politics over other ideologies, particularly in
      programmatic work; an approach to institutional work that advocates
      incrementalism, moderation, order and stability; a philosophical and
      practical desire for productivity and professionalism that shuns
      radical change and emphasizes community development and civic
      restoration over political violence; and no evidence of any formal
      attempt to impose an Islamic model of political, social, legal or
      religious behavior, or to create an alternative Islamic or Islamist
      conception of society.

      While there can be no doubt that, since its inception, Hamas has
      engaged in violence and armed struggle and has been the primary force
      behind the horrific suicide bombings inside Israel, Levitt's
      presentation reduces this increasingly complex and sophisticated
      organization to an insular, one-dimensional and seemingly mindless
      entity dedicated solely to violence, terrorism and Israel's
      destruction. To fully understand the current political stature of
      Hamas, it is necessary to closely examine the dramatic transitions
      that have occurred within the organization itself, among Palestinians
      with respect to their society, and in Palestine's relationship with

      From the point of view of Hamas, Palestine is an Arab and Islamic land
      that fell to colonial control with the demise of the Ottoman Empire.
      The establishment of the State of Israel is viewed as a way to
      perpetuate colonial authority over the Muslim homeland and is
      therefore illegitimate. As victims of colonialism, Hamas argues that
      Palestinians have the right to resist and struggle to regain their
      homeland and freedom, viewing this as a local and nationalist
      struggle. Now, almost two decades after its birth, Hamas has grown in
      size and popularity. While changes have not been made to its frame of
      reference or objectives, its political discourse has become more
      refined and streamlined, particularly with regard to its relations
      with local groups, political factions, other religious communities and
      other nations.

      Unfortunately, Matthew Levitt's book does not address the critical
      evolutionary processes — particularly with regard to its
      organizational structure and political, social and economic role in
      Palestinian society — that have characterized the Palestinian Islamist
      movement and Hamas's rise to power. The ability of Hamas to
      reinterpret itself over time through processes of radicalization,
      de-radicalization, de-militarization and re-radicalization is a
      pronounced and common theme in its historical evolution. Levitt
      neglects to address the significance behind this commitment to
      reinterpretation. His analysis aims simply to demonize Hamas, and he
      discounts the critical connections between changing patterns of
      protest and structures of society, competing visions of a Palestinian
      social and political order, and contesting Islamic and secular
      definitions of meaning and legitimacy. The synergy among these forces
      has characterized the history and growth of Palestinian Islamism.

      Israel's military occupation, which has long been the defining context
      for Palestinian life, is almost absent from Levitt's book. Hamas's
      popularity and growing empowerment derive from its role as a
      resistance organization, fighting against an occupation that is now 40
      years old. Israel's steady expropriation, fragmentation and division
      of Palestinian lands; settlement construction and expansion; closure
      restrictions and destruction of the Palestinian economy are not part
      of Levitt's discussion, nor is the right of the Palestinians to resist
      these measures. In those few instances where the occupation is
      mentioned, it is couched in terms that acknowledge Palestinian
      hardship — a reality exploited by Hamas — but justified as a response
      to terrorism. In the absence of any serious examination of Israel's
      occupation, Levitt's portrayal of the rise of Hamas is completely
      detached from the context within which it was produced and shaped.

      Despite evidence to the contrary, the organization is also described
      as a movement incapable of transformation, ignoring the improvements
      in Hamas's political discourse regarding political compromise with the
      State of Israel and resolution of the conflict. During the period of
      the Oslo peace process, for example, some dramatic changes occurred
      within Hamas. The organization was moving away from the extreme and a
      position of confrontation towards one that was more centrist and
      moderate. This shift was characterized by a reorientation in policy
      and strategic emphasis from political/military action to social works
      and community development. Accompanying this shift was a redefinition
      of the nature of the Palestinian struggle, which was no longer for
      political or military power per se but for defining new social
      arrangements and appropriate cultural and institutional models that
      would meet social needs without resort to violence. Similarly, the
      Islamist movement was not advancing a policy of isolation but was
      calling for greater accommodation and cooperation with both domestic
      and international actors.

      Since Hamas's victory in the January 2006 legislative elections, there
      has been a further evolution in its political thinking — as evidenced
      in some of its key political documents — characterized by a strong
      emphasis on state-building and programmatic work, greater refinement
      with regard to its position on a two-state solution and the role of
      resistance, and a progressive de-emphasis on religion. (See Khaled
      Hroub, "A `New Hamas' Through Its New Documents," Journal of Palestine
      Studies, 34 (4) (Summer 2006)). These are absent from Levitt's
      discussion. Levitt also overlooks questions that are vital to any
      analysis of Hamas, especially at present. To name just a few, what
      were Hamas's ideological, philosophical and structural boundaries? How
      and why were they reset and expanded? What is the role of religion as
      opposed to politics in Islamist thought and practice, particularly in
      the public sphere? Are religion and politics truly unified? Can Hamas
      reconcile faith and ideology with a demand for a place in the
      political system?

      Levitt's book has many serious flaws and merits a detailed critique
      that extends well beyond the scope of this review. His is not a work
      of analysis or scholarship, to say the least, and despite certain
      points that are interesting and accurate, anyone wishing to gain a
      substantive, reasoned and critical understanding of Hamas would do
      well to look elsewhere.



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