From Rebel Movement to Political Party

Alastair Crooke

The view held by many in the West that transformation from an armed resistance movement to political party should be linear, should be preceded by a renunciation of violence, should be facilitated by civil society and brokered by moderate politicians has little reality for the case of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas). This is not to suggest that Hamas has not been subject to a political transformation: it has. But that transformation has been achieved in spite of Western efforts and not facilitated by those efforts. While remaining a resistance movement, Hamas has become the government of the Palestinian Authority and has modified its military posture. But this transformation has taken a different course from the one outlined in traditional conflict resolution models. Hamas and other Islamist groups continue to see themselves as resistance movements, but increasingly they see the prospect that their organizations may evolve into political currents that are focused on non-violent resistance.Standard conflict resolution models rely heavily on Western experience in conflict resolution and often ignore the differences of approach in the Islamic history of peace-making. Not surprisingly, the Hamas approach to political negotiation is different in style to that of the West. Also, as an Islamist movement that shares the wider optic of the impact of the West on their societies, Hamas has requirements of authenticity and legitimacy within its own constituency that bear on the importance attached to maintaining an armed capability. These factors, together with the overwhelming effect of long term conflict on a community’s psychology (an aspect that receives little attention in Western models that put preponderant weight on political analysis), suggests that the transformation process for Hamas has been very different from the transformation of arms movements in traditional analysis. In addition, the harsh landscape of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict gives the Hamas experience its special characteristics.Hamas is in the midst of an important transformation, but the political currents within Israel, and within the region, make the outcome of this transformation unpredictable. Much will depend on the course of Western policy (its “Global War on Terror”) and how that policy effects revivalist Islamist groups such as Hamas, groups that are committed to elections, reform and good-governance.

wees Gesellig, Deel!

Filed Under: EgipteBesteHamasJordaanLibanonMoslem BroederskapStudies & OndersoekSiriëSiriese MB

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