Hamas: A History
by Azzam Tamimi
Northampton, Mass.: Olive Brank Press, 2007. 372 pp. $20
Inside Hamas: The Untold Story of the Militant Islamic Movement
by Zaki Chehab
New York: Nation Books, 2007. 244 pp. $25.95 ($15.95, paper).
Reviewed by Jonathan Schanzer
Jewish Policy Center
Middle East Quarterly
Within months of the stunning electoral victory that heralded the rise of Hamas atop the Palestinian Authority, two apologists for this Islamist, terrorist organization brought forth strikingly similar histories. Both chronicle Hamas's meteoric rise from a splinter of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1987 to a successful political party in 2006. Both authors relate this history through the eyes of Hamas members to whom they are granted unfettered access.
Tamimi, a London-based academic, is the more vitriolic of the two authors. Tamimi, in fact, has been identified in the Malaysian press as a "special envoy" of the Hamas organization. He asserts that Hamas suicide bombing missions are "resorted to out of utter desperation" while lauding the "heroism and altruism" of the murderers who carry out these attacks. He decries Zionism's "racist nature." He even willfully distorts history by claiming that Baruch Goldstein, the Israeli who killed twenty-nine Palestinians at a mosque in 1994, secured the assistance of the Israeli army to carry out his massacre.
Chehab, for his part, is a journalist for London-based Al-Hayat-LBC television. A more careful writer than Tamimi, he does not lionize Hamas but allows his interview subjects to do this. Chehab also does his utmost to refrain from injecting his opinion, but in the book's final pages, he asserts that "Hamas is part of an Islamic society and the USA has committed a grave error in writing it off as a terrorist organization." Indeed, he claims that "Hamas is not some alien guerrilla force. It is someone's brother, neighbor, or the guy who gives your son money for his education."
Both authors insist that the international community must engage in diplomacy with Hamas if a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is to be reached. In the end, however, both books underscore what neither author likely intended to intimate: that the popularity of a terrorist organization best known for its suicide bombings against Israeli civilians is a testament to the culture of violence that festers among the Palestinian people.
 Bernama.com (Malaysian National News Agency), June 27, 2006.
Related Topics: Palestinians, Radical Islam, Terrorism | Jonathan Schanzer | Fall 2008 MEQ
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