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A History from Within
Azzam Tamimi

published 2011 • 6" x 9" • 372 pages
ISBN 9781566568241 • paperback • $25.00

Updated Edition. 

Hamas's overwhelming electoral victory in January 2006 transformed politics in the Middle East and shocked the world. The March 2007 meeting in Mecca that resulted in a national unity government including both Fatah and Hamas confirmed Hamas-despite its status as a terrorist organization in Israel, the US, and the EU-as a fixture in Palestinian politics. In such an environment, Azzam Tamimi's Hamas: A History from Within is a vital book. Tamimi's longtime relationships and extensive interviews with Hamas's leading members allow him to create a more intimate portrait of Hamas, in its own words and from its own members, than has yet been available in English. This is an unmediated history of Hamas, from its origins among the Muslim Brotherhood in the first intifada, to today, illuminating the organization's perspective on the problems with and authority of its Charter, the relationship between its leadership within and outside Palestine, between its political and military wings, as well as the possibility of hudna (long-term truce) with Israel. 

A grass-roots organization that commands wide respect among Palestinians for its incorruptibility, Hamas is divided into two main sections: one is responsible for establishing schools, hospitals and religious institutions; the other for military action and terror attacks carried out by its armed underground wing the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades.

One must understand Hamas in order to understand the current state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; Hamas: A History from Within provides an unrivalled account of Hamas's history, structure, and objectives, largely in its own words.

Azzam Tamimi is founder of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought in London and author of Rachid Ghannouchi: A Democrat within Islamism (2001).

Media Reviews

"This is a detailed, document-based study of the formation, politics, and actions of Hamas, the Islamist party that recently formed a Palestinian government despite the opposition of the United States and the rival Fatah Party. Called a terrorist group by the United States and other powers, Hamas was elected by a dominant vote of Palestinians in March 2006 because it reflected the nationalist views of many Palestinians and had provided needed social services for decades. While Tamimi, founder of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought in London, is a strong critic of Israel, he has written a sound academic work on a key group that libraries need to have."
--Library Journal

“Tamimi's book is the most authoritative account yet published of the origins, rise and impact of Hamas.”
Abdel Bari Atwan, Chief Editor, Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London)

"This is an important book, and I encourage both Israelis and diaspora Jews to read it. As Jews, we may not necessarily agree with many of its ideas, but it is only if we gain a deeper understanding-based on our tradition of respect for the other-of the Islamists' agenda that will we have a chance to transform the Palestine-Israel conflict and discover a common desire to bring an end to violence."
- Gabrielle Rifkind, Specialist in Conflict Resolution and Human Security

"An excellent history, deeply researched, the story is dramatic, and Tamimi tells it well... gives access to fascinating detail."
-- Palestine News

"The shock generated in the United States and Israel when the grassroots Islamist organization Hamas won a sweeping electoral victory in the Palestinian elections of January 2006 was no doubt partly a result of the over-simplified and stereotyped view of the organization that is typical of narratives produced largely from the perspective of the US and Israeli governments. Tamimi (Institute of Islamic Political Thought, UK) offers this analysis as a corrective, tracing the roots of the organization in Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, describing the evolution of its ideology and political discourse, looking at its rivalry with the Palestinian Liberation Organization, analyzing its social and charitable activities, and describing the events that gave birth to its more militarist actions. Tamimi's treatment is well rounded and allows for a more nuanced and objective understanding of Hamas than typically found in the United States."
-- Book News

"For those in the west who truly want to understand Hamas, Hamas: A History from Within should be required reading. It is clearly written, presents well-structured arguments and while it is a history, it is much more than dates, names, and events, but a running discussion of the changes in ideas and organizational structures within Hamas... Tamimi has presented a highly informative work, one that provides a significant new perspective for the west on what is occurring in Palestine and the Middle East."
-- The Palestine Chronicle

"This book aims to dispel negative Western perceptions of Hamas. Tamimi presents an authoritative assessment of the origins, rise, and impact of Hamas. Indeed, the study provides the non-Arabic reader with a wealth of information in English not previously available."

"On the whole, this is quite an important volume which enriches the discourse on Hamas in particular, and Islamic movements in general. This book fills in many gaps in other works on this controversial subject. Experts and observers will undoubtedly find the information of utmost value."
--Hisham H. Ahmed, Against the Current

"...Important insights into the origins, workings, and internal tensions of Palestinian Islamist politics. 'Hamas: A History from Within' is the work of Azzam Tamimi, an Islamist and scholar close enough to Hamas to have been able to choose such a title for his book confidently. Tamimi's book benefits from unparalleled access to original sources, including Hamas's Arabic documents, in-depth interviews with Hamas's external leadership operating in Beirut and Damascus, and the the works of writers closely related to the movement. 

"Tamimi's primary contribution is in the book's middle chapters, which focus on Hamas's presence in and relations wit Jordan and chart the development of Hamas's current polical stances. "
—Khaled Hroub, Journal of Palestine Studies

"Tamimi's book is an excellent history and analysis of Hamas, including its origins in the late 1960s. It puts into perspective just how the 2007 drama in Gaza is only the latest very serious crisis that the organisation has had to surmount, from both interal Palestinian and regional policy upheavals in the last forty years."
—Victoria Brittain, Race & Class

"One must understand Hamas in order to understand the current state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Azzam Tamimi’s longtime relationships and interviews with Hamas’s leading members allow him to create a portrait of Hamas in its own words and from its own members."

“a deep insider’s look at the history and beliefs of this key organization in the politics among the nations of the Arab world and Israel. Written chronologically, the work provides the reader the precipitous anticipation of a novel, with consistent ongoing detail through personal statements from interviews and written works…supplemented with six appendices of important Hamas documents, ending with the Hamas party manifesto for the January 2006 elections.
…what Tamimi provides us is a sense of the ways Hamas, as an outgrowth of the Egyptian Ikhwan, is strongly shaped as an unintended consequence of Israel’s policies toward the PLO and the subsequent Palestinian Authority, intermingled with the overarching political struggles occurring throughout West Asia and North Africa.
If any reader wishes to understand the ways Hamas was constructed…this work will provide an excellent step-by-step description, from which we  can draw a clear understanding of the shifts in Hamas’ actions and ideologies. Sheikh Yassin is a fascinating and central figure, clearly charismatic and complex, and one can palpably experience the ways he influenced his confederates in Tamimi’s writing.
The most informative chapter…is that concerning the changes over time in the Hamas charter, which of course includes its infamous refusal to recognize the state of Israel.
The book also provides the reader a sense of the place of Hamas within larger Islamic umma, particularly in an excellent chapter on the logic of suicide bombers [a.k.a., martyrdom operations]. Tamimi shows the ways the larger community struggles over whether or not Islam permits such acts, detailing the arguments across a range of Islamic scholars.
Lastly, Tamimi places Hamas into the larger history of the Palestinian struggle in the chapter detailing the interrelationships among Fatah, the larger PLO, the rise of the Palestinian Authority, and of course, the role of Yaser Arafat throughout the sixty year war.
…I would recommend this book to anyone who wishes to grasp the internal and external influences that have created today’s Hamas. …Tamimi’s Hamas: A History from Within humanizes the organization. In these troubled times, we need all of that we can get.
—Digest of Middle East Studies (DOMES)

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Of Related Interest:
Speaking the Truth
Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
My Jerusalem
The Image, the Icon, and the Covenant
Middle East Conflicts
Palestine (2nd ed.)
Secret Life of Saeed, The
Unequal Conflict
Mahmoud Darwish, Exile's Poet
The Wind in My Hair