To what extent does the case of Hamas prove or disprove the view that political participation leads to moderation of a radical actor? Introduction
On the 25th of January 2006, the Islamic Resistance Movement or Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya (Hamas) became the first Islamist party in the Arab World to democratically and peacefully take office. Despite this phenomenal feat, the Western world, Israel included, continue to brand Hamas as a radical Islamist terrorist organisation largely on the basis of its anachronistic 1988 founding Charter ￢ﾀﾓ a document hastily cobbled together nearly thirty years ago, under tumultuous circumstances (the First Intifada, ￢ﾀﾜuprising￢ﾀﾝ), by a group of religious Sheikhs, who did not consult Hamas￢ﾀﾙs wider constituency (Tamimi, 2006, pp. 147-150). Hence, this essay seeks to exonerate Hamas by arguing that political participation, in particular since its electoral announcement in 2005, has led to the moderation of this radical actor, mainly due to the incentives of politics, coupled with its burdens and responsibilities, which alters strategic choice.
To enumerate, this essay will first seek to develop two interpretations of ￢ﾀﾘmoderation￢ﾀﾙ ￢ﾀﾓ behavioural and ideological ￢ﾀﾓ by exploring the premise behind the designation ￢ﾀﾘradical actor￢ﾀﾙ. In doing so, Section I will set a benchmark to assess the extent to which Hamas￢ﾀﾙs actions can be considered as ￢ﾀﾘmoderation￢ﾀﾙ. Having delineated a framework, Section II will then establish the incentives of politics that has drawn Hamas to participate in the process, arguing that these incentives also act as a form of ￢ﾀﾘmoderation￢ﾀﾙ. Following this, Section III will explore Hamas￢ﾀﾙs political documents to show that in its efforts to capitalise on these incentives, Hamas has made many trade-offs based on rational-choice calculations and cost-benefit analyses. Subsequently, Section IV will argue that the necessity for these trade-offs also arise from Hamas￢ﾀﾙs elementary relationship with the Palestinian people ￢ﾀﾓ thus elucidating the impetus behind its ￢ﾀﾘmoderation￢ﾀﾙ. Lastly, a summary and conclusion will be presented.
I) Defining ￢ﾀﾘModeration￢ﾀﾙ
In the founding days, Hamas defined itself, through its 1988 Charter, to be ￢ﾀﾜa distinct Palestinian Movement which owes its loyalty to Allah, derives from Islam its way of life and strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine￢ﾀﾝ (Hamas, 1988, Article 6) and purported the slogan: ￢ﾀﾜAllah is its goal, the Prophet its model, the Quran its Constitution, Jihad its path, and death for the cause of Allah its most sublime belief￢ﾀﾝ (Hamas, 1988, Article 8). This militant doctrine, aimed at the liberation of all mandated Palestine min al-bahr ila al-nahr (from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River) (Ashour, 2010, p. 157) by force serves as a validation that Hamas￢ﾀﾙs objectives are ￢ﾀﾘradical￢ﾀﾙ as it seeks a fundamental alteration of the existing political, economic and social structure. For this reason, this essay defines a ￢ﾀﾘradical actor￢ﾀﾙ as seeking to overthrow the system in its entirety through the use of violence (Schwedler, 2011, p. 350).
Consequently, this essay argues that ￢ﾀﾘmoderation￢ﾀﾙ is a transition away from radicalism and can be broken down into: 1) behavioural moderation ￢ﾀﾓ the adaptation of electoral, conciliatory, and non-confrontational strategies that seek compromise and peaceful settlement of disputes at the expense of non-electoral, provocative, and confrontational strategies that are not necessarily violent but may entail contentious action (Tezcur, 2010, p. 11); and 2) ideological moderation ￢ﾀﾓ the abandonment, postponement or revision of radical goals that enables the movement to accommodate itself to the principles of democracy, popular sovereignty, political pluralism, and limits on arbitrary state authority (Wickham, 2004, p. 206). Hence, the subsequent sections will demonstrate how Hamas has ideologically or behaviourally moderated...
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