Photo: Frode Løvlie

In January 2006, Hamas won the parliamentary elections in Gaza. The road to power has been paved with ideological and organizational changes. What was once a mere militia is now a crucial actor in Palestinian domestic politics, as well as in Palestinian-Israeli relations.

Frode Løvlie defends his doctoral dissertation "The institutional trajectory of Hamas: From radicalism to pragmatism – and back again?" on 6 March.

In his thesis, Frode Løvlie explains Hamas’ development, from its modest beginnings to the political force it is today. Løvlie argues that Hamas largely has developed along the same lines as other liberation movements that has entered the political arena. When Hamas first started out in 1987, their aim was to liberate the whole of historical Palestine and to establish an Islamic state. As the organization matured, Hamas limited its territorial claims and softened its focus on religion. In addition, Hamas went through comprehensive organizational changes. The movement developed a hierarchical and democratic organizational structure leading them closer to the pragmatism of an institutionalized political party. This institutionalization partly explains how Hamas could win the elections in 2006, the Palestinian civil war in 2007, and remain in power ever since.

What separates Hamas from the conventional trajectory of militant movements on their way to state power is that Hamas has never fully completed the development towards a political party. The unresolved Israel-Palestine conflict makes it difficult if not impossible for Hamas to discard its identity as a liberation movement, and Hamas’ roots as a religious liberation movement is a legacy that counteracts further pragmatism and moderation. Still, Hamas has managed to balance different roles as a religious liberation movement, a political party and a party state.

-Hamas has institutionalized sufficiently to remain a key political player in both domestic Palestinian politics and as part of the Israel-Palestine conflict. If these conflicts are resolved, Hamas will probably be able to complete the transition to a full-blooded political party and occupy a central role in a future Palestinian state, argues Løvlie.



Trial lecture: 5 March, 15:15, Auditorium, Ulrike Pihls hus, Professor Keysers gate 1

Public defence: 6 March, 10:15, Auditorium, Ulrike Pihls hus, Professor Keysers gate 1