Yezid Sayigh
is Professor of Middle East Studies in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. 


“We Serve the People”: Hamas Policing in Gaza

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Prof. Yezid Sayigh
Crown Paper 5, April 2011


The government of Hamas prime minister Ismail Hanieh has showcased its success in delivering law and order and building a new police force largely from scratch since Hamas forces took complete control of Gaza in June 2007. It did so, moreover, while enduring an unbroken Israeli siege from June 2006 to July 2010, a sweeping political and financial embargo by the international “Quartet,” and Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” in December 2008–January 2009. The Hamas-run security sector has demonstrated a sharp learning curve, reflected in its constant improvement of policing practice; the introduction of new departments, units, and procedures; and the development of an integrated criminal justice system. At the same time, the security sector has been used to spearhead the Islamization of society and to help in the reconstruction of public order in keeping with the Islamic and conservative social values of Hamas, while challenges from political rivals and competitors have prompted a tightening of security surveillance,  increased intimidation, and the continuing suppression of some basic human rights and individual freedoms. In the absence of Palestinian national reconciliation and democratic governance, the provision of law and order has fused with the need to maintain security and the struggle to ensure political survival, generating a new authoritarianism.

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