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The Hamas-Brotherhood connection

Posted by Stephen Heuser  November 28, 2012 07:49 PM

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Much has been made this week of Egypt’s role in the Israeli peace negotiations, and the clout that the newly elected Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt wields with their fellow Islamists in Hamas, Gaza’s ruling party. But the Hamas-Brotherhood connection runs even deeper: as Ideas foreign-affairs columnist Thanassis Cambanis reported in 2010, the best university in Gaza -- the college that trains the top engineers, clerics, and leaders of Gaza’s civil society, and in a sense serves as Hamas’s intellectual engine room -- was founded by Muslim Brothers in 1978. (Hamas itself was established later, in 1987.)

Cambanis crossed into Gaza and spent time at the university, and returned with not only a portrait of a unique and little-understood school, but an insight to how the Brotherhood’s groundwork paid off in Gaza, as it did last year in the Egyptian elections:

With no local competition, the Islamic University had the market on higher education all to itself, a monopoly that took on greater importance as Israel made it harder and harder for Gazans to leave their territory to study in the West Bank. Meanwhile, the Muslim Brothers running the university turned their efforts to community and political organizing, leading within a decade to the establishment of Hamas, whose name in Arabic is an acronym for “Islamic Resistance Movement.”

The university today has some unusual features, and embodies the intensity that characterizes daily life in Gaza, even in what might otherwise be a cloistered environment:

Twenty thousand students take classes in a 20-acre grid that could fit snugly into Harvard Yard. The mosque holds pride of place at the center of campus. Not far away, a yawning crater cuts through the campus, where the engineering and chemistry labs once stood. Israel bombed them on December 28, 2008, the second day of the most recent Gaza War, believing that Hamas was using the academic laboratories to build rockets and explosives, a charge Islamic University officials have denied. In keeping with university rules, men congregate on one side of the bomb crater and women on the other.

Read the story, "Hamas U.", here. And this week Thanassis has a new essay on Hamas on his blog.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

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Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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