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Works of Radical Imagination

Book cover for Hamas
Book cover for Hamas

Translated by Andrea Teti

Informed by years of on-the-ground research and interviews with residents of Gaza and leaders of Hamas, Paola Caridi covers the history of Gaza, from its golden age as a port city, to the formal birth and slow militarization of Hamas. This English-language translation brings the reader to present-day Palestine, offering a never-before-seen chapter on Operation Cast Lead, the shocking WikiLeaks disclosures, and the Cairo Revolution.

When the radical Islamist group Hamas was elected to lead Palestine in 2006, the Western world was shocked. How had the majority of Palestinians come to support an extremist organization and how would the group’s new political power affect the larger Israel/Palestine conflict?

Italian journalist and historian Paola Caridi offers both a clear-eyed account of how the conditions in this war-torn region led to the rise of Hamas and an unbiased look at the complex feelings that Palestinians have toward getting behind a government that supports violent resistance. By breaking from the sensationalist journalism surrounding the elections, Caridi is able to tell the story of a movement caught between the desire to resist its oppressor and the need to provide support for a refugee people.

Hamas paints a picture, with intelligence, dexterity, and heart, of a people trapped in the most historic of political battles and reveals the strange complexities behind the controversy by explaining one of the key players in the search for peace and justice that runs through the central crisis of the Middle East today.

"Historical survey rather than a polemical view of the problematic Islamist movement that has both sounded the Palestinians’ needs and plagued Israel since the group's founding in 1987.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Truly a great book of reportage and keen analysis.” —Le Monde

Book cover for Hamas
Book cover for Hamas

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“An intriguing study of Hamas' tortuous movement from 'pebbles to power … from terrorist attacks to ministries.'”

“Caridi's English-language debut is timely and informative.”

“Paola Caridi's book is a real treat: it starts not with the controversy but with the movement itself, working from the ground up. interviewing those inside and outside the movement, and poring through written sources. The book explores Hamas's origins, evolution, and choices. Those who are already familiar with Hamas will find new information presented in a careful and judicious manner; those who know less about Hamas will find an accessible and rewarding account of the movement.”

“Paola Caridi, Italian journalist and historian, exploits her mastery of the pen and eye for historical detail to provide a rich, balanced view of the Palestinians’ leading Islamist organization—Hamas. Skillfully translated by Andrea Teti, Caridi’s book draws heavily upon extensive interviews with Palestinian elites and regular citizens to chart Hamas’s rise to popularity and power. A superb addition to the literature on the Palestinians.”

“Given the vitriolic hatred of Hamas (and arguably the Palestinian resistance) in many of the governments in the Global North—and the repetition of that vitriol in the media that props up those governments—it has never been easy to get an honest picture of the organization. One exception to this lack of objective information is the book from Paola Caridi titled Hamas: From Resistance to Regime. . . While these truths are well-known among those who oppose the occupation, the rational manner of the author’s relating these historical facts will hopefully encourage more people to accept them as the actual history of the occupation.”

blog — October 23

“Nowhere to go, Unprecedented, Unheard” by Paola Caridi

Above image: detail of "Palestine" by Pedro Laperal (Spain), originally printed in England by The Malvern Press, Ltd. London. Reprinted with permission by Liberation Graphics, 1985




Nowhere to go. No safe place to go. Nowhere else to go. Nowhere to bury the dead. It is a litany that is repeated relentlessly in Gaza, and with increasing intensity in recent days. Mainly since the Israeli authorities have ordered the civilian population, the Palestinians living in the Strip, to go south. The Gaza Strip, perhaps the most uncharted place in the world, has been a small land completely closed off from the outside world for seventeen years, ever since Israel imposed the blockade around its land and sea borders, leaving Egypt to manage the southern Rafah crossing. Gaza is a small strip of land where people are born, live and die without ever leaving a prison without bars. Forty kilometers, from north to south. Less than ten kilometers, east to west, between the Mediterranean Sea and the border with Israel.

For a suffering humanity that has already swelled the ranks of the displaced, more than a million people, setting out from their homes or rubble means putting something in a bag, a bottle of water, diapers for the children, something warm to cover themselves, and finding a means of transportation—a car, a cart—where they can pick up an elderly father who cannot walk. It means walking down a road already destroyed by bombs, dodging fighter plane raids, not having water, food, toilets or an electrical outlet to recharge the cell phone and communicate with the family. 

It is an exodus on an unimaginable scale, of which we have very few images other than those Palestinian journalists and cameramen in Gaza manage to dispatch. No international, western or global journalists have access to the Strip. It is only Palestinian journalists in Gaza who are able to send images and reports, putting their lives at risk. 

However, the "nowhere" has a direction, at least for those who are still alive. The south, toward the border with Egypt. Yet, it is not the way to a safe zone, a salvation. It is the direction of exodus. From Gaza, from Palestine, from nowhere, perhaps never to return. For Palestinians, the bitter taste that now runs from mouth to mouth is that of a new nakba, the ruination of Palestinian society that happened in 1948 and the persecution that followed. But 1948 is far away. In the year 2023, no one among the countries that frame Gaza wants the Palestinians to pass through the Rafah border. Not only because it would be unfair and unacceptable, not only because it would be a new nakba. But because Egypt and Jordan, first and foremost, would jeopardize their already delicate systems of internal control in the name of a tragedy with no exit strategy.

In the opposite direction, to the north, other victims ask where to go to find their loved ones, the more than one hundred and fifty five Israelis taken hostage by Hamas and taken who knows where inside the Strip. Nowhere to go, they too repeat, the families of the hostages. Who to ask for help? Where to go to find experienced negotiators and experts in negotiations to free the hostages? For the time being, the "nowhere to go" is the Netanyahu government—now a government of national emergency—which has provided no answers and against which many of the hostages' families have been protesting. 

There is nowhere to go. It is the "untold" truth of politics—Israeli, regional, American, European—that is unable to find a rational answer to get out of a tunnel inside which, for now, only the absolute protagonists of a tragedy of enormous proportions are paying. The victims, all the victims. The civilians, all the civilians. The more than 4,000 killed, the innumerable wounded, if our conscience and values insist that we put Israeli and Palestinian victims in the same death toll.

Increasingly, in contemporary times, wars have civilians as the main targets. The thousand-day siege of the city of Sarajevo taught us an unforgettable lesson. This time, however, in this unprecedented war between Israel and Hamas, civilian casualties were and are the first, undisputed protagonists, the first targets, and at the same time the only ones who receive no serious and reasonable discussion or prioritization at all, none. No one, so far, has chosen to put them at the center of this story, at the center of this history. The full contours and scale of the tragedy for civilians is still uncertain. The politicians, all of the politicians, on all sides, have thus far chosen not to deal with them, as if they were not already fodder for the slaughter, for the battlefield, as if they were an inescapable part of the conflict.

This is unprecedented, unheard, unacceptable.

—Paola Caridi, author of Hamas: From Resistance to Regime, tr. Andrea Teti, and Jerusalem without God: Portrait of a Cruel City

Paola Caridi

Journalist and historian Paola Caridi has lived in the Middle East since 2001. She contributed to the founding of the press agency Lettera22 and has worked with L'Espresso, Sole 24 Ore, La Stampa, and Famiglia Cristiana. Hamas: From Resistance To Government, her second book, was published in Italy in 2009 and in Palestine in March 2010.