The brutality of Hamas was shown to the world in the October 7 attacks in southern Israel. But violence is only one part of Hamas’s story. And the group is by no means a static organization, says King’s College London Professor Jeroen Gunning.
Gunning explains in the latest edition of our global affairs podcast, The Pivot, that over the years the balance of power within Hamas has shifted back and forth between hardliners and pragmatists and between the group’s political and military wings.
This internal balance is shaped in part by the broader opportunity structure — for example, whether ceasefires, changes in rhetoric, or electoral participation bring the group meaningfully closer to achieving a Palestinian state.
In the wake of the October 7 attacks, it’s clear that Hamas’s military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, is in the driver’s seat. How long that ascendance will last may be determined by Israel’s ground offensive in Gaza. Tel Aviv says its goal is to dismantle Hamas.
In this episode, I ask Gunning whether this objective of dismantling Hamas is even possible. We cover much more, delving deep into the group’s ideology and how Hamas uses violence. Finally, we go beyond the typical counterterrorism discourse and address the question of how to hold both state and non-state actors accountable for criminal violence against civilians.
Gunning is deeply informed on Hamas’s internal dynamics. He lived in Gaza in the late 1990s and interviewed most of Hamas’s political leaders as well as many rank-and-file members of the group. This fieldwork informed his first book, Hamas in Politics, which I highly recommend.
King’s College London Professor Jeroen Gunning joins host Arif Rafiq to discuss Hamas’s ideology, internal struggles between pragmatists and hardliners, competition with other Palestinian groups, and use of violence against Israel.
- Jeroen Gunning (@GunningJeroen), Professor of Middle Eastern Politics and Conflict Studies, King’s College London
Gunning is a professor of Middle Eastern politics and conflict studies at King’s College London. He is also a visiting professor at Aarhus University and the London School of Economics.
Gunning obtained his Ph.D. from the Center for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Durham University. He was previously a British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford University.
Before coming to King’s College London, he was the founding director of the Durham Global Security Institute at Durham University. He is one of the founders of the field of critical terrorism studies and has taught and advised both policymakers and civil society organizations.
Gunning is the author of “Hamas in Politics: Democracy, Religion, Violence,” and the co-author of “Why Occupy a Square?: People, Protests and Movements in the Egyptian Revolution.”
Arif Rafiq is the editor of Globely News. Rafiq has contributed commentary and analysis on global issues for publications such as Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the New Republic, the New York Times, and POLITICO Magazine. He has appeared on numerous broadcast outlets, including Al Jazeera English, the BBC World Service, CNN International, and National Public Radio.