Wael Abdelal's informative treatise, "Hamas and the Media: politics and strategy" draws upon the issue of counter-hegemony to portray the relevance and importance of resistance media, in this case, the role which the media has played to further the politics of Hamas.
The counter-hegemonic narrative is paramount in this study. As the author describes, the general dynamics of alternative media and its links to the community, civil society and social movements provide an alternative to mainstream media domination, as well as the means for revolutionary movements to combat prevailing trends and manipulation.
In many ways, best seen through a chronological analysis of media and its uses, including means and dissemination, Hamas, like other resistance movements, has relied upon this medium in order to generate influence. Perhaps the most striking aspect of this book is the juxtaposition of the evolution of Hamas and the evolution of its media.
Abdelal commences with a description of alternative media as "inseparable from ideology, domination and the Gramscian notion of hegemony." The departure from a more generic "alternative media" to "resistance media" in relation to Hamas provides scope for analysis of similarities and differences, such as shared characteristics between social and resistance movements, and how these elements are crucial to shaping strategies in order to reach a target audience.
Early on, Abdelal makes the assertion that: "Hamas has also created a counter-frame to the hegemonic discourse used by the PLO and Fatah in the domestic context and the diaspora, thus filling a void in the hearts and minds and becoming the voice of many Palestinians." From this viewpoint, it is also clear that the historical precedents as regards Palestinian media since the British mandate were challenged by Hamas and channelled into a more centralised endeavour.
The main challenge that has been gleaned from the author's historical analysis is that Palestinian resistance to colonial Israel is a natural option when considering that Israeli hegemonic projects "denied the Palestinian existence". The control over Palestinian dissemination of information during the British Mandate period and in the early years of colonial Israel necessitated a strategy that would shape the people's resistance. Abdelal also waves the different experiences of Palestinians as a result of the Nakba and 1967, and how various communication methods were utilised in order to portray the different struggles according to circumstances. In turn, the collective media efforts also became an important component of Palestinian collective memory.
Likewise, due to the incorporation of resistance, use of media by Hamas consisted of concentrated mobilisation with the aim of expanding the anti-colonial struggle, particularly when, post Oslo, the Palestinian Authority utilised media for state building strictly within the dictated parameters of the international community. Hamas has attributed the emergence and continuation of resistant media to earlier British and, later, Zionist colonialism. Theoretically, the implication of resistance is in cohesion with Gramsci's "resistance to oppression" and also follows an equally comprehensive structure. The author details how resistance for Hamas is comprised of education, social work, media and an alternative economy that seeks to combat the restrictions placed upon Gaza in particular.
Just as resistance can be described as a structure, in turn, media can also embody "a form of resistance that is interesting when pondering the operation of the paradigmatic forces operating within the overall paradigm of resistance and the interrelationship among the components." Abdelal thus shows that resistance media is a conglomeration of different tactics which also legitimises the rhetoric of resistance in concordance with necessary action. From graffiti, to leaflets, sermons, rallies, television, radio and social media, the collective struggle within a particular context is perpetually present and creates a consistency that lends resistance an identity which is both essential and legitimate.
Indeed, given that Palestinian resistance is guaranteed by international law, international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions, Hamas has managed to provide a comprehensive articulation despite Israeli and international media manipulation of the movement. For Hamas, therefore, resistance media is also a form of counter-psychological warfare. The objectives of resistant media as employed by Hamas are to mobilise public opinion in favour of resistance, and also to disseminate the same to Hamas members, Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims, as well as influence international and Israeli public opinion.
Abdelal also makes an important observation of how Hamas shares characteristics with other resistance movements, yet has shaped its discourse to directly address the Palestinian reality, mainly through use of religious and ideological discourse which is relevant to Palestinian society. Hence the creation of slogans which echo those of other revolutionary movements, yet still harbour a distinct difference.
While strategies and objectives evolved according to political events, it is clear that Hamas' all-encompassing approach is clear to Israel, particularly when it comes to the incorporation of education as a principal component of resistance media. The targeting of Hamas infrastructure, aided by the PA in its refusal to grant media permits in previous years, is easily envisaged, given the level of coordination between the PA and Israel. However, the targeting of educational institutions by Israel is also proof of how Hamas' emphasis on education as preparation for the continuation of resistance is perceived by Israel as a massive threat and brings into play the juxtaposition of Palestinian memory against the fabricated Israeli history.
Throughout its evolution, Hamas has insisted that the land of historic Palestine is the aim of the resistance. In recent years, this message has become diluted, partly also due to the fact that Hamas has had to function as a political entity, albeit one that is internationally ostracised. Its approach to resistance media has therefore also become impacted by the changes which Hamas has had to incorporate.
A thoroughly recommended read, this book is a treasure of detail and analysis. Abdelal's discussion of Hamas and its use of resistance media paves the way for increased understanding of the Palestinian context, contributing to further realisation as to why the international community it so intent on generating alienation when it comes to Palestine. The international community has displaced attention from Palestinians to Hamas as part of its manipulation. By applying skilful analysis and awareness, Abdelal shows how Hamas has managed to counter the hegemonic agenda by focusing attention upon Palestinians.