Jonathan Spyer46 Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 16, No. 2 (June 2012)political” forces quite separate from theQassam Brigades and Hamas’s own securitystructures. To this end, the Civil Police andNational Security Forces were nominallyheaded by non-Hamas figures. The police,notably, were headed by Tawfiq Jabir, aformer Fatah man, until his death on the firstday of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in 2008.He was replaced by Brigadier General AbuUbaydah al-Jarah.
Statements by senior Hamas figuresnotwithstanding, it is highly doubtful that acoherent case can be made of any realseparation between Hamas movement and“civil” security structures. This is because thecivil structures are in any case ultimatelyanswerable to a political leadership consistingentirely of Hamas men. The Hamasmovement structures and the “civil” structuresare both instruments available to the Gazaleadership, and can work separately or incoordination with each other depending on thecontext.Still, the attempt to bring into existencedifferent and parallel security structures, withone more politically loyal to the leadership butall ultimately subordinated to it resemblespractices familiar with other authoritarianMiddle Eastern regimes of nationalist,Islamist, and monarchical types. Syria, theWest Bank Palestinian Authority, Iran, andSaudi Arabia each in their own way havemaintained similar systems of parallelauthority, with more ideologically “pure” unitswith their own systems of commandcoexisting alongside regular units.While never entirely disarming otherparamilitary groups, Hamas has been able toforce them to accept its ultimate authoritywhen this proved necessary. On occasion, andwhen it suited its purposes, Hamas wasprepared to use violence against these othergroups. This applied to organizations such asIslamic Jihad, which sought to pursue anindependent campaign of rocket fire on Israel,which sometimes conflicted with Hamas’sneeds of the day.
It also applied to the Salafigroupings, which flourished in Hamas-controlled Gaza. These groups were toleratedas long as they did not interfere with theHamas monopoly of power. When theyoverstepped this mark, as in Khan Yunis in2009, they were dealt with swiftly andeffectively.
It is likely that Hamas preferred to allowIslamic Jihad and other smaller groups tomaintain their military capabilities, as thesecould provide a certain deniability for theHamas authorities when they neverthelesswished to put pressure on Israel. Ironically,this process resembles the use made of Hamasby the PA leadership in the 1990s. Hamas’slong claim to represent an Islamic resistanceoption also meant that it was reluctant tochallenge frontally organizations purporting torepresent either of those principles in a morerigorous way than did Hamas itself.Nevertheless, Hamas did act against thesegroups if and when it felt that its own positionwas threatened, ensuring its ultimate authority.Hamas also worked to curb independent armedactivity by clan-based groups. In so doing, itsucceeded in creating a far calmer publicspace than had existed under PA rule.Having established its ascendance, if notquite monopoly, of the means of violence inGaza, Hamas then set about achieving controlover the tunnel system from Egypt that wasthe main means for the smuggling of weaponry and other goods into Gaza. Withthis achieved, the movement was able to beginthe process of turning its makeshift militaryforces into a quasi-army, armed withsophisticated weapons systems brought in viathe tunnels. Once the physical assurance of control over Gaza was achieved, Hamas thenbegan the work in earnest of acquiring controlover other aspects of life in the Strip.
Gaining Political and Judicial Control
A decision by the West Bank PalestinianAuthority to order 70,000 of its employees notto report for work in the Gaza Strip(effectively, the PA paid them not to work) didnot have the presumably desired effect of rendering Gaza ungovernable. In the pre-June2007 period, endless wrangling betweenHamas officials and Fatah-affiliated civilservants was a notable feature of the