Questioning the Secular-Religious Cleavage in Palestinian Politics: Comparing Fatah and Hamas
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Originalversjonin Politics and Religion vol. 7 no. 1 pp. 100-121 10.1017/S1755048313000527
Following the 2007 war between Fatah and Hamas, Palestinian politics appears to have followed the regional trend where the competition between secularism and Islamism is developing into a major political cleavage. Through comparisons of the two movements’ ideologies, however, the article questions the relevance of this religious-secular cleavage to explaining Palestinian factional politics. Fatah – the traditional hegemon in Palestinian politics and previously staunchly secularist – has turned increasingly religious in response to the spread of Islamism. Hamas for its part has shed its overly religious rhetoric, absolutist territorial claims, and insistence on a violent solution to the Palestinian problem, in tandem with the deradicalization of the Palestinian population. In finding that both movements have moved towards the center of the political spectrum to maximize support, the article concludes that their rivalry is best understood as a competition for the median voter rather than as an indication of political polarization.