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Gush Emunim and Hamas

Interdependent Evolution of two Fundamentalist Movements in the Context of a Conflict

First, the Gush Emunim and Hamas movements will be analyzed independently regarding their structural, ideological, and strategic characteristics as well as their practices. Structural characteristics include identifying the social milieu of activists and supporters and their respective forms and degrees of organization. A key question is how the groups relate to religion to interpret the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to legitimize their own positions and strategies, including the tendency to sacralize violence and territory. This category further encompasses their religion-based models of society regarding ethnicity and gender relations. Strategic practices include the recruitment of followers, the establishment of social institutions, political activities within the respective societies and forms of direct involvement in the conflict. Second, the historical developments of both groups will be analyzed and set in relation to one another. This includes predecessor movements, the precise contexts of their geneses as well as transformation processes resulting from changes within their respective societies as well as those resulting from the conflict. Third, the project will analyze how the groups relate to one another and how they influence each other. Here, we can distinguish between direct and indirect forms of mutual influence. Direct in the form of how one group reacts and relates to activities or statements of the other group, indirect by the fact that both movements are actors within a conflict. Whenever their activities affect the conflict, this will indirectly re-affect the other group.

Even though the "classic" approach of individually analyzing different fundamentalist groups may be significant and rewarding, it does not answer the question whether - and if so, to what extent - fundamentalist movements develop in mutual dependence in a conflict perceived as religious. The subjects of the study will be situated within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the relatively parallel evolvement of two fundamentalist movements: the Israeli Gush Emunim and the Palestinian Hamas. Their respective ideologies still shape the public discourse on both sides; their political and military actions have a large influence on the conflict. The project is based on the hypothesis that both movements did not only originate in a single historical context, and have then gone through parallel as well as diverging developments, but also that they have to a large degree mutually influenced each other. This hypothesis implies interdependency between formation and evolution of both groups on the one hand and the existence and transformation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the other hand. The project aims to analyze whether - and if so, to what extent - fundamentalist movements evolved independently or interdependently within a conflict that is perceived as religious.