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Conceptualising suicide bombings and rethinking international relations theory: The case of Hamas 1987-2006.

Singh, Rashmi (2008) Conceptualising suicide bombings and rethinking international relations theory: The case of Hamas 1987-2006. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis analyses the phenomenon of suicide bombings as manifested in the Palestinian landscape of conflict and attempts to construct a theoretical framework of analysis to study the phenomenon. It investigates Hamas, and most specifically its resort to suicide bombings, from the time of its inception in 1988 to its electoral victory in 2006. In focussing on a particular organisation this work rejects the notion of a monolithic Islamist global threat perpetrated by individuals that are irrational and propelled solely by religion and the call to jihad, irrespective of their organisational affiliation and geographical location. Instead such categorisations are rebuffed by using tools provided by International Relations theory and examples of Hamas that illustrate why and how suicide operations are adopted in a particular socio-political setting. Hence, at its core, this thesis probes how concepts and methods in contemporary International Relations can assist in explaining and understanding the phenomenon of suicide bombings using the specific empirical case of the Hamas. Three broad theoretical methodologies/approaches are utilised in the constructed theoretical framework of analysis, namely Rational Choice Theory, Social Constructivism and the Just War thesis. Each of these is believed to grant equally crucial insights into specific aspects of suicide operations, which when amalgamated provide a more holistic understanding of the phenomenon in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Within this given theoretical structure the thesis demonstrates how Palestinian suicide operations are, first and foremost, a complex combination of instrumental and expressive violence which are adopted by rational actors to assert power, achieve political and/or societal survival and enable retaliation and competition. Second, this work reveals how suicide operations perform an important role in the formation and consolidation of Palestinian national identity and also demonstrates how such acts are used as a mechanism to delineate both organisational and individual space. Finally, this thesis probes how political Islam is employed to facilitate the articulation, justification and legitimisation of suicide operations as a modern-day jihad to Palestinian society through the means of modern interpretations and fatwas. In its endeavours to formulate a more holistic understanding of suicide operations in the Israeli - Palestinian conflict this work consciously uses both positivist and post-positivist concepts as part of its theoretical framework. However, while it employs neo-utilitarian choice-theoretic assumptions as a methodological tool to illustrate one facet of suicide bombings it is, both ontologically and epistemologically, more closely aligned with post-positivists approaches. As such it challenges basic rationalist assumptions that claim value neutrality and treat actors as possessing identities and interests that are autogenous and pre-social. Finally, the methodological structure of this thesis is based on qualitative research which utilises not only primary and secondary source literature but also interview-based field data collected in both Israel and the Palestinian territories from December 2004 to January 2005.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Political Science, International Relations, Islamic Studies, History, Middle Eastern
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
Departments > International Relations

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