Why Israel Virtually Created Hamas
Hamas, despite its reactionary politics (for
example a Charter that noone reads which is anti-Semitic) has played the role
of an effective resistance in Gaza. In
particular it has acquitted itself
well, unlike last time, and killed over 50 Israeli soldiers.
However it should not be forgotten that Hamas
is the Palestinian offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, a sectarian and
conservative organisation which was originally created nearly a 100 years ago
by the British.
This article is by way of an answer to the
hypocrisy of Israel and its supporters, who pretend that Hamas is the Palestinian
equivalent of the Nazi Party. It shows how it was Israel that was responsible
for creating Hamas as a counterweight to secular Palestinian nationalism, which
has always been the main enemy of Zionism.
Updated Jan. 24, 2009 12:01 a.m. ET
Surveying the wreckage of
a neighbor’s bungalow hit by a Palestinian rocket, retired Israeli official
Avner Cohen traces the missile’s trajectory back to an “enormous, stupid
mistake” made 30 years ago.
regret, is Israel’s creation,” says Mr. Cohen, a Tunisian-born Jew who
worked in Gaza for more than two decades. Responsible for religious affairs in
the region until 1994, Mr. Cohen watched the Islamist movement take shape,
muscle aside secular Palestinian rivals and then morph into what is today
Hamas, a militant group that is sworn to Israel’s destruction.
Gaza’s Islamists from the outset, says Mr. Cohen, Israel for years tolerated
and, in some cases, encouraged them as a counterweight to the secular
nationalists of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its dominant faction,
Yasser Arafat’s Fatah. Israel cooperated with a crippled, half-blind cleric
named Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, …
the chain of events I think we made a mistake,” says David Hacham, who
worked in Gaza in the late 1980s and early ’90s as an Arab-affairs expert in
the Israeli military. “But at the time nobody thought about the possible
served in Gaza disagree on how much their own actions may have contributed to
the rise of Hamas. They blame the group’s recent ascent on outsiders, primarily
Iran. This view is shared by the Israeli government. “Hamas in Gaza was
built by Iran as a foundation for power, and is backed through funding, through
training and through the provision of advanced weapons,” Mr. Olmert said
last Saturday. Hamas has denied receiving military assistance from Iran.
head of the Israeli military’s Department of Palestinian Affairs, says that
even if Israel had tried to stop the Islamists sooner, he doubts it could have
done much to curb political Islam, a movement that was spreading across the
Muslim world. He says attempts to stop it are akin to trying to change the
internal rhythms of nature: “It is like saying: ‘I will kill all the
mosquitoes.’ But then you get even worse insects that will kill you…You break
the balance. You kill Hamas you might get al Qaeda.”…
by Hassane Zerouky
Thanks to the Mossad,
Israel’s “Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks”, the Hamas
was allowed to reinforce its presence in the occupied territories. Meanwhile,
Arafat’s Fatah Movement for National Liberation as well as the Palestinian Left
were subjected to the most brutal form of repression and intimidation…
it was Israel, which
in fact created Hamas. According to Zeev Sternell, historian at the Hebrew
University of Jerusalem, “Israel thought that it was a smart ploy to push
the Islamists against the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO)”.
leader of the Islamist movement in Palestine, returning from Cairo in the
seventies, established an Islamic charity association. Prime Minister Golda
Meir, saw this as an opportunity to counterbalance the rise of Arafat’s Fatah
movement. .According to the Israeli weekly Koteret
Rashit (October 1987), “The Islamic associations as well as the
university had been supported and encouraged by the Israeli military
authority” in charge of the (civilian) administration of the West Bank and
Gaza. “They [the Islamic associations and the university] were authorized
to receive money payments from abroad.”
and health clinics, as well as a network of schools, workshops which created
employment for women as well as system of financial aid to the poor. And in
1978, they created an “Islamic University” in Gaza. “The
military authority was convinced that these activities would weaken both the
PLO and the leftist organizations in Gaza.” At the end of 1992, there were
six hundred mosques in Gaza. Thanks to Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad
(Israel’s Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks) , the Islamists were
allowed to reinforce their presence in the occupied territories. Meanwhile, the
members of Fatah (Movement for the National Liberation of Palestine) and the
Palestinian Left were subjected to the most brutal form of repression.
arrested and condemned to twelve years in prison, after the discovery of a
hidden arms cache. But one year later, he was set free and resumed his
activities. And when the Intifada (‘uprising’) began, in October 1987, which
took the Islamists by surprise, Sheik Yassin responded by creating the Hamas
(The Islamic Resistance Movement): …
the Oslo accords (Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government)
were signed in September 1993. Hamas had rejected Oslo outright. But at that
time, 70% of Palestinians had condemned the attacks on Israeli civilians.
Yassin did everything in his power to undermine the Oslo accords. Even prior to
Prime Minister Rabin’s death, he had the support of the Israeli government. The
latter was very reluctant to implement the peace agreement.
timed campaign of attacks against civilians, one day before the meeting between
Palestinian and Israeli negotiators, regarding the formal recognition of Israel
by the National Palestinian Council. These events were largely instrumental in
the formation of a Right wing Israeli government following the May 1996
Minister Netanyahu ordered Sheik Ahmed Yassin to be released from prison
(“on humanitarian grounds”) where he was serving a life sentence.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu, together with President Bill Clinton, was putting
pressure on Arafat to control Hamas. In fact, Netanyahu knew that he could
rely, once more, on the Islamists to sabotage the Oslo accords. Worse still:
after having expelled Yassin to Jordan, Prime Minister Netanyahu allowed him to
return to Gaza, where he was welcomed triumphantly as a hero in October 1997.
of these events. … the Gulf states decided to cut off their financing of the
Palestinian Authority. … between
February and April 1998, Sheik Ahmad Yassin was able to raise several hundred
million dollars, from those same countries. The the budget of Hamas was said to
be greater than that of the Palestinian Authority. These new sources of funding
enabled the Islamists to effectively pursue their various charitable
activities. It is estimated that one Palestinian out of three is the recipient
of financial aid from the Hamas. And in this regard, Israel has done nothing to
curb the inflow of money into the occupied territories.
through its various acts of sabotage of the peace process, in a way which was
compatible with the interests of the Israeli government. In turn, the latter
sought in a number of ways, to prevent the application of the Oslo accords. In
other words, Hamas was fulfilling the functions for which it was originally
created: to prevent the creation of a Palestinian State. And in this regard,
Hamas and Ariel Sharon, see eye to eye; they are exactly on the same wave
its message openly. In addition to launching various charity projects, Sheikh
Yassin collected money to reprint the writings of Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian
member of the Brotherhood who, before his execution by President Nasser,
advocated global jihad. He is now seen as one of the founding ideologues of
militant political Islam.
affairs department in Gaza, says he began to hear disturbing reports in the
mid-1970s about Sheikh Yassin from traditional Islamic clerics. He says they
warned that the sheikh had no formal Islamic training and was ultimately more
interested in politics than faith. “They said, ‘Keep away from Yassin. He
is a big danger,'” recalls Mr. Cohen.
on the paraplegic cleric, who set up a wide network of schools, clinics, a
library and kindergartens. Sheikh Yassin formed the Islamist group Mujama
al-Islamiya, which was officially recognized by Israel as a charity and then,
in 1979, as an association. Israel also endorsed the establishment of the
Islamic University of Gaza, which it now regards as a hotbed of militancy. The
university was one of the first targets hit by Israeli warplanes in the recent
ill to comment, says his wife. But Brig. Gen. Yitzhak Segev, who took over as
governor in Gaza in late 1979, says he had no illusions about Sheikh Yassin’s
long-term intentions or the perils of political Islam. As Israel’s former
military attache in Iran, he’d watched Islamic fervor topple the Shah. However,
in Gaza, says Mr. Segev, “our main enemy was Fatah,” and the cleric
“was still 100% peaceful” towards Israel. Former officials say Israel
was also at the time wary of being viewed as an enemy of Islam.
keep an eye on him. He visited his mosque and met the cleric around a dozen
times. It was illegal at the time for Israelis to meet anyone from the PLO. Mr.
Segev later arranged for the cleric to be taken to Israel for hospital treatment.
“We had no problems with him,” he says.
activists. After a failed attempt in Gaza to oust secularists from leadership
of the Palestinian Red Crescent, the Muslim version of the Red Cross, Mujama
staged a violent demonstration, storming the Red Crescent building. Islamists
also attacked shops selling liquor and cinemas. The Israeli military mostly
stood on the sidelines.
quarrels but did send soldiers to prevent Islamists from burning down the house
of the Red Crescent’s secular chief, a socialist who supported the PLO.
Bank and escalated during the early 1980s, convulsing college campuses,
particularly Birzeit University, a center of political activism.
violent, Brig. Gen. Shalom Harari, then a military intelligence officer in
Gaza, says he received a call from Israeli soldiers manning a checkpoint on the
road out of Gaza. They had stopped a bus carrying Islamic activists who wanted
to join the battle against Fatah at Birzeit. “I said: ‘If they want to
burn each other let them go,'” recalls Mr. Harari.
now a pro-Hamas member of a Palestinian legislature elected in 2006. He recalls
how usually aggressive Israeli security forces stood back and let conflagration
develop. He denies any collusion between his own camp and the Israelis, but
says “they hoped we would become an alternative to the PLO.”
Fatah supporters that Sheikh Yassin’s Gaza Islamists were collecting arms,
according to Israeli officials in Gaza at the time. Israeli troops raided a
mosque and found a cache of weapons. Sheikh Yassin was jailed. He told Israeli
interrogators the weapons were for use against rival Palestinians, not Israel,
according to Mr. Hacham, the military affairs expert who says he spoke
frequently with jailed Islamists. The cleric was released after a year and
continued to expand Mujama’s reach across Gaza.
affairs official, sent a report to senior Israeli military and civilian
officials in Gaza. Describing the cleric as a “diabolical” figure, he
warned that Israel’s policy towards the Islamists was allowing Mujama to
develop into a dangerous force.
approach to Mujama will in the future harm us. I therefore suggest focusing our
efforts on finding ways to break up this monster before this reality jumps in
our face,” Mr. Cohen wrote.
warnings were ignored. But, he says, the reason for this was neglect, not a
desire to fortify the Islamists: “Israel never financed Hamas. Israel
never armed Hamas.”
service, and author of a book on Hamas, says Sheikh Yassin and his followers
had a long-term perspective whose dangers were not understood at the time.
“They worked slowly, slowly, step by step according to the Muslim
of the Hamas charter, continued to maintain contacts with the Gaza Islamists.
Mr. Hacham, the military Arab affairs expert, remembers taking one of Hamas’s
founders, Mahmoud Zahar, to meet Israel’s then defense minister, Yitzhak Rabin,
as part of regular consultations between Israeli officials and Palestinians not
linked to the PLO. Mr. Zahar, the only Hamas founder known to be alive today,
is now the group’s senior political leader in Gaza.
States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam”:
helped the Muslim Brotherhood establish itself in the occupied
territories. It assisted Ahmed Yassin, the leader of the Brotherhood, in
creating Hamas, betting that its Islamist character would weaken the PLO.”
Arabia, “Israel started Hamas. It was a project of Shin Bet [Israeli domestic
intelligence agency], which had a feeling that they could use it to hem in the
Leagues, over which Yassin and the Brotherhood exercised much influence.
Israel trained about 200 members of the Leagues and recruited many paid
military governor of Gaza as boasting that Israel expressly financed the
fundamentalists against the PLO:
sometimes regarded as useful to Israel, because they had conflicts with the
secular supporters of the PLO. Violence between the two groups erupted
occasionally on West Bank university campuses. Israeli military governor of the
Gaza Strip, Brigadier General Yitzhak Segev, once told me how he had financed
the Islamic movement as a counterweight to the PLO and the Communists.
‘The Israeli Government gave me a budget and the military government gives to
the mosques,’ he said.”
Brotherhood in Gaza and the West Bank did not support resistance to the Israeli
occupation. Most of its energy went to fighting the PLO, especially its
more left-wing factions, on university campuses.”
Hamas and Yassin of acting “with the direct support of reactionary Arab
regimes… in collusion with the Israeli occupation.”
“Hamas is a creation of Israel, which at the time of Prime Minister
Shamir, gave them money and more than 700 institutions, among them schools,
universities and mosques.”
admitted to him in the presence of Hosni Mubarak that Israel had supported
Palestine”, for Current History, Sara Roy wrote:
being targeted, Israel is simultaneously pursuing its old strategy of promoting
Hamas over the secular nationalist factions as a way of ensuring the ultimate
demise of the [Palestinian Authority], and as an effort to extinguish
Palestinian nationalism once and for all.”
The American Conservative
first emerged in 1987. It was formed from various charities based in the
Palestinian territories with links to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist
movement born in Egypt in the 1920s from which many of today’s radical Islamic
sects, including al-Qaeda, have sprung. Israel allowed these Islamic charities
to gain strength and influence in Palestinian areas, hoping that they would
counter the influence of secular Palestinian resistance movements. Sheikh Ahmed
Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas until his death by Israeli air strike in
2004, formed Hamas as the military wing of his group the Islamic Association,
which was licensed by Israel 10 years earlier. During that period, when there
was open conflict between Israeli forces and Palestinian nationalists, Israeli
officials gave the nod to and even indirectly funded the establishment of
Islamic societies in the West Bank and Gaza that might weaken the Palestine
Liberation Organization. Martha Kessler, a senior analyst for the CIA, has
said, “[W]e saw Israel cultivate Islam as a counterweight to Palestinian
nationalism.” The very Islamic groups “cultivated” by Israel in the 1970s
became Hamas in the 1980s, which went on to become Israel’s biggest nightmare
in the 1990s. It remains so today.
the Six Day War of 1967, Israel was much more lenient, even permissive in its
attitude towards the Islamists. One of the first actions taken by Israel after
its victory in the 1967 war was to release from prison various Muslim
Brotherhood activists, including Ahmed Yassin, future founder of Hamas. Yassin
and others had been jailed by the Egyptian authorities after the Muslim
Brotherhood tried to assassinate Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, the
anti-colonialist and pan-Arabist who considered political Islam a threat and an
anachronism and was fairly unforgiving in his treatment of its practitioners.
Israel, by contrast, sensing that such radical Islamists might be helpful in
undermining Arab nationalists like the Nasser-influenced Fatah in the
Palestinian territories released the Islamists from their cells and encouraged
them to take root in Palestinian society.
to Robert Dreyfuss, author of the enlightening and exhaustive book Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash
political Islamism grew exponentially as Israel took control of the Palestinian
Gaza, for instance, between 1967 and 1987, when Hamas was founded, the number
of mosques tripled from 200 to 600. And a lot of that come with money flowing
from outside Gaza, from wealthy conservative Islamists in Saudi Arabia and
elsewhere. But, of course, none of this could have happened without the
Israelis casting an approving eye upon it.
is from these Islamist roots that Hamas emerged in 1987. Dreyfuss continues
plenty of evidence that the Israeli intelligence services, especially Shin Bet
and the military occupation authorities, encouraged the growth of the Muslim
Brotherhood and the founding of Hamas [in Palestinian territories].
according to former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Charles Freeman, Shin
Bet—the Israeli counter-intelligence and internal security service—knowingly
created Hamas: “Israel started Hamas. It was a project of Shin Bet, which had a
feeling that they could use it to hem in the PLO.”
former senior CIA official recently told UPI that Israel’s duplicitous support
for the Islamist groups that subsequently became Hamas was “a direct attempt to
divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious
alternative.” Dreyfuss agrees, pointing out how useful it was for Israel that
an Islamist movement in the Palestinian territories antagonized, in some cases
violently, the mass Fatah outfit:
Hamas organization was a bitter opponent of Palestinian nationalism and clashed
repeatedly with the PLO and with Fatah, of course. And there were armed clashes
on university campuses in the 1970s and 1980s, where Hamas would attack the
PLO, the PFLP [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine], the PDFLP [Democratic
Front for the Liberation of Palestine], and other groups, with clubs and
chains. This was before guns became prominent in the Occupied Territories.
allowing the emergence of radical Islamism, Israel was following in the
footsteps of successive British and American governments and their policy of
“the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Indeed, the Muslim Brotherhood itself,
midwife to Hamas, is a creation of British colonialism. In the 1920s, the
British, then the colonial rulers of Egypt, helped set up the Muslim
Brotherhood as a means of keeping Egyptian nationalism and anti-colonialism in
check. Dreyfuss describes the original Muslim Brotherhood as an “unabashed
British intelligence front.” The mosque that served as the first headquarters
of the Brotherhood, in Ismailia, Egypt, was built by the (British) Suez Canal
Company. In the 1930s and 1950s, with Britain’s knowledge and tacit approval,
the Brotherhood both challenged anti-colonial parties within Egypt and spread
to other parts of the Near and Middle East, setting up branches in Transjordan,
Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine, where under the “approving eye” of Israel from
the late 1960s to the 1980s, it eventually mutated into Hamas. Following Gamal
Abdel Nasser’s rise to power in 1954, both the British and Americans viewed the
Brotherhood as a useful weapon against secular nationalism and communism. In
his book Sleeping With the Devil, former CIA officer Robert Baer
describes the “dirty little secret” in Washington in the early 1950s, namely
that “the White House looked on the Brothers as a silent ally, a secret weapon
created its own gravediggers. Israel’s encouragement of Hamas’s emergence to
counter secular nationalism represented an attack on the idea of popular and
secular democracy, so it is not surprising that Hamas retains its somewhat
extreme religious leanings and suspicion of traditional politics.
O’Neill is deputy editor of spiked in London. (spiked-online.com)
12, 2007 Issue