Boom Crunch Crash

The classical Marxist blog about the crisis

Israel scores ‘Own Goal’ with its sponsorship of Hamas

Posted by Steve Palmer on January 9, 2009

Israel apparently originally sponsored Hamas in an attempt to undermine secular and Marxist organizations in the Palestinian liberation movement. Ever heard the saying “What goes around, comes around”?

‘Politically speaking, Islamic fundamentalists were sometimes regarded as useful to Israel because they had their conflicts with the secular supporters of the PLO. Violence between the groups erupted occasionally on West Bank university campuses, and the Israeli military governor of the Gaza Strip, Brigadier General Yitzhak Sergev, 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. In 1980, when fundamentalist protesters set fire to the office of the Red Crescent Society in Gaza, headed by Doctor Haidar Abdel-Shafi, a Communist and PLO supporter, the Israeli army did nothing, intervening only when the mob marched to his home and seemed to threaten him personally.’

Former New York Times correspondent, David Shipler, Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land (New York: Penguin, 1987), p. 177.

See also this enlightening report from UPI:

‘Saturday, 24 February 2001 11:28 (ET)

Israel gave major aid to Hamas
By RICHARD SALE, Mideast Correspondent

NEW YORK, Feb. 24 (UPI) — Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon,
speaking of the Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas recently described
it as “the deadliest terrorist group that we have ever had to face.”

Active in Gaza and the West Bank Hamas wants to liberate all of
Palestine and establish a radical Islamic state in place of Israel.
It has gained notoriety with its assassinations, car bombs and other
acts of terrorism.

But Sharon had left something out.

Israel and Hamas may currently be locked in deadly combat, but,
according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials,
beginning in the late 1970s, Tel Aviv gave direct and indirect
financial aid to Hamas over a period of years.

Israel “aided Hamas directly — the Israelis wanted to use it as a
counterbalance to the PLO,” said Tony Cordesman, Middle East analyst
for the Center for Strategic Studies.

Israel’s support for Hamas “was a direct attempt to divide and dilute
support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious
alternative,” said a former senior CIA official.

According to documents obtained from the Israel-based Institute for
Counter Terrorism (ICT) by UPI, Hamas evolved from cells of the
Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928. Islamic movements in
Israel and Palestine were “weak and dormant” until after the 1967 Six
Day War in which Israel scored a stunning victory over its Arab
enemies.

After 1967, a great part of the success of the Hamas/Muslim
Brotherhood was due to their activities among the refugees of the
Gaza Strip. The cornerstone of the Islamic movements success was an
impressive social, religious, educational and cultural
infrastructure, called Da’wah, that worked to ease the hardship of
large numbers of Palestinian refugees, confined to camps, and many of
whom were living on the edge.

“Social influence grew into political influence,” first in the Gaza
Strip, then on the West Bank, said an administration official who
spoke on condition of anonymity.

According to ICT papers, Hamas was legally registered in Israel in
1978 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the movements spiritual leader, as an
Islamic Association by the name Al-Mujamma Al Islami, which widened
its base of supporters and sympathizers by religious propaganda and
social work.

Funds for the movement came from the oil-producing states and
directly and indirectly from Israel, according to U.S. intelligence
officials. The PLO was secular and leftist and promoted Palestinian
nationalism. Hamas wanted set up a transnational state under the rule
of Islam, much like Khomeini’s Iran.

What took Israeli leaders by surprise was the way the Islamic
movements began to surge after the Iranian revolution, after armed
resistance to Israel sprang up in southern Lebanon organized by an
Iran-backed movement called Hezbollah that bore similitaries to
Hamas, these sources said.

“Nothing stirs up the energy for imitation as much as success,”
commented one administration expert.

A further factor of Hamas’ growth was the fact the PLO moved its base
of operations to Beirut in the 1980s, leaving the Islamic movements
to strengthen their influence in the Occupied Territories “as the
court of last resort,” he said.

When the intifada began, the Israeli leadership was further surprised
when Islamic groups began to surge in membership and strength. Hamas
immediately grew in numbers and violence. The group had always
embraced the doctrine of armed struggle, but the doctrine had not
been practiced and Islamic groups had not been subjected to
suppression the way groups like Fatah had been, according to U.S.
government officials.

But with the triumph of the Khomeini revolution in Iran, with the
birth of Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorism in Lebanon, Hamas began
to gain strength in Gaza and then in the West Bank, relying on terror
to resist the Israeli occupation.

Israel was certainly funding the group at that time. One US
intelligence source who asked not to be named, said that not only was
Hamas being funded as a “counterweight” to the PLO, Israeli aid had a
more devious purpose: “to help identify and channel towards Israeli
agents Hamas members who were dangerous terrorists.”

In addition, by infiltrating Hamas, Israeli informers could listen to
debates on policy and identify Hamas members who “were dangerous
hardliners,” the official said.

In the end, as Hamas set up a very comprehensive counterintelligence
system, many collaborators with Israel were weeded out and shot.
Violent acts of terrorism became the central tenet, and Hamas, unlike
the PLO, was unwilling to compromise in any way with Israel, refusing
to acknowledge its very existence.

Even then, some in Israel saw some benefits to be had in trying to
continue to give Hamas support: “The thinking on the part of some of
the right-wing Israeli establishment was that Hamas and the other
groups, if they gained control, would refuse to have anything to do
with the peace process and would torpedo any agreements put in
place,” said a U.S. government official.

“Israel would still be the only democracy in the region for the
United States to deal with,” he said. All of which is viewed with
disapproval by some former U.S. intelligence officials.

“The thing wrong with so many Israeli operations is that they try to
be too sexy,” said former CIA official Vincent Cannestraro. Former
State Department counter-terrorism official Larry Johnson told UPI:
“The Israelis are their own worst enemies when it comes to fighting
terrorism. They are like a guy who sets fire to his hair and then
tries to put it out by hitting it with a hammer.They do more to
incite and sustain terrorism than curb it.”

Aid to Hamas may have looked clever, “but it was hardly designed to
help smooth the waters,” he said. “It gives weight to President
George W Bush’s remark about there being a crisis in education.”

Cordesman said that a similar attempt by Egyptian intelligence to
fund Egypt’s fundamentalists had also come to grief because of
overcomplication.

An Israeli Embassy defense official, asked if Israel had given aid to
Hamas replied: “I am not able to answer that question. I was in
Lebanon commanding a unit at the time, besides it is not my field of
interest.”

Asked to confirm a report by U.S. officials that Brigadier General
Yitshaq Segev, the military governor of Gaza, had told U.S. officials
that he had helped fund “Islamic movements as a counterweight to the
PLO and communists,” the Israeli official said he could confirm only
that he believed that Segev had served back in 1986.

The Israeli Embassy press office referred UPI to its Web site.’

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