As The Canary has been extensively reporting over the past few weeks, Israeli military actions in the occupied Palestinian territories have left hundreds dead, including over 60 children. The assaults were prompted by Hamas rockets fired into southern Israel earlier this month. Prof. Ilan Pappé told The Canary in an exclusive interview on al-Nakba Day that Hamas was retaliating to a ‘calculated and cynical provocation’ on the part of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Pappé explained that Netanyahu manufactured this provocation as part of a ploy to stay in power at “the moment he realized he’s not going to be able to form a government, and therefore might find himself on the way to court… if not to the jailhouse.”
But there’s deeper layer behind the Hamas response. Because in a bizarre irony, the Islamist group is in part an Israeli creation. Though this might seem on the surface like a conspiracy theory, there is in fact considerable evidence that Israel played a hand in Hamas’ rise from obscurity. And this reality has even been reported on in one of the most mainstream publications there is.
Enabling Hamas’ rise
In 2014 during another bloody Israeli massacre in Gaza, the Washington Post – one of the most highly circulated newspapers in the US – published an article succinctly titled How Israel helped create Hamas. It states:
To a certain degree, the Islamist organization whose militant wing has rained rockets on Israel the past few weeks has the Jewish state to thank for its existence. Hamas launched in 1988 in Gaza at the time of the first intifada… But for more than a decade prior, Israeli authorities actively enabled its rise.
Palestinian-American activist Mohammad Hammad expands on this in his article, A Brief History of Hamas. He points out that initially “Hamas was a relatively small, fringe movement that came about near the beginning of the first Intifada as an offshoot of what was the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza.” Hammad further explains that Israel, in fact, tolerated and even aided the group in order to weaken the then much more dominant secular Palestinian resistance organizations:
Israel saw them as useful, tolerated their existence, and even went as far as helping to catalyze their growth after realizing they could help destabilize the unified secular Palestinian resistance.
Likewise, the Washington Post article points specifically to an intellectual leader of the Gaza branch of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Sayyid Qutb. It notes:
The Israelis saw Qutb’s adherents in the Palestinian territories… as a useful counterweight to Arafat’s PLO [Palestinian Liberation Organization].
All part of a cynical exercise
Hammad, meanwhile, notes how during the First Intifada:
While Israel actively sabotaged Fatah efforts, stymied their growth, and assassinated its leaders, they allowed Hamas to flourish in the small vacuums created — never directly confronting the growing Hamas organization in any meaningful way. Their plan was to break the unity of Palestinian society, and turn the overwhelmingly secular Palestinian resistance movement against Israel into a fractured movement comprised of religious fundamentalists/extremists and secular orgs who Israel hoped would spend more time fighting each other than resisting Israel.
Unfortunately, their plan worked, probably even better than Israel would’ve hoped. The downside is that they lost control over their pet-project of Hamas, and we have the organization we see today.
Hamas is the direct result of Israeli settler-colonialism, Israeli meddling, and the rage of Palestinian people at decades of oppression and dispossession and living under the boot of the Israeli military.
Creating a Frankenstein monster
Like Frankenstein’s monster in Mary Shelley’s famous novel, Israel unleashed a beast that it eventually could not contain. The rise of Hamas, however, should not be seen as an entirely negative thing for Israel. Rather, it has provided its government and supporters with a convenient excuse for its misdeeds. Its massacres in Gaza, for instance, get excused with retorts that Gaza’s people “elected a terrorist organization”. Attacks on civilian targets get explained away with claims that they were ‘harboring Hamas terrorists’. And so on…
At the same time though, it is important to keep in mind that while Hamas has grown much more powerful than Israel ever hoped or imagined, it is still nowhere near being a serious military threat to Israel. After all, Israel has the most powerful military in the entire Middle East along with generous backing from the most powerful country in the world, the US. As The Canary has previously reported, Israel is in fact the largest cumulative recipient of US aid since World War II.
So Israel derives a double benefit from Hamas: it can use it as a justification for practically anything, while at the same time it faces no serious military threat from Hamas’ existence. And as the dust settles over the latest escalation of violence against Gaza’s population, it is worth reminding ourselves of this reality again.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons
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