When the Israeli Government Loved Hamas

If you write anything critical of Israel’s actions in the West Bank, you’re immediately inundated with letters complaining about Hamas. “Hamas is a death cult,” these letters run. “They’re religious fanatics. They use children as human shields. How can you defend Hamas?” Along these lines, in  a widely noted New York Times op-ed Jeffrey Goldberg argues that the US and Israel should try to strengthen the secular Palestinian party Fatah and work to weaken Hamas.

 

Yet it’s worth reminding ourselves in the not too distant past, the exact opposite strategy was followed. In the 1970s both the United States and Israel thought that secular left-wing Arab nationalism was a bigger threat than religious fundamentalism. For that reason, Israel worked strongly to empower Hamas and undermine Fatah.

 

In his 2006 book The Iron Cage, historian Rashid Khalidi describes “the transformation of the Palestinian branch of Muslim Brotherhood and its offsprings, Hamas, from the protégés of the Israeli occupation into Israel’s fierce enemy.” As Khalidi notes, “For well over two decades after the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, Israel …[used] the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoot Hamas in Gaza as a counterweight to the nationalist Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). This reached the point where the Israeli military occupation encouraged Brotherhood thugs to intimidate PLO supporters.”

 

Khalidi’s account is bolstered by  a 2006 article a 2006 article  by United Press International Reporter Richard Sale which offer details on the Israel/Hamas collaboration:

 

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 (Palestinian Liberation Organization),” 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.

 

So basically we see a see-saw policy: support Hamas one day to weaken Fatah, support Fatah the next day to weaken Hamas. In the larger scheme of things, all these policy shifts make perfect sense: they are part of the long-standing imperialist tradition of divide-and-conquer. It’s the inability to see Israel as following an imperialist strategy that prevents a true understanding of what’s happening now.

 

 

7 thoughts on “When the Israeli Government Loved Hamas

  1. Yes, or, more broadly speaking, a long standing tradition of anyone involved in conflict with anyone else anywhere. I’m pretty much diametrically opposed to your view on the conflict, but I do think this is an excellent point to bring up. And Israel would do well to exercise caution before arming Fatah to the teeth.
    Echoes of Taliban/Soviets, or Rocky V/Tommy Gunn, and I’m sure you could name a hundred other cases. But at least thanks for not using the term blowback, just ’cause. Anyhoo, I wonder if you take requests? As an old comics fan, I sure would love to hear your discussion on some of my old faves, especially Watchmen and American Flag, but I won’t take offense if you can’t comply.
    BTW, does the fact that Israel once backed Hamas out of a faulty survival strategy mean that they are NOT an evil death cult that uses their own children as human shields and vow to kill Jewish children across the globe?
    I appreciate the fact that you make your arguments against Israel in an intelligent and respectful way. I don’t see a lot of that.

  2. I’ve been trying to decide whether to write about Watchmen or not because I re-read it recently and was slightly disappointed. But in the meantime, go here — http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=19242 — for a chapter by chapter analysis (this is the first part but there are subsequent chapters on the website).

    American Flagg would also be good to talk about since it prefigures in some ways the current political era: futurism combined with Chicago machine politics.

  3. Rashid Khalidi, friend and frequent dinner guest of President Obama? This guy is a terrorist. He may be right, but quote someone else as what he says can easily be deemed unbelievable because of the source.

  4. Rashid Khalidi is not a terrorist. He’s a very well respected historian. The labelling of him as a terrorist is an example of the anti-Arab bigotry which has become a common feature of right-wing thought. See here: https://sanseverything.wordpress.com/2008/10/29/mccains-new-low/

    Secondly, many other sources attest to the same facts about Israel’s relations with Hamas. See the article I quote in my posting by Richard Sale, who himself quotes experts on the subject.

  5. You’re right, Rashid Khalidi is not a terrorist. He was a spokesman for a terrorist organization. He is a terrorist-supporting scumbag, but not a terrorist per se.

  6. To the comment writers above who cannot acept Rashid Khaldi’s meticulous work, have a look at an article I wrote called Hamas Israel’s baby

    http://vulturetimes.wordpress.com/

    I don’t have to use Khaldi’s work because the materials are well documented all over the place. Sources for my article included UPI, US intelligence, the Israel based Institute for Counter Terrorism and much more and there will be more articles written soon and not only on Palestine.

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