Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Hamas Is Smeared Right and Left in the West
By Ramzy Baroud
ccun.org, March 8, 2009
Was Hamas the Work of the Israeli Mossad?
Western governments are struggling to define a possible relationship with
the Palestinian movement Hamas, some progressive and leftist circles are
also uneasy regarding their own perception of the Islamic movement.
Some have even made the claim that Hamas is, more or less, an Israeli
concoction. In fact, the accusation that Hamas was created by Israeli
intelligence has become so commonplace that it often requires no serious
substantiation. While the claim, as it
stands, is erroneous, there is certainly a reason and history behind it.
But was Hamas, in fact the work of the Israeli Mossad?
suggestion is consequential, for not only does it discredit one single
faction, but implies that Palestinians are deceived into thinking that
they actually have some control over their collective destiny. This notion
- that Hamas is the brainchild of Israel - is
It could very well be
complicated for one to grasp how such a movement could take a foothold and
flourish with such popular support if one has no familiarity with the
social, economic and religious history of the Gaza Strip, the birthplace
It is true that for years, Palestinians have suffered
poverty, hunger and humiliation under the Israeli occupation. And while
the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) has played a major role in
representing and speaking on behalf of the Palestinian people abroad, its
role in the occupied territories has been, at best, lacking.
There are reasons for that, not least because the PLO had its own complex
regional and international priorities, and that it lacked the grassroots
leverage enjoyed by the Islamic movement. It was only a natural response
for the religious institution to fill the gap of an absent government, a
role that it took seriously. But let's look a bit more carefully into the
evolution and growth of Hamas in Gaza in particular, a presence that was
making a strong impact as early as 1967.
In the early years of
the occupation, the Islamic movement in Gaza strategized an effort that
would require a strong and well-established foundation. Initially, the
movement refuted the notion of armed-struggle and was often criticized and
ridiculed by secular liberation movements for masking their weak nature as
The truth is, the Islamic movement in Gaza didn't
disregard armed struggle in and of itself; it felt that this nation of
mostly refugees was in a vulnerable state and would need years of
preparation before they could actually become a force to be reckoned with.
For this reason, they invested decades to strengthening social bonds in
Gazan society, by building mosques, childcare centers, hospitals, schools
and so forth.
The years between 1967 to 1975 were designated by
the Islamic movement as the phase of "mosque building". The mosque was the
central institution that galvanized Islamic societies in Gaza. It was not
simply a place of worship but also a hub for education, social and
cultural interaction, and later political organization.
period between 1967 to 1987, the number of mosques in Gaza tripled, rising
from 200 to 600 mosques. The years between 1975 well into the 1980s were
dubbed the phase of "social institution building", which included the
formation of Islamic clubs, charitable organizations, student societies,
etc, which all served as meeting points for Muslim youth.
1973, the Islamic Center was established in Gaza, the actual body that
served as the heart of all the movement's activities. It was widely
understood that the center was an extension of the Egypt-influenced Muslim
Brotherhood of the past. Israel purposely did little to halt the
establishment of the organization, as it also did little to assist in its
Israel's curious attitude could be explained as part of
its policy of reward and punishment. Since the Islamists had - at that
particular time - renounced armed struggle, and were providing services,
which spared the Israeli budget many millions, there seemed little need to
discontinue what at the time may have seemed innocuous activities. But
more importantly, Israel was wary of the augmentation of PLO institutions
abroad and growing influence on Palestinian societies in the occupied
More, the growing bitterness between other
liberation movements in Gaza and the Islamic movement, led by Sheikh Ahmad
Yassin gave Israel hope that growing hostilities would result in the
pacifying and paralysis of all respective groups, sparing Israel the
rigorous task of reining them in. One could argue that any Israeli
interference to halt the growth and evolvement of the Islamic movement in
Gaza, in that period, would have merely sped up its radicalization, as
opposed to annihilating it altogether.
The 1970s and the 1980s
were years of growing turmoil for Palestinians with the Camp David
Accords, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the many massacres committed
by Israel, killings that came to a pinnacle with the 1982 massacres by a
Lebanese Forces Christian militia group in Sabra and Shatilla in Lebanon.
It was during this time that the Islamic movement in Gaza was
undergoing a tremendous metamorphosis. Decades of groundwork would now be
put to the test as the movement evolved to embrace armed struggle. It was
certainly not an immediate transformation, but in fact had been evolving
since as early as 1967.
Whether religious trends are rational in
their very narratives or otherwise, the fact was the growth, shifts and
evolvement of the Palestinian Islamic movement, in all of its
manifestations in the Gaza Strip, followed a rational process that was
unique to Gaza and its history.
No other place in Palestine was
as qualified to spawn a major Islamic movement as was the Gaza Strip. The
Strip was desperately poor, its population mostly composed of refugees and
their descendants. Islamist leaders were themselves refugees and were
mostly refugee camp dwellers.
So it was that "Hamas" finally made
its official appearance in 1987, taking the transformation of the Islamic
movement in Gaza one step further, with the birth of the first Palestinian
Intifada. Nearly two decades later, Hamas enjoyed a landslide victory in
Palestinian elections, another testimony to its phased and calculated
Instead of trying to understand and appreciate the
history behind the popular movement, Western countries responded by
sanctions, blockades, and a protracted and suffocating siege by Israel
that came to a head with the bloodiest massacre of defenseless Palestinian
civilians since 1948.
Analysts, politicians, critics and
third-parties alike can squabble about the origins and history of this
movement that has among many things given a large segment of Palestinian
society a sense of self-respect and feeling of leverage with their
occupiers; but to advocate that Hamas was cooked up by some Israeli agents
hell-bent on the demise of the Palestinians is simply hogwash.
Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net)
is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been
published in many newspapers, journals and anthologies around the world.
His latest book is, The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a
People's Struggle (Pluto Press, London).