“Israel started Hamas”
Have just finished reading a very interesting book, Devil’s Game, by Robert Dreyfuss, it would seem that the “war on terror” launched by the U.S. at different times over the past few decades is more fiction than fact. That is, while the U.S. has been targeting some “terrorists,” it and its allies have been supporting others. As Dreyfuss writes: “’Israel started Hamas,’ says Charles Freeman, the veteran diplomat and former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia. “It was a project of Shit Bet [the Israeli domestic intelligence agency], which had a feeling that they could us it to hem in the PLO.” [p. 191]
According to Dreyfuss, the U.S. has been pursuing a flawed foreign policy of relying on right wing Islamists since the Eisenhower administration, and doing to because that administration feared that the nationalists who were active in the Middle East were or would fall under the control of communists and the USSR. To wit:
“In the early 1950s, two nationalist leaders emerged in two of the most powerful countries of the Middle East, Egypt and Iran. In Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Free Officers ousted the country’s dissolute king and threatened to spark revolution in Saudi Arabia, the heart of the world’s energy supply. In Iran, a freely elected democrat and socialist-inclined leader named Mohammed Mossadegh successfully challenged the ruling shah of Iran, forced him to flee, and asserted his country’s right to take over the oil industry from Britain’s Anglo-Persian Oil Company.” [p. 94]
The U.S. successfully overthrew Mossadegh, with Britain’s help, and tried but failed to overthrow Nasser. In the latter case, the U.S. and Britain used the Muslim Brotherhood, while in the former case, they “mobilized a group of ayatollahs that included the ideological grandfather of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.” And there is more insofar as these actions were “compounded by yet another massive error: the U.S. decision to support Saudi Arabia as the counter pole to Arab and Persian nationalism, and to tie itself to a worldwide network of Islamists sponsored by the Saudis. It was a decision whose consequences led, indirectly, to the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini’s theocracy, the destruction of Afghanistan, and Osama bin Laden’s terrorist international.” [pp. 94-95]
Most interestingly, even Israel played the same kind of game, creating the group that eventually became Hamas – which means “zeal” – in order to try to defeat the PLO. “In the wake of the 1967 war, and Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, the Islamists flourished with the support of both Israel and Jordan.” [p. 192] As Dreyfuss puts it, it was thought that Hamas would be “Israel’s trained zeal.” But, apparently, Hamas had and has other ideas.
It was conservative Israelis, beginning with Menachem Begin’s Herat Party and the Likud bloc that lent formal support to these Islamists. As Dreyfuss says, “It was part of a full-court press against the PLO.” [p. 196] Begin was trying to undermine the PLO, even to the point of giving paramilitary training to members of the “so-called Village Leagues,” which were run by anti-PLO Palestinians. “David Shipler, a former reporter for the New York Times, cites the Israeli governor of Gaza as boasting that Israel expressly financed the Islamist against the PLO.” [p. 196] In this regard, Israel was aligned with Saudi Arabia, which also wanted to undermine the PLO and, hence, helped to finance these Islamist groups in Gaza.
It is quite true as is said frequently that politics makes for strange bedfellows. But perhaps it is best not play with fire or fanatics. As one expert at the U.S. State Department put it: “I didn’t realize they’d [the Israelis] end up creating a monster. But I don’t think you ought to mess around with potential fanatics.” [p.198] This might be a warning that should be heeded today.