Kicking off the 28th anniversary of its founding in 1987 with a rally in Gaza, Hamas has uploaded a “highlights” video featuring a montage of its most violent actions.
Asserting that the organisation, whose “militant” arm is a listed terror group in many countries, will “keep its weapons directed at the Israeli occupation only,” a statement on the Hamas’ website also vowed to “continue our resistance and steadfastness” and urged “heroic resistance against Israeli soldiers.”
Praising what it terms the “Jerusalem Intifada” and the recent and ongoing attacks by Hamas and other militants against Israelis, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal stated that “…the so-called peace process is futile. There is no peace. Only the path of Jihad, sacrifice and blood (will bear fruit).”
Meshaal also said that “Weapons like Kalashnikovs or missiles are not at hand, but there are knives and cars with which to run over the enemies… can anybody possibly have an excuse to abandon the path of jihad?” Only this week, Hamas claimed among its members a terrorist who injured 17 people in a car ramming attack at a Jerusalem bus station. Among the injured was a 15 month old baby who lost a leg in the attack.
In its anniversary video, Hamas brag that in its 28 years it has fired 16,377 shells into Israel and carried out more than 500 border infiltrations, 250 shootings, 86 suicide attacks and 36 stabbings, as well as abducting 26 Israelis.
Genocide and ethnic cleansing has remained the stock in trade of the group’s rhetoric since the publication of the Hamas Covenant in 1988. A particularly dramatic example of the group’s pronouncements came in October when Hamas cleric Sheikh Iyad Abu Funun, speaking on Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV, stated that “not a single Jew will remain on the land” and that “we (Hamas) will not leave a single one of you, alive or dead… we will dig up your bones from your graves and get them out of this country. We will not leave any trace of you on this land.”
The anniversary also highlights the fallacy one of the more oft-heard theories surrounding the group which has resurfaced as of late, that Israel is in fact responsible for its creation. CNN reporter Jim Clancy commented on Twitter on December 15, in response to the group’s 28th year that it was “worth noting Hamas given licence to operate by #Israel in ’79,” while an Australian commentator made similar remarks last month, as noted in AIJAC’s Media Microscope column in the most recent Australia/Israel review, written by Allon Lee.
“Bruce Hearn Mackinnon, a Deakin University lecturer in the department of management whose expertise is in industrial relations, partly blamed Muslim radicalisation on Western support for Israel‘s ‘occupation of Palestinian territory… a festering sore, breeding resentment, frustration and anger from not only Palestinians, but the wider Muslim community… let’s not forget that Israel secretly fund[ed] and encourage[d]…Hamas, in its early years, as a means of undermining the secular mainstream PLO.'”
Clancy’s claim is a misrepresentation for the obvious reason highlighted by this month’s celebrations – Hamas did not exist in 1979. It is simply not true that there was ever any support of the kind alleged for Hamas by Israel once the group’s raison d’etre became clear in the midst of the first Intifada.
This fallacy is based on the distortion of something else entirely – errors Israel made in the late 1970s and early 80s in allowing the flourishing in Gaza of a non-terrorist group called Mujama Al-Islamiya that appeared focused mostly on building mosques and schools and was in competition with Fatah and the PLO – organisations known for their violence and terror. This group was indeed a precursor to Hamas – but that was far from clear at a time when the specific threat now posed by Hamas did not exist and Islamism was not generally understood to be the serious security concern the world faces today.
A detailed 2009 piece by Andrew Higgins, writing in the Wall Street Journal, despite a somewhat exaggerated headline is the best overall history of Israel’s relationship with Mujama Al-Islamiya – something which is today widely recognised as an error in Israel, as those interviewed in the article make clear. Some key extracts are below, though the piece is worth reading in full.
“A look at Israel’s decades-long dealings with Palestinian radicals — including some little-known attempts to cooperate with the Islamists — reveals a catalog of unintended and often perilous consequences. Time and again, Israel’s efforts to find a pliant Palestinian partner that is both credible with Palestinians and willing to eschew violence, have backfired. Would-be partners have turned into foes or lost the support of their people.”
“The Israeli government officially recognized a precursor to Hamas called Mujama Al-Islamiya, registering the group as a charity. It allowed Mujama members to set up an Islamic university and build mosques, clubs and schools. Crucially, Israel often stood aside when the Islamists and their secular left-wing Palestinian rivals battled, sometimes violently, for influence in both Gaza and the West Bank.”
“Israeli officials who served in Gaza disagree on how much their own actions may have contributed to the rise of Hamas. They blame the group’s recent ascent on outsiders, primarily Iran. This view is shared by the Israeli government.”
“When it became clear in the early 1990s that Gaza’s Islamists had mutated from a religious group into a fighting force aimed at Israel — particularly after they turned to suicide bombings in 1994 — Israel cracked down with ferocious force. But each military assault only increased Hamas’s appeal to ordinary Palestinians. The group ultimately trounced secular rivals, notably Fatah, in a 2006 election supported by Israel’s main ally, the U.S.”
Contrary to the claim that Israel gave the group, much less Hamas, money, as alleged by Mackinnon, or arms, as is also sometimes claimed – as noted by Higgins, Israel, when it received a tip-off that the group were collecting arms, raided the hiding place and secured the cache of weapons, apprehending the group’s leader in the process. As Brig. Gen. Shalom Harari, a military intelligence officer in Gaza at the time, said according to Higgins that “warnings were ignored” and that “Israel’s mistakes were the result of ‘neglect, not a desire to fortify the Islamists: ‘Israel never financed Hamas. Israel never armed Hamas.'”
As the Higgins piece makes clear, Israel’s “support” for the group consisted of allowing it to operate as a registered charity, holding some meetings with its leadership, and often not interfering during its ongoing clashes with Fatah. However, when the group looked like it might become violent in 1984, years before Hamas was even established, the Israeli authorities took action against it:
In 1984, the Israeli military received a tip-off from Fatah supporters that Sheikh Yassin’s Gaza Islamists were collecting arms, according to Israeli officials in Gaza at the time. Israeli troops raided a mosque and found a cache of weapons. Sheikh Yassin was jailed. He told Israeli interrogators the weapons were for use against rival Palestinians, not Israel, according to Mr. Hacham, the military affairs expert who says he spoke frequently with jailed Islamists. The cleric was released after a year and continued to expand Mujama’s reach across Gaza.
On their 28th anniversary, Hamas has not been shy about declaring the truth about its actions, origins, ideology and goals. Despite Hamas’s self-proclaimed status, many in the West still do not openly identify Hamas for what they are and promote fallacies about the group’s creation and existence.
Today, the region faces continued violence and Israel and the world challenges to re-establishing a negotiating process that can lead to a viable two-state peace for Israelis and Palestinians. The refusal of so many world leaders and peace activists to acknowledge and condemn Hamas’ most recent rhetoric is a clear obstacle to that basic aspiration.