One of the most misleading, contextless talking points spread by the pro-Hamas right and left contends that Israel “supported” and “created” the terror organization. It is the political equivalent of condemning someone today for failing to make a citizen’s arrest of O.J. Simpson in 1986.
The myth was popularized by former Qatari propagandist, now one of MSNBC’s leading terror apologists, Mehdi Hasan. The insinuation, of course, is that Israel bears moral and historical responsibility for the murder of its own citizens. A lot of these same people, no doubt, blamed Americans for creating al Qaeda and thus 9/11. The Hamas claim is even weaker, frankly, considering Israel had no hand in arming any iteration of the terror group.
An offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, the group was formed in 1967 and legally registered in Israel in 1978 as a nonprofit Islamic association. From the start, its stated goal was destroying Israel, joining virtually every Arab group in the area. If Israelis began shuttering every Islamic association and assassinating every leader whose stated goal was the destruction of the Jewish State, it would be in a constant state of war.
Israel, instead, was largely indifferent to Hamas — one of many theocratic groups appearing at the time. When created, Hamas was best known for building medical centers and offering welfare services. Most of Hamas’ funding came from foreign sources. Jordan, probably the group’s biggest patron in the subsequent years, saw Hamas as a way to influence the politics of the “West Bank.” And Israel also largely looked the other way, hoping to create a political counterbalance to the terrorist PLO. (Israel’s only known direct funding to the group came, according to U.S. intelligence officials, to fund agents who were spying on the organization.)
Wouldn’t any civilized country prefer a religious organization providing social services in power than one engaged in hijackings, suicide bombings, and knife attacks on civilians? Hamas, in the 1970s and early ’80s, was not violent. As soon as the group began to participate in attacks, as they did around the first Intifada, Israel began cracking down on the organization and assassinating its terror leaders.
Those sharing quotes with me of Israeli politicians lamenting their role in helping Hamas rarely seem to read past a headline. Of course Israelis regret not seeing the threat earlier and playing realpolitik. That doesn’t mean they “supported” the terror iteration of Hamas. They support a peaceful Gaza.
Even if Israel had shut down Hamas in 1978, there would almost surely be another fundamentalist organization that would have taken its place and engaged in the same behavior. Political Islam swept through the Muslim world, discarding the failed experiment of Arab nationalism, in those years. Palestinians were not immune.
From a 2009 Wall Street Journal piece exploring the issue:
Arieh Spitzen, the former head of the Israeli military’s Department of Palestinian Affairs, says that even if Israel had tried to stop the Islamists sooner, he doubts it could have done much to curb political Islam, a movement that was spreading across the Muslim world. He says attempts to stop it are akin to trying to change the internal rhythms of nature: “It is like saying: ‘I will kill all the mosquitoes.’ But then you get even worse insects that will kill you…You break the balance. You kill Hamas you might get al Qaeda.”
The claim that Israel’s “support” of Hamas was a leading historical reason for the attack is prevalent on social media. It is just more shameful victim-blaming aimed at credulous idiots.