Israel Created Two of Its Own Worst Enemies-Hamas and Hezbollah

By Neff, Donald | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 2002 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Israel Created Two of Its Own Worst Enemies-Hamas and Hezbollah

Neff, Donald, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Donald Neff is author of the Warriors trilogy, 50 Years of Israel, and the newly reissued Fallen Pillars: U.S. Policy Towards Palestine and Israel Since 1945, all available from the AET Book Club.

The decade of the 1980s saw the emergence of two of Israel's most militant Islamic foes, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the occupied territories. Hamas is responsible for many of the bloody suicide bombings which continue to terrorize Israel today. Ironically, both groups came into existence in large part because of unintended consequences of Israel's actions.

Hamas, meaning zeal, is an acronym for "Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya," the Islamic Resistance Movement. 1 It was founded in the occupied Gaza Strip in 1987 and its charter, which first appeared in February 1988, declared Hamas "the intifada wing of the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) in Palestine." 2 Hamas was a militant outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood, a humanitarian group operating in the Gaza Strip since the 1970s. Devoting itself to grass-roots social work in mosques and civic clinics, the Brotherhood abstained from all forms of anti-occupation struggle.

By 1986 the Brotherhood controlled 40 percent of all the mosques and the 7,000-student Islamic University in Gaza. At the time, Israeli authorities saw the Brotherhood as a counterbalance to the secular PLO and contributed to the Brotherhood's cause through favors and donations to mosques and schools. 3 Israeli donations to the Brotherhood were reported to be in the millions of dollars. 4

When Hamas emerged from the Brotherhood, however, it turned out that Israel had helped create an enemy motived not only by the nationalism of the PLO but by the religious fervor of Islam.

Hamas quickly gained support because of its Islamic credentials and the absence of corruption that many attached to PLO officials. Moreover, it dazzled many Palestinians with its daring attacks carried out by its military wing, the Izzidine (Brigade) Qassam, named after a prominent Palestinian Islamic nationalist who was killed by the British in 1935. The brigade was founded in 1990. 5

Hamas' charter, combining the ideas of Palestinian nationalism and religious fundamentalism, pledged the group to carry out armed struggle, work for the destruction of Israel, the replacement of the PLO, and to raise "the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine." Hamas justified its attacks by saying they were against Israeli military personnel and that U.N. General Assembly Resolution 2649 had affirmed the legitimacy of armed struggle by Palestinians. 6

Hamas published a newsletter, first called Hamas but later changed to Al-Thabat, or "to build." In the pages of Al-Thabat, Hamas opposed the Madrid peace conference, calling it a Zionist ploy to buy time. "Our enemy does not rush toward the peace that some among us desire," the newsletter said. "Rather, the peace he wants is, in actuality, submission or resignation to the status quo."

Hamas believed in coexistence with Jews and Christians, but only within a Muslim state. It went out of its way in a series of communiques to say it acknowledged Christians according to the Qur'an and that it sought to work in unity with Christian Palestinians. 7

Hamas totally rejected the PLO's quest for a two-state solution. In a document the group described as its "Covenant," issued in August 1988, Hamas said: "The Islamic Resistance Movement considers the land of Palestine to be an Islamic trust for all generations of Muslims. It cannot be given up in part or ceded; no one has the right. The only solution to the Palestinian problem is by jihad. All initiatives, conferences and proposals are a waste of time." 8

Israeli authorities originally took no action against Hamas' leader, the blind quadriplegic Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, now 50. After the publication of the Hamas Covenant, however, they began quietly arresting Hamas leaders: dozens of scholars, preachers and others making up the middle and lower ranks were soon detained.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Israel Created Two of Its Own Worst Enemies-Hamas and Hezbollah


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?