from The Internationalist April 19 2002
publication of “The Internationalist Group”
(a split from the Spartacist League)
From its beginnings over a century ago, the object of the Zionist movement has been to create an ethnically and religiously exclusive “Jewish state” through conquering the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. “A land without people for a people without land,” was the slogan. But since Palestine was actually populated by Arabs, they had to be made to disappear, through selective or wholesale expulsion and massacres, such as is taking place now on the West Bank. To realize their program, the Zionists have often resorted to provocation, even against “their own people” – for example, the Mossad’s 1951 bombing of the Baghdad synagogue, in order to provoke the flight of the Iraqi Jews (see “Zionist Terror and the In Gathering’ of Iraqi Jews,” The Internationalist No. 9, January-February 2001). And from Theodor Herzl, Ze’ev Jabotinsky and David Ben Gurion to Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon, the Zionists have always been prepared to “do business with” the worst anti-Semites, including Hitler’s Nazis (see “Zionism, Imperialism and Anti-Semitism” in the same issue).
Following this logic, the state of Israel helped create and foster the growth the Islamic fundamentalists. It is by now well-known how U.S. intelligence agencies created Osama Bin Laden, using the Saudi-born Yemeni millionaire to recruit “holy warriors” (mujahedin) to fight against the Soviet army in Afghanistan, and how the CIA’s dogs of war later slipped the leash, turning their religious frenzy against the “infidels” of the West. Similarly, and in close connection with U.S. operations in Afghanistan, Israeli leaders nurtured the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) as a counter to the secular nationalist Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), then allied with the Soviet Union. Even after Hamas turned to suicide bombing against Israelis, the Zionist authorities favored it over the PLO. Today, as the Israeli army is supposedly engaged in a war to root out the “terrorist infrastructure,” it has not touched Gaza, the bastion of Hamas and origin of most of the suicide bombers. Moreover, Israel’s military machine has deliberately provoked terrorist attacks by the Islamic fundamentalists which then become the excuses for its war on the Palestinians.
The Zionist leaders want anti-Semitic terror. They need attacks on Jews in order to tighten their hold on the Hebrew people in the Israeli garrison state and to solidify their support from the imperialists, without which Israel could not survive.
The 1967 war – in which the Israeli army seized East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan, the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria – gave rise to a nationalist Palestinian opposition grouped together in the PLO. The largest single component was Fatah, headed by Yasir Arafat, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood who became a protégé of Egyptian nationalist leader Gamal Abdel Nasser. The PLO also included smaller nationalist groups allied with Syria, as well as the Palestine Communist Party (PCP) and two groups that cloaked their nationalism in Stalinist rhetoric, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) of George Habash and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) of Nayef Hawatmeh. At the time of their founding, the PFLP and DFLP modeled themselves on the Vietnamese National Liberation Front and saw themselves as fedayin (guerrilla fighters) in a national liberation struggle.
In the Palestinian lands which the Zionists occupied in 1967, the fedayin completely dominated the resistance and remade the PLO, which had been founded by Nasser in 1964 as the Palestinian nationalist umbrella organization. Nevertheless, the nationalist guerrillas were vulnerable in tiny Gaza, where nearly a million people are crammed into 140 square miles, most of it desert, most of it desert. For several years, the fedayin/PLO attacked Zionist military targets, achieving modest successes until the Israeli army laid siege to Gaza in 1971. Israel bulldozed hundreds of homes in the refugee camps and deported tens of thousands, including 15,000 suspected PLO fighters who were packed off to camps in the Sinai desert. As the Zionists brutally repressed the PLO, they sought to bolster the then-unimportant Islamic fundamentalist organizations centered around the Gaza-based Muslim Brotherhood.
Just as the CIA sought since the 1940s to foster Islamic-led counterrevolution in Soviet Central Asia (considered by the Cold Warriors to be the “soft underbelly” of the USSR), the Zionists believe that their aims can be served by manipulating Islamic fundamentalist groups. One of the most important leaders of Hamas was a top operative in U.S. imperialism’s anti-Soviet operation in Afghanistan. ABC News correspondent John Cooley, writing in the International Herald Tribune (13 March 1996), noted: “A key Hamas organizer was Abdallah Azzam. He was a tough, brilliant and charismatic Palestinian from Jordan. He supervised training for the CIA’s Afghan guerrillas in Peshawar, Pakistan, where a car bomb killed him in 1989. In the earlier 1980s he toured the United States, recruiting Arab-Americans for the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan.”
The Israelis sought to use the Islamists in order to wield the club of religion against the alleged “godless Communists” in the PLO. In the CIA-funded “holy war” against modernizing nationalists and Soviet troops in Afghanistan, revolutionaries stood four-square with the Red Army, while pro-imperialist “leftists” cheered Washington’s mujahedin. Today, the American ISO criticizes the U.S. government for “hailing Islamists in Afghanistan as ‘freedom fighters’ against the old USSR” (Socialist Worker, 12 April). In an act of historical falsification worthy of Stalin’s own photo editors, it seeks to airbrush out the fact that the anti-Soviet ISO also hailed the Islamists at that time. In 1978 the Zionist government sought out Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, and helped him found an Islamic social works organization, Mujama. According to a study by Beverley Milton-Edwards, Islamic Politics in Palestine (Tauris, 1996):
“In 1978 Israel’s civil administration in Gaza encouraged Sheikh Yassin and his colleagues to submit an application to register the Mujama as a charitable society. Permission was granted; as such official [recognition] was frequently denied to other Gazans during this period, the decision was viewed with suspicion by the local political community. Although the Mujama described itself as a charity, the Israelis were well aware of its political aspirations…. When the Mujama started to exert its influence over already existing institutions as a means to undermine the nationalists, the Israelis stood by.”
With Israeli collusion, Mujama set up the Islamic University of Gaza, to inculcate students with anti-PLO propaganda. The Mujamists chanted, “How can uncovered women and men with Beatle haircuts liberate our holy places?” Students who were insufficiently convinced of the anti-PLO line were brutally attacked, and sometimes acid was thrown in their faces. Mujama professed to be an education and charitable organization, but its real purpose was to attack PLO-allied institutions such as the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRC), a welfare and health care organization. In 1979, Mujama lost a municipal election in Gaza to the PRC, and appealed to the Israeli government to overturn the results! When the Israelis balked, knowing that overt Zionist support would have exposed Mujama as their tool, the Islamists took action.
“A demonstration then started out from the grounds of the [Islamic] university. Most of the people involved in the march and subsequent attacks were Mujama supporters. The demonstrators, ignoring the Israeli army soldiers stationed along their way, set off in the direction of the PRC building. According to Shalom Cohen, ‘Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets shouting Allahu Akbar (God is great), down with Communism, long live Islam.’
“During the demonstration the Mujama militants attacked cafes, video shops and liquor stores. When they arrived at the offices of the PRC they set the building on fire. The offices were destroyed, including approximately 80 per cent of the books in the library… Throughout the attack the Israeli authorities failed to intervene.”
The PRC issued a statement denouncing the complicity of the Israeli forces:
“The tacit approval of the authorities, if not their actual connivance in what happened, was displayed by their attitude of non-interference. While they usually display great alertness to combating even peaceful demonstrations of young students within schools, here they stood indifferently watching a violently destructive demonstration marching to its objective.”
At the time of the intifada of 1988, the second main Muslim fundamentalist organization in Palestine, Islamic Jihad, had been weakened by Zionist repression. Seeking to capitalize on the upsurge of militant protests by Palestinian youth, Hamas emerged from Mujama’s ranks as its fighting organization. While PLO supporters preferred mass action, Hamas specialized in shootings, often of Israeli army personnel. Yet at the height of the intifada. Sheikh Yassin and Dr. Mahmoud Zahar of Hamas would meet with the likes of then-defense minister Yitzhak Rabin, while meetings with the PLO were prohibited by law. As Milton-Edwards notes:
“The relationship between Hamas and the Israeli authorities was, however, at its strongest during the second year of the Intifada. The Israelis had been quick to extend legitimacy and status to Hamas in an attempt to marginalise the PLO. Leaders of Hamas were regularly filmed at meetings with top-level Israeli officials and the message the Israelis were sending out was that they regarded Hamas as the type of people with whom they could work….
In addition the Israelis continued turning a blind eye to the large amounts of money coming into the country destined for Hamas coffers, while at the same time actively stopping the flow of PLO funds in support of the Intifada.”
In May 1991, following George Bush l’s murderous war against Iraq, U.S. ally Saudi Arabia diverted all monies -reportedly $28 million per month – from the PLO to Hamas. This was punishment for Arafat’s support for Saddam Hussein and a reward for Hamas’ condemnation of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (which Hussein had informed the U.S. ambassador about beforehand), the pretext for “Operation Desert Slaughter.” Hamas, as far as the Zionists and the U.S. imperialists were concerned, was an asset.
But it was the Oslo “peace process” that gave Hamas its chance to win support in the Palestinian population: while the PLO was clamping down on any opposition to the accords with its myriad police forces, organized in cooperation with the CIA and Israel’s Shin Beth, Hamas began carrying out indiscriminate bombings of civilian targets. Some of these actions were suicide bombings, in which a mujahid (holy warrior) would blow himself up in a crowded Israeli bus or market place. Between 1994 and 1998, Hamas killed around 150 Israeli civilians in this way. With Arafat closely tied to the Zionists and their U.S. backers, Hamas made temporary alliances with dissident factions within the PLO, and gained a reputation as “militants.” Many of its new supporters did not agree strongly or at all with the Islamic goals of Hamas, but they were revolted by the apparent collaboration with the Zionists by leaders of Fatah, Arafat above all. By its double strategy of “negotiating” with the PLO and building up Islamic fundamentalism, Israeli rulers succeeded in fostering sometimes deadly rivalries among the Palestinian political leaders.
The Zionists also periodically provoked Hamas into carrying out a terrorist action against Israeli civilians whenever they were trying to derail peace talks with the PLO or to launch a broad attack on the Palestinians. A favorite tactic is to launch an attack on a prominent religious shrine. In September 1990, Zionist fundamentalists held a provocative march on the A I Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, predictably leading to an outburst of protest which was then bloodily suppressed by the Israeli police and army, leaving at least 21 dead. Israeli leaders were chomping at the bit to use the impending U.S. war on Iraq as a pretext to drown the first intifada in blood. At the time, George Bush I told Likud prime minister Shamir to cool it because he needed Arab support for his war. At the end of September 1996, the government of Likud prime minister Netanyahu provoked a slaughter of Palestinians by opening a tunnel under Al Aqsa, in order to undercut U.S. president Clinton’s plans for negotiations with Arafat. And then, once again in September 2000, there was Sharon’s provocative promenade in front of Al Aqsa, accompanied by 1,000 top Likudniks and 3,000 police and troops. This set off the second Palestinian intifada and with it a new wave of Hamas bombings, the latest being the Passover massacre at Netanya which provided the trigger needed to launch Israel’s “Operation Defensive Shield.”
Liberal commentators who admit that Israel created Hamas sometimes maintain that it is Israel’s “Frankenstein monster,” which got out of control and now has supposedly become Zionism’s fiercest opponent. On the contrary, Israel’s rulers continue to cynically provoke Hamas terror as a way of pushing their “final solution” against the PLO and all Palestinians. The Zionists have engineered the Palestinian “opposition” they want.