Notify me of new HIR pieces!
Doesn't Israel Fund Hamas?
No. This is an unfounded allegation made by the CIA.
and Investigative Research, Re-issued 8 August 2014 (first published 15 June
2005); by Francisco Gil-White
For those who study the social transmission of information, any statements, ideas, habits, beliefs (etc.) transmitted socially are ‘memes.’ We’re interested to learn by what mechanisms memes mutate, why certain memes become widespread (populate many human heads) while others go extinct, and also why certain memes become ‘sticky’—they stay widespread even in the face of challenges from competing memes. In this way, we hope to get a grip on the laws of History.
For a certain kind of empirical study of memetic evolution, it is very useful to know when and where a meme first appeared. Usually this is impossible. But every now and then a researcher gets lucky.
In the wake of the recent armed hostilities between Hamas and Israel I have been getting emails from people who believe that the Israeli government created Hamas, funds Hamas, and controls Hamas. I have seen the claim on TV and on the radio. I want to be tickled, because I know where this meme originated. But I can’t laugh—this is too serious.
So I got serious. I decided to dust off, revise, update, and comment on some research I did years ago, back in 2005, when a reader sent me the following query:
“Dear Mr. Gil-White,
Please walk me through this article.
Do you concur that it is a foregone conclusion that Israel founded and continues to fund Hamas?
The reader was referring to a United Press International (UPI) wire from 2002 that alleges that Israel funds Hamas. This is the source for the now widespread meme that Israel supposedly created and controls Hamas.
Below I will examine this UPI wire and its ‘sources.’ Then I will have some comments about why this meme is so widespread and apparently so ‘sticky.’
[NOTE: This article replaces the 2005 article.]
Here is what the UPI wire says at the top, by way of summary:
“Israel and Hamas may currently be locked in deadly combat, but, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials, beginning in the late 1970s, Tel Aviv gave direct and indirect financial aid to Hamas over a period of years.”
The above—take good note—does not say that Israel created and to this day controls Hamas, so the current widespread meme is a mutation from this original one. But let’s consider the original claim, as it stands. Did Israel give “direct and indirect financial aid to Hamas over a period of years”?
What is UPI’s evidence?
The UPI wire reports what “several current and former US Intelligence officials” said. I shall now reproduce every phrase in the UPI wire that refers to one of its claimed sources so that we may consider them.
I start by grouping five that fit into the same broad category.
1) “...according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials.”
2) “a former senior CIA official”
3) “One U.S. intelligence source who asked not to be named”
4) “According to U.S. administration officials”
5) “a U.S. government official who asked not to be named”
I realize that unnamed sources have now become commonplace in the Western mainstream media, which breezily expect us to accept claims on their sheer ‘institutional authority’ or ‘prestige.’ And I realize that plenty of well-educated, university-trained Westerners accept this with docility.
But what is the difference, really, between this state of affairs and accepting someone’s alleged mystical inspiration or divine communication? If claims cannot be verified, the media is a Church and we its faithful believers. It’s idolatry, really.
6) “Israel ‘aided Hamas directly...’ said Tony Cordesman, Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic Studies.”
At least here we have a name. Good. The beauty of having a name is that the credibility of the witness can be investigated. But unless it is investigated, we have no Fourth Estate.
Allow me a brief digression on this. The press is sometimes called the ‘Fourth Estate’ because it is considered a key building block of democratic structure, acting as a check on the other three Estates: Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary. But the press cannot be a proper check on government unless it is independent. If the press simply repeats what government says—especially if they repeat what the intelligence services say—we have naught but State propaganda. (And this way lies totalitarianism.)
Cordesman’s employer is the Center for Strategic and International Studies or CSIS (UPI got the name wrong), which describes itself as “an independent not-for-profit organization.” Such outfits often call themselves ‘private’ policy institutes or think tanks, or else ‘non-governmental’ organizations. All of these qualifiers—‘independent,’ ‘private,’ ‘non-governmental’—loudly convey the meaning: not the government. So when UPI quotes Tony Cordesman it appears as a dutiful Fourth Estate, seeking information from sources outside State officialdom.
But is CSIS really ‘independent’ and ‘non-governmental’? Take a look at Cordesman’s CV:
“He frequently acts as a consultant to the U.S. State Department, Defense Department, and intelligence community and has worked with U.S. officials on counterterrorism and security areas in a number of Middle East countries.
Before joining CSIS, Cordesman served as director of intelligence assessment in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and as civilian assistant to the deputy secretary of defense. He directed the analysis of the lessons of the October War for the secretary of defense in 1974, coordinating the U.S. military, intelligence, and civilian analysis of the conflict. He also served in numerous other government positions, including in the State Department and on NATO International Staff.”
Cordesman looks the part of a US Intelligence asset. This goes generally for CSIS itself, chock-full of creatures of the US foreign policy, military, and intelligence establishments.
The president and chief executive officer is John J. Hamre, formerly deputy secretary of defense. And CSIS has a select group of ‘trustees’ and ‘counselors’ including a former secretary of defense (William S. Cohen), a former assistant secretary of state (Richard Fairbanks), a former intelligence-committee senator (Sam Nunn, who also chairs the board of trustees), a former CIA director (James Schlesinger), a general who was assistant for national security affairs in two administrations (Brent Scowcroft), a former secretary of defense (Harold Brown), a former US secretary of labor (William E. Brock), Henry Kissinger, who needs no introduction, and Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security advisor in the Carter Administration.
This, folks, is an independent policy institute, a private think tank, a non-governmental organization...
7) “said former CIA official Vincent Cannestraro”
Again, a source with a name. Good. But UPI misspelled his name: it is Vincent Cannistraro. Another intelligence asset.
8) “According to former State Department counter-terrorism official Larry Johnson”
A third source with a name. This is actually
“Larry C. Johnson, a former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, who moved subsequently in 1989 to the U.S. Department of State, where he served four years as the deputy director for transportation security, antiterrorism assistance training, and special operations in the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism.”
So, as UPI aptly summarizes at the top of its wire, the accusation that Israel funds Hamas is basically one that US Intelligence is making.
I find that interesting, because this accusation, if widely believed, harms Israel, so it appears that US Intelligence is waging psychological (a.k.a. political) warfare against Israel.
Is it wrong for UPI to make this accusation known? Certainly not. But UPI is not doing its job unless it investigates the accusation. Firstly, because a free and independent press cannot simply be a mouthpiece for the government, and secondly, because US Intelligence personnel, in particular, cannot be trusted.
US Intelligence assets routinely use fake identities and tell lies in order to obtain information or to influence political outcomes. And they are famous for ‘covert operations,’ which by definition require lies. As we have documented elsewhere, the National Security Act of 1947 gave US Intelligence explicit authority to corrupt and distort the media and political processes in foreign countries. So they have permission to lie.
Besides gathering information, lying is basically what people in the intelligence business do.
And given this, if US Intelligence sources make a claim, one should not automatically believe it. Especially not when US Intelligence is using Vincent Cannistraro to attack Israel, for HIR has documented that Cannistraro, one of the top people responsible for creating the Contra terrorists in Nicaragua, also has a track record of telling lies that hurt Israel.
this accusation about Hamas is part of a broader US Intelligence policy to
conduct psychological warfare against Israel. The real Fourth Estate (HIR) investigates below.
Let’s get to the bottom of this
But where is the beef? Is there any documentation? And what does the accused party have to say about it?
According to the journalistic rules of fair play, a major wire service such as UPI, whose output is used by major mainstream newspapers, TV, and radio outlets all over the world, after making such a grave accusation as it did, should have gotten a reaction from the Israeli government. But UPI only pretended to do this.
[Quote from the UPI wire begins here]
“An Israeli defense official was asked if Israel had given aid to Hamas [and he] said, ‘I am not able to answer that question. I was in Lebanon commanding a unit at the time, besides it is not my field of interest.’
Asked to confirm a report by U.S. officials that Brig. Gen. Yithaq Segev, the military governor of Gaza, had told U.S. officials he had helped fund ‘Islamic movements as a counterweight to the PLO and communists,’ the official said he could confirm only that he believed Segev had served back in 1986.
The Israeli Embassy press office referred UPI to its Web site when asked to comment.”
[Quote from the UPI wire ends here]
Where is the documentation? UPI offers none. The closest thing is a completely abstract reference (above) to “a report by U.S. officials” that gives us neither the names of the alleged authors nor the name of the alleged report. It doesn’t even tell us which US department or agency supposedly produced the alleged report.
But we are given a name. According to UPI, the alleged report mentioned an Israeli official—“Yithaq Segev”—who supposedly confessed to having funded Hamas. It’s always good to have a name. It gives you something to investigate, if you wish to try and verify.
Is that what UPI did?
Not exactly. UPI approached a (nameless!) “Israeli defense official” who knew nothing relevant and explained that this was “not my field of interest.” It’s almost as if UPI set itself up next to an Israeli defense building and interviewed—at random—the first person to walk out. What is the point of this?
An incorrigible cynic may point out that, by doing things this way, UPI achieves two things:
1) it states the accusation for the reader: that Gen. Yithaq Segev confessed to funding “Islamic movements”; and
2) it makes it seem as if the accusation went unchallenged, and even intimates that this is an official ‘Israeli evasion’ (further strengthened by the Israeli Embassy’s supposed refusal to comment).
If UPI had really wanted to verify the accusation made by US Intelligence, how to go about it? This is obvious: interview “Brig. Gen. Yithaq Segev, the [erstwhile] military governor of Gaza”—or at least people close to him, whether personally or institutionally.
Admittedly, this is hard to do when you can’t even get the guy’s name right: the military governor of Gaza was Yitzhak Segev.
But anyway, did you notice the discrepancy? Segev is supposed to have said that he funded “Islamic movements” (see above). But UPI has been making a lot of noise about Israel funding Hamas terrorists.
But what’s the difference, right?
The phrase ‘Islamic movements’ easily mutates in the reader’s mind to ‘Islamic fundamentalists’ and in turn to ‘Hamas terrorists’ (since this is Gaza). So if Segev confessed to funding ‘Islamic movements’ he basically said Hamas terrorists (didn’t he?). And UPI is saying that he confessed, because the wire puts quotation marks around “Islamic movements as a counterweight to the PLO and communists,” meaning that Segev pronounced these words.
Only one problem: Segev never uttered the phrase ‘Islamic movements.’
How do I know this? Because in truth UPI is not getting its information about Segev from “a report by U.S. officials.” Rather, UPI lifted this from an article published in the Middle East Times, a newspaper owned by the Unification Church, which also owns UPI.
Here is what the Middle East Times wrote:
Notice, above, that the phrase “financed the Islamic movement as a counter-weight to the PLO and communists,” which UPI put in Segev’s mouth (by surrounding it with quotation marks), is not something Segev said, but rather something that the Middle East Times wrote. What the Middle East Times actually quoted Segev as saying was this:
“The Israeli... military government gives [money] to the mosques.”
Now, consider this. If you want people, through a process of mental mutation, to end up with ‘Hamas terrorists’ in their heads, what should you prefer to start them off with: ‘the mosques’ or ‘Islamic movement’? The latter, I submit. So the Middle East Times distorted matters in an interesting direction, and then UPI went one better.
Now I must make yet another correction. According to the Middle East Times Segev told the New York Times that he had been distributing monies in the period “1979-84.” But it is quite impossible that Segev said that, for he spoke to the New York Times in 1981.
Anyway, but now we must get to the bottom of this, and this means reading the NYT article that reported the interview with Segev.
It’s full of surprises.
First of all, Hamas terrorists are nowhere mentioned in the NYT piece. Does that make sense? It does. The piece is from 1981, and Hamas would not come into being until 1987. Naturally, Israel cannot be funding Hamas terrorists that don’t yet exist.
Is it really possible that “current and former U.S. intelligence officials” don’t understand that? Please.
Now to the main point: What was General Yitzhak Segev doing?
The year was 1981—the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty had just been signed in 1979. So the NYT went over to Gaza and interviewed Segev at length. The military governor of Gaza described the difficult situation that he was charged with improving:
“ ‘For the last thousand years, all life here [in Gaza] existed without democracy,’ General Segev tried to explain. ‘There are no elections. The people are afraid of each other like animals. There is a stream supporting the P.L.O. Many P.L.O. leaders are from here. The father of Abu Jihad (a leading P.L.O. official) lives here. There is a stream supporting Jordan. The other stream supports Egypt and supports the peace treaty.’ ”
What was this “stream [that] supports Egypt and supports the peace treaty”? As it turns out, it was led by some important Muslim religious figures, as the New York Times explained:
“The most significant political killing after the signing of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty in March 1979 came three months later, on June 1, when Sheik Hashim Huzandar, known as the Imam of Gaza, was killed near his home after leading a delegation to Cairo to endorse President el-Sadat’s program of peace. He had been warned. The P.L.O. took responsibility for the murder.”
What is an Imam?
“An Imam is an Islamic leadership position. It is most commonly in the context of a worship leader of a mosque and Muslim community by Sunni Muslims.”
So in 1981, long before the invention of Hamas, we have that a Muslim religious figure—of such importance that he was identified with the entire territory (the Imam of Gaza)—was at the forefront of the pro-peace movement. For this, he was murdered by the PLO.
That’s an important context, because Segev is supposed to have said that he was funding mosques. That is not looking so bad now, is it? So what about that?
The NYT reported that, according to Segev, certain drug smugglers in Gaza were cooperating with Israeli Intelligence, and for that, and because drugs are strictly forbidden in Islam, they had probably been killed by “fanatic religious extremists.” Following this, the New York Times wrote:
“But the Islamic fundamentalists are also receiving some Israeli aid, General Segev said. ‘The Israeli Government gave me a budget and the military government gives to the mosques,’ explained the general, who was a military attaché at the Israeli Embassy in Teheran before the Islamic revolution there. The funds are used for both mosques and religious schools, with the purpose of strengthening a force that runs counter to the pro-P.L.O. leftists.”
Did you notice? Here we go again...
Segev did not say “Islamic fundamentalists are also receiving some Israeli aid.” That’s the New York Times putting words in Segev’s mouth.
What did the NYT actually quote Segev as saying? This:
“The Israeli... military government gives to the mosques.”
Is this the same thing as giving aid to “Islamic fundamentalists” or “fanatic religious extremists”? Obviously not. Especially not when the leading figure in those mosques, the Imam of Gaza, had just led a delegation to Cairo to support the peace treaty, for which he then gets murdered by the PLO.
In this context, giving support to the mosques is quite obviously a strategy for peace. Indeed, funding these mosques made sense for Menachem Begin’s Israeli government as a move for “strengthening a force that runs counter to the... P.L.O.”—for the PLO obviously wanted war.
Yitzhak Segev stated to the New York Times cannot be interpreted to mean that Israel had a
policy of fomenting Islamist extremism, much less Hamas terrorism.
The prejudice against the Jewish state is so strong that UPI’s entirely unsourced allegation was quite sufficient to set off a social transmission rampage that, with a few mutations, convinced large numbers of people that Israel created and controls Hamas.
People do not acquire ideas in a vacuum—they surround them with explanations. So once you acquire—on the basis of the presumed ‘authority’ of the mainstream media and its US Intelligence sources—the meme that Hamas is a creature of the Israeli government, you need to tell yourself why. Why would the Israeli government do this?
To an innocent mind this might seem like a difficult question to answer, but a mind already poisoned by antisemitism will have nary a problem and will quickly think: “Of course, the Israeli government created Hamas to give itself an excuse to attack Gaza” (of course, because all that a Jew ever wants is to find ways to murder innocent Arab children—right?). This is indeed how Israel’s supposed creation and funding of Hamas is discussed on the internet.
And so the effect is to make ‘the Jews’ guilty of whatever horrors Hamas visits on the Israeli and Gaza populations. No matter what happens, ‘the Jews’ are guilty.
But this is not merely antisemitism. Implicit here is also a deep-seated anti-Arab racism that accords the Arabs no agency whatsoever—and no wits to boot. Those who believe this tale obviously can’t believe that the Arabs could set up Hamas and commit the horrors Hamas commits on their own—they need the Jews to do it for them. And according to this worldview, neither are the Arabs smart enough to realize that they are being manipulated by their enemies. Nor can they be supposed to have access to the internet, because otherwise they would have noticed all of the Westerners who claim that Israel controls Hamas.
Can you hear the leaders of Hamas laughing?
The Western racist contempt for Arabs condemns them to be victims of Hamas. Because the suffering of ordinary Arabs is not important to Western ‘bleeding hearts’—not in itself. It matters only as a tool to attack the people whom Western so-called ‘progressives’ really care (negatively) about: the Jews. This is why you scarcely see Westerners protesting the suffering of Arabs when Jews cannot easily be blamed.
And that is why this meme that Israel created Hamas is so tremendously successful, despite its absurdity: because it fits so well with the hoary outlook of a civilization—the West—built on the origin myth where God is murdered by ‘the Jews.’ This old tradition, and the fear and loathing of Jews that it necessarily teaches and turns into a diffuse and diaphanous culture, is the memetic ‘attractor,’ the honey swabbed on the flytrap to which all antisemitic memes will stick—and stay stuck.
Footnotes and Further Reading
 “Did the National Security
Act of 1947 destroy freedom of the press? The red pill...”; Historical and
Investigative Research - 3 Jan 2006; by Francisco Gil-White
 “The mainstream Western media loves Raymond
McGovern and Vincent Cannistraro, former CIA agents
and anti-Israeli propagandists”; from THE MODERN ‘PROTOCOLS OF ZION’: How the
mass media now promotes the same lies that caused the death of more than 5
million Jews in WWII; Historical and
Investigative Research; 25 August 2005; by Francisco Gil-White
 News World Communications | From Wikipedia,
the free encyclopedia
Press International | From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 Middle East Times, 9 November, 2001; “Policy Blunders That Spawn Terror” by Dilip Hiro, London
NOTE 1: Both UPI and the Middle East Times are now owned by the Unification Church, and attempts to access the old Middle East Times website (www.metimes.com) now redirect the browser to UPI’s web page.
NOTE 2: However, the piece in its entirely was
republished by Dawn, “Pakistan's
oldest and most widely read English-language newspaper” (Wikipedia) and can
be read at their website:
NOTE 3: The author of the piece, Dilip Hiro, has a history of attacking Israel with nonsense.
NOTE 4: Just in case the article disappears from the Dawn website as well, we reproduce it below:
[Article begins here]
“LONDON: While waging its war against the Taliban, the United States is actively promoting the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance as the major - if not sole - alternative. But the record of the eight-year-old Alliance is an unpalatable one.
Washington has blundered often in its Afghanistan policy since 1979. Its decision in 1980 to back Islamic fundamentalist Afghans, ignoring the secular, nationalist groups opposing the Soviet-backed leftist regime in Kabul, produced the Afghan Mujahideen - and its progeny, Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.
Though the title Northern Alliance today applies principally to the ethnic Tajik-dominated political formation in a small north-eastern enclave of Afghanistan, it was originally coined by Gen Abdul Rashid Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek and leader of the National Islamic Movement.
After consolidating his control of six north-western provinces of Afghanistan (out of 31), he began calling himself ’President of the Northern Alliance’ in 1993. Dostum, 47, is a chameleon-like character. He started out as a Communist union chief at a gas field constructed by Soviet technicians. Following the Soviet military involvement in Afghanistan from December 1979, he was told to establish an ethnic Uzbek militia. By the mid-1980s, it was 20,000 strong.
After the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, he actively helped leftist leader Mohammad Najibullah retain power. But in March 1992 he switched sides and went over to the seven-party Afghan Mujahideen Alliance. Najibullah fell the next month.
Dostum served briefly in the Mujahideen government headed by Burhanuddin Rabbani, an ethnic Tajik. Soon he broke away to become President of the Northern Alliance, with his capital in Mazar-e Sharif. He enriched himself and set up an airline, Balkh Air, which did not last. In August 1998, the Taliban defeated him, and he took refuge in Turkey.
In March 2001 he returned to Afghanistan and nominally joined the Northern Alliance, which by then had become almost totally Tajik. Given the record of flip-flops, his statement that if the Taliban were overthrown, he would accept President Rabbani’s orders must be treated with great scepticism.
When Soviet troops went into Afghanistan in late 1979, there were several secular and nationalist Afghan groups opposed to the Moscow-backed Commu-nists, who had seized power in a military coup 20 months earlier. Washington had the option of bolstering them and encouraging them to ally with the three hardline Muslim factions, two of them monarchist.
Instead, it beefed up the three radical Muslim groups there. Moderate Islamic leaders saw no option but to ally with hardliners, which led to the formation of the radical-dominated Islamic Alliance of Afghan Mujahideen in 1983.
The main architect of this US policy was Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter. A virulent anti-Communist of Polish origin, he saw his chance in Moscow’s Afghan intervention to rival his predecessor Henry Kissinger as a heavyweight strategic thinker.
It was not enough to push Soviet tanks out of Afghanistan, he reasoned. It was also an opportunity to export a composite ideology of nationalism and Islam to the Soviet Union’s Muslim-majority Central Asian republics in order to destroy the entire Soviet order.
With this in mind, a US-Saudi-Pakistani alliance set about financing, training and arming Afghan and non-Afghan Mujahideen, an enterprise that lasted almost a decade. But though the Soviets left and the American involvement ended, the programme of training and financing assorted Mujahideen to fight holy wars in different parts of the world continued.
It culminated on Sept 11 when three flying bombs destroyed the World Trade Centre in New York and damaged the Pentagon in Washington DC. Washington is not alone in foisting such short-sighted policies. Israel made a similar mistake in regard to the Palestine Liberation Organisation - a secular nationalist body.
With the PLO emerging as the dominant force in the occupied Palestinian territories in the mid-1970s, Israel decided to encourage the growth of an organization known as the Islamic Centre, based in the Gaza Strip. Brigadier-General Yitzhak Segev, then military governor of Gaza, told the New York Times how, during 1979-84, he financed the Islamic movement as a counter-weight to the PLO and Communists: “The Israeli government gave me a budget, and the military government gives (money) to the mosques.”
The mosques to which Segev channelled government cash were the ones run by the Islamic Centre. In 1980, when Muslim radicals burnt down the Red Crescent Society building in Gaza city, a body funded indirectly by the PLO, the Israeli army looked the other way. The Israeli army and intelligence complicity was later confirmed by Moshe Arens, Israel’s defence minister in 1983-84.
“There was no doubt that during a certain period the Israeli governments perceived it [Muslim radicalism] as a healthy phenomenon that could counter the PLO,” he wrote in his memoirs.
[HIR NOTE: Once again, the same trick. Moshe Arens did not say “Muslim radicalism.” These are words put into his mouth by the newspaper (hence the brackets).]
When the first Palestinian intifada erupted in December 1987, the leaders of the Islamic Centre established Hamas, the acronym of Harkat Al Muqawama Al Islami, Movement of Islamic Resistance. Hamas in turn set up a military wing, naming it after Izz al Din Qassam, a leader of the Arab intifada of 1936-39 against the British mandate in Palestine. Hamas has since proved to be unrelenting opponents of the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian Territories - more so than the PLO.
Now things have come full circle. The rather unreliable Gen Dostum is being encouraged by the US to recapture Mazar-e Sharif. And the ‘war against terrorism’ is spawning a revival of activity in Egypt by al Gamaat as well as the more extreme Al Jihad Al Islami, which is allied to Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda.
[Article ends here]
New York Times, March 28, 1981, Saturday, Late City Final Edition, Section 1;
Page 2, Column 3; Foreign Desk, 1355 words, UNDER GAZA'S CALM SURFACE: DEATH,
DRUGS, INTRIGUE, By DAVID K. SHIPLER, Special to the New York Times, GAZA
 “Based on the principles of Islamism gaining momentum throughout the Arab world in the 1980s, Hamas was founded in 1987 (during the First Intifada) as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.”
SOURCE: Hamas |
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
UPI Accuses Israel of Funding Hamas
United Press International, June 18, 2002, Tuesday, GENERAL NEWS, 1181 words, Analysis: Hamas History Tied to Israel; By RICHARD SALE, UPI Terrorism Correspondent.
UPI - In the wake of a suicide bomb attack Tuesday on a crowded Jerusalem city bus that killed 19 people and wounded at least 70 more, the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, took credit for the blast.
Israeli officials called it the deadliest attack in Jerusalem in six years.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon immediately vowed to fight "Palestinian terror" and summoned his cabinet to decide on a military response to the organization that Sharon had once described as "the deadliest terrorist group that we have ever had to face."
Active in Gaza and the West Bank, Hamas wants to liberate all of Palestine and establish a radical Islamic state in place of Israel. It is has gained notoriety with its assassinations, car bombs and other acts of terrorism.
But Sharon left something out.
Israel and Hamas may currently be locked in deadly combat, but, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials, beginning in the late 1970s, Tel Aviv gave direct and indirect financial aid to Hamas over a period of years.
Israel "aided Hamas directly -- the Israelis wanted to use it as a counterbalance to the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization)," said Tony Cordesman, Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic Studies.
Israel's support for Hamas "was a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious alternative," said a former senior CIA official.
According to documents United Press International obtained from the Israel-based Institute for Counter Terrorism, Hamas evolved from cells of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928. Islamic movements in Israel and Palestine were "weak and dormant" until after the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel scored a stunning victory over its Arab enemies.
After 1967, a great part of the success of the Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood was due to their activities among the refugees of the Gaza Strip. The cornerstone of the Islamic movements success was an impressive social, religious, educational and cultural infrastructure, called Da'wah, that worked to ease the hardship of large numbers of Palestinian refugees, confined to camps, and many who were living on the edge.
"Social influence grew into political influence," first in the Gaza Strip, then on the West Bank, said an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
According to ICT papers, Hamas was legally registered in Israel in 1978 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the movement's spiritual leader, as an Islamic Association by the name Al-Mujamma al Islami, which widened its base of supporters and sympathizers by religious propaganda and social work.
According to U.S. administration officials, funds for the movement came from the oil-producing states and directly and indirectly from Israel. The PLO was secular and leftist and promoted Palestinian nationalism. Hamas wanted to set up a transnational state under the rule of Islam, much like Khomeini's Iran.
What took Israeli leaders by surprise was the way the Islamic movements began to surge after the Iranian revolution, after armed resistance to Israel sprang up in southern Lebanon vis-à-vis the Hezbollah, backed by Iran, these sources said.
"Nothing provides the energy for imitation as much as success," commented one administration expert.
A further factor of Hamas' growth was the fact the PLO moved its base of operations to Beirut in the '80s, leaving the Islamic organization to grow in influence in the Occupied Territories "as the court of last resort," he said.
When the intifada began, Israeli leadership was surprised when Islamic groups began to surge in membership and strength. Hamas immediately grew in numbers and violence. The group had always embraced the doctrine of armed struggle, but the doctrine had not been practiced and Islamic groups had not been subjected to suppression the way groups like Fatah had been, according to U.S. government officials.
But with the triumph of the Khomeini revolution in Iran, with the birth of Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorism in Lebanon, Hamas began to gain in strength in Gaza and then in the West Bank, relying on terror to resist the Israeli occupation.
Israel was certainly funding the group at that time. One U.S. intelligence source who asked not to be named said that not only was Hamas being funded as a "counterweight" to the PLO, Israeli aid had another purpose: "To help identify and channel towards Israeli agents Hamas members who were dangerous terrorists."
In addition, by infiltrating Hamas, Israeli informers could only listen to debates on policy and identify Hamas members who "were dangerous hard-liners," the official said.
In the end, as Hamas set up a very comprehensive counterintelligence system, many collaborators with Israel were weeded out and shot. Violent acts of terrorism became the central tenet, and Hamas, unlike the PLO, was unwilling to compromise in any way with Israel, refusing to acquiesce in its very existence.
But even then, some in Israel saw some benefits to be had in trying to continue to give Hamas support: "The thinking on the part of some of the right-wing Israeli establishment was that Hamas and the others, if they gained control, would refuse to have any part of the peace process and would torpedo any agreements put in place," said a U.S. government official who asked not to be named.
"Israel would still be the only democracy in the region for the United States to deal with," he said.
All of which disgusts some former U.S. intelligence officials.
"The thing wrong with so many Israeli operations is that they try to be too sexy," said former CIA official Vincent Cannestraro.
According to former State Department counter-terrorism official Larry Johnson, "the Israelis are their own worst enemies when it comes to fighting terrorism."
"The Israelis are like a guy who sets fire to his hair and then tries to put it out by hitting it with a hammer."
"They do more to incite and sustain terrorism than curb it," he said.
Aid to Hamas may have looked clever, "but it was hardly designed to help smooth the waters," he said. "An operation like that gives weight to President George Bush's remark about there being a crisis in education."
Cordesman said that a similar attempt by Egyptian intelligence to fund Egypt's fundamentalists had also come to grief because of "misreading of the complexities."
An Israeli defense official was asked if Israel had given aid to Hamas said, "I am not able to answer that question. I was in Lebanon commanding a unit at the time, besides it is not my field of interest."
Asked to confirm a report by U.S. officials that Brig. Gen. Yithaq Segev, the military governor of Gaza, had told U.S. officials he had helped fund "Islamic movements as a counterweight to the PLO and communists," the official said he could confirm only that he believed Segev had served back in 1986.
The Israeli Embassy press office referred UPI to its Web site when asked to comment.