Did Israel Found Hamas?

Anti-Israel detractors routinely blame Israel for the creation of Hamas, while also supporting Hamas. The reality is that Hamas was formed as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestine Branch in 1987. The Muslim Brotherhood is a fundamentalist Islamic terrorist group influenced by Nazi ideology. 


After Israel’s victory against five invading Arab armies in 1948, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood fractured because Egypt maintained control of Gaza, and many of their members who had been in Jerusalem ended up under Jordanian occupation. Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War ironically united these two branches. 


To undermine Arafat’s Fatah (which had been growing concerned about the Brotherhood’s growing influence, leading to violent skirmishes) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Israel decided to allow the Brotherhood to gain strength. This was a mistake. As Jonathan Schanzer wrote in his 2008 book, Hamas vs. Fatah: The Struggle For Palestine, “the Israelis made the ill-fated decision to permit the Brotherhood to operate with relatively little oversight.”


In 1973, the Israeli government allowed a Muslim cleric named Ahmed Yassin to operate an Islamic center, which became the center for the Brotherhood’s operations. Yassin used the center to expand through networks of civil services like healthcare and daycare. They filled a void left by the PLO which was carrying out terror attacks abroad from their HQ in Lebanon and later in Tunis. 


Many more zealous members of the Brotherhood broke away, inspired by the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, and formed Palestinian Islamic Jihad. They called for a confrontation with Israel and proceeded to carry out several attacks, forcing Israel to arrest and imprison its operatives. PIJ’s actions and the start of the First Intifada in December 1987 led Brotherhood members to call for more active resistance.


Yassin’s followers in Gaza created an umbrella organization called Harakat al-Mueqawamma al-Islamiyya, the acronym for which is Hamas, which means zeal in Arabic. It was composed of young men and began distributing materials about the group’s ideology. This is how Hamas came to be, but there is a lot more to learn — read more from CAMERA Senior Political Analyst Sean Durns.