January 2002

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REZEQ FARAJ was born in Palestine before the Nakba.He teaches languages and sociology in Montreal,Canada.He is co-founder and current co-president of Palestine and Jewish Unity (PAJU) in Montreal.This article was first printed in Covert Action Quarterly.No.71,Winter 2001.




 On August 9,2001, a young man loaded with explosives blew himself up at a pizza restaurant on King George St., downtown West Jerusalem, killing l5, some of them children and injuring more than 100. HAMAS claimed responsibility. One week prior to this 8 Palestinians were killed, including two children, thanks to the Israeli policy of assassinating "Palestinian leaders."

On August 10, Israel rocketed Palestinian Authority (PA) police headquarters in Ramallah and occupied the PA Administrative Offices, Orient House, and other Palestinian institutions including the Govenor's House in Abu-Dis. Demonstrations by Palestinian and Israeli Human Rights groups on several occasions from August 11 to August 14 were brutally dispersed. Meantime as Ariel Sharon re-affirmed Israel policy on August 12, on the same day Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, head of Hamas declared that "suicide bombing will stop when the occupation is over."

In the course of the current Al-Aqsa Intifada provoked by Ariel Sharon, more than 800 Palestinians have been killed and over 23,000 injured. The Israeli death toll is around 150.The spiral of violence shows no sign of let-up. More people, many of them children, will die before the spiral is ended. Most of the dead and injured will be Palestinian.



HAMAS claims credit for most suicide bombings in Israel. Its tactics inflict most of the casualties. It is the only Palestinian group which was "officially registered" in Israel and was even tacitly aided by Israel in its early stages. HAMAS was registered in 1978 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, as an Islamic Association by the name Al-Mujamma Al Islami.

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Magnus Johansson/Photo

The group widened its base of supporters and sympathisers by religious propaganda and social work.Funds for the movement came from the oil-exporting States and both directly and indirectly from Israel, according to U.S. Intelligence officials. HAMAS wanted to set up a trans-national State under the rule of Islam, much like Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran,(i).


The PALESTINE LIBERATION ORGANISATION(PLO), secular and leftist, promoted Palistinian nationalism. Palestinian nationalism has always been a secular nationalism. The same goes for the PLO. The reason is simple. More than a third of the Palestinian population is Christian, and thus national unity is a matter of survival. So far HAMAS has not been able to change this aspect of Palestinian life, although it is working hard to do so. HAMAS is an off-shoot of The Muslim Brotherhood, an organisation dating back to the 19th Century."This organisation was less concerned with the liberation of Palestine than with the establishment of an Islamic State...possibly as part of Jordan, where its activities were tolerated by the authorities."(ii)

In 1978 Rafat Abu Shaban, the commissioner of the Muslim Waqf (charities) in the Gaza Strip, warned the Israelis against registering and thus officially recognizing the Islamic Congress.(iii)Shaban feared that the fundamentalists would infiltrate the Waqf and gain control of its assets. The Israelis preferred to focus on the Brotherhood's abstention from violence, its charitable and educational activities. They were willing to overlook the Brotherhood's doctrine calling for the destruction of the State of Israel, and they were also pleased with the rhetoric of the HAMAS registrant, Yassin, against Arafat and the PLO leadership. The Israelis were happy to nourish this rivalry and let HAMAS flourish; an example of the "divide and rule" politics, inherited from British colonial policies.

Within a decade Yassin built up the Islamic Congress from a charitable organisation to a religious establishment that practically ruled the Gaza Strip under Israeli eyes. Money came from Saudi Arabia, Iran, and many other sources without any intervention from Israel; whereas any money coming to the PLO was blocked or seized.



During the first Intifada in l988, a unified command was created. During this time Yassim created the armed Islamic Resistance Movement, now known by the acronym HAMAS. In a short time this new organisation became one of the most difficult for Israel to control. Analysts Schiff and Ya'ari write: In large part this scourge was self-inflicted, for the Civil Administration has contributed considerably to the development of the Muslim groups that came to the fore soon after the start of the intifada. Just as President Sadat had encouraged the growth of the Islamic Associations to offset the leftist elements in Egypt, many Israeli staff officers believed that the rise of fundamentalism in Gaza could be exploited to weaken the power of the PLO. Sadat's fate was to die at the hands of the same pious zealots he had allowed to flourish. The upshot in Gaza was similar: the Muslim movement turned on the very people who had believed themselves so clever in fostering it.(iv)


To have believed that such groups would stay apolitical and harmless was a gross mistake. They forgot that their own State was founded on the Jewish religion. One has only to read Theodor Herzel, a founding father of Israel, to understand that. If a State's laws and rules are based exclusively on a religious ideology, then such a State is an apartheid state by definition.

The leaders of the March 1996 anti-terrorist summit in Egypt should have studied beforehand how Islamic movements develop, how they become dangerous to the established order. They become deadly threats to peace and to secular regimes - but one should remember that Israel is not a secular regime. Here are a few examples:(1) The Brotherhood's branch in Sudan, dating from 1946, was renamed the Islamic National Front in l985. Its leader is the strongman behind today's Sudanese military regime, Sheikh Hassan Turabi.(2)It was also in Sudan that Egypt's Islamic preacher, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, obtained a U.S. visa to fly to New York and assist U.S. agencies in recruiting Islamic guerrillas to help expel the Soviets from Afghanistan.

Only Syria has escaped this. In 1982 Assad put down an Islamic revolt in the city of Hama. Those who fled into neighbouring countries are still giving the Syrian Government lots of trouble.

One of the main leaders and organisers of HAMAS was Abdallah Azzam. He supervised training for the C.I.A.'s Afghan guerrillas in Peshawar, Pakistan, where a car bomb killed him in 1989. Mr. Azzam moved freely between Israel-Gaza, the West Bank and Afghanistan. The Palestinian Intifada had already begun in l987. Two rival Islamic groups, Islam Jihad, and a larger one called the Mujama, were operating actively. Israeli Security had at first turned a blind eye to HAMAS, because it opposed the secular PLO. But even after the HAMAS campaign of violence began money from Saudi Arabia continued its funding and despite the death of Israeli civilians. In 1990 the Saudis cut funding to the PLO but continued to fund HAMAS.(v) This fact was known to Israel and to the U.S.A.

Within a few months of the second Intifada (28,September 2000), HAMAS began playing a leading role in Gaza. Israel had allowed religious fundamentalists to move into positions of power. Once they had this leverage they began to grow as a political force.


Israel has begun to reconsider its policy towards HAMAS. Israel Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, speaking of the Islamic Resistance Movement, HAMAS, recently described it as "the deadliest terrorist group that we have ever had to face."(vi)This realization has come too little and too late. Throughout the last ten years, just as Ariel Sharon for the Israelis, HAMAS has become the immoveable Palestinian opposition to the "Peace Process". Though Arafat put many HAMAS militants in jail, and the Israelis did the same, this didn't change anything. In fact, during the Oslo Accord years, acts against Israel by HAMAS would make the PLO's efforts to find peace more difficult. The days when the Israeli authorities saw the Muslim Brotherhood as a useful counterbalance to the secular PLO started to fade away. Once the secret friend, to whom Israel contributed personal and political favours, Yassin and his organisation became the most deadly enemy of Israel. After the killing of four Israelis by HAMAS in 1992, Israel took severe measures. The Gaza strip was sealed off, depriving one million residents access to jobs in Israel, their main source of livelihood at the time.

From then on HAMAS grew slowly and steadily. Every time there was a supposed break for the "Peace Process" HAMAS stalled it with an "action d'eclat" such as suicide bombings, which inevitably led to more Israeli oppression. After the disaster of Camp David, Israel elected Ariel Sharon as Prime Minister. From the beginning he was against the "Peace Process" and did everything in his power to make it fail. Repression breeds resistance. Since the failure of Camp David, since the election of Ariel Sharon, we hear daily accounts of violence in the Middle East. We hear about a ceasefire, about the breaking of it; about Israeli restraint and Palestinian violence. The North American media continually blames Palestine for violence and state that the Palestinians must stop the violence. At the same time the Israel Government adopts an official policy of assassinating Palestinian militants and demolishing Palestinian houses. Such acts are not "violence", they are good for Israeli security, if they are even mentioned. The simple truth is this: Palestinians are living under Israeli occupation, a military occupation of the worst kind and they have been living under that occupation for fifty four years.


Can HAMAS' actions be justified? My answer is : No. Terror cannot be fought by terror. On the other hand one can also say - "as ye sow, so shall ye reap" The violence and terror are integral parts of the occupation. Israel, in its zeal to control, to expand and to fight a secular movement like the PLO is helping to create its own demise. In 1986 the leadership of the PLO was crawling on its knees and did everything in its power to please the American administration. They let go of the armed struggle; they let go of the historic rights of Palestine; they accepted the U.N. Resolution 242. The Palestine Authority(P.A.) even changed its charter to please Israeli and American demands. How could they be so short-sighted? Did they think the U.S. would change its policies toward Israel/Palestine? Did they really think the U.S. could be an honest broker?

For all these concessions, what did the PLO then and the PA now, get in return? They got the infamous Gaza and Jericho deal, and gave more concessions on their part. They got the infamous Oslo Accords. If we look at those Accords carefully. which were dictated and not really negotiated, we find out that Israeli settlements and settlers almost doubled in number. More land confiscated, more houses demolished; division of the Occupied Territories into sections A,B and C. In Palestine we see complete control of the land and water by the Israelis and total oppression of the Palestinian people.

From the Accords they got checkpoints, restriction of freedom and movement; isolation of towns, villages; deterioration of institutions and infrastructure, dismantling and disintegration of social structures; deterioration of education and complete economic collapse. Trenches were dug around their cities and their villages; pregnant women must give birth in taxis or loose their lives at checkpoints. Work or jobs are no longer available because of blockades and the physical and economic strangulation of the people. Diseases are rampant and famine has started to weave its way in. War crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed against the civilian population on a daily basis. Their water has been taken and their future water rights are being systematically stolen. The settlers have swimming pools but the Palestinian people do not have enough to drink.

During all this time of the so-called "negotiations" Israel got all it wanted, is getting more now and wants still more yet. The Palestine Authority has given away all there is to give. While this entire process was going on, the Israeli practice of lying and playing the victim has continued to work marvellously to their advantage in the West.

These conditions on the ground have helped strengthen HAMAS and weaken the PA. This is the course Israel has followed for 34 years. Now HAMAS is making Israelis more insecure, afraid to go to the market, or take the bus, scared to eat in a restaurant, scared to death of a possible suicide bomber. To the poor, the Palestinian masses, HAMAS has given hope and the notion of "paradise after death", which in both cases is more than the PA can ever give. The Israelis must ask themselves: Is the Occupation worth all this?

Once again I say: As ye sow, so shall ye reap.

(i):Richard Sale,UPI,Feb.24,2001. (ii)David McDowell,Palestine and Israel; The Uprising and Beyond:Univ.California Press 1989. (iii)Schiff & Ya'ari, Intifada,the Palestinian Uprising.New York, Simon & Schuster,1990. (iv)Ibid. (v)Ibid. (vi)Sale,op.cit.

Rezeq FarajŠ



28th September,2000.Sharon enters Temple Mount,Jerusalem. Large police escort and some Likud leaders.IDF/police fire on protesters,kill 4,injure many.

29thSept.2000 Israel police storm worshippers at Al-Aqsa,kill 7,wound 220

4thOctober,2000. In one week 71 Palestinians killed,2,657 wounded.Human Rights observe "a true carnage."

6thOct.2000. 100,000 demonstrate Gaza and WestBank. IDF and snipers fire on protestors

11thOct,2000. IDF seal-off all towns and villages and bar Palestinians from Jerusalem. 45,000 Work Permits cancelled

10thDecember,2000. 311 Palestinians now dead including 50 children. 14 Israelis dead.

15thDec.2000. IDF seal-off roads linking more than 100 Palestinian villages.

19th Dec.2000. Israel and Washington ask Arafat to renounce the Right of Return. This is rejected.

14thMay,2001. 447 Palestinians now dead

30thJuly,2001. 539 Palestinians now dead

15thAugust,2001. IDF with 70 Tanks seal-off and occupy Palestinian government buildings.

13th September,2001. Arafat and Palestinians donate blood for World Trade Center victims in USA

At present Date: more than 800 Palestinians dead,87% civilians, 25% children. Assassinations:60 killed,"targeted" by IDF. Approx.2,000Palestinian political prisoners.