Published: October 2023
Insider insights into the creation of Hamas – and other designated terrorist groups.
“Anyone who wants to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state has to support bolstering Hamas and transferring money to Hamas.” – Benjamin Netanyahu (2019)
“In the visible dimension Hamas is an enemy, in the hidden dimension it is an ally.”
– IDF Major General Gershon Hacohen (2019)
“Israel started Hamas. It was a project of Shin Bet.”
– Charles Freeman, US diplomat and ambassador (2006)
Why Israel helped create Hamas
Since the founding of Hamas in 1987, Israeli, American and Palestinian officials have repeatedly acknowledged that Israel did indeed help create and fund the Islamist group.
The point made by many of these officials is not that Israel “allowed” the rise of Hamas or that Hamas emerged in response to Israeli “occupation” of Palestine. Rather, their point was and is that Israel’s intelligence agencies actively helped create and finance the Hamas group.
As the officials cited below make clear, the overall goal of supporting Hamas has been to thwart the creation of a Palestinian state and avert the implementation of a two-state solution to the Palestine question. From Israel’s perspective, a two-state solution would reduce Israel’s territory to the internationally recognized pre-1967 borders, prohibit any future territorial expansion, and prevent the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city.
More specifically, supporting the Islamist Hamas group has served several Israeli objectives at once: first, it undermined Yasser Arafat’s secular nationalist PLO; second, it helped prevent the implementation of the 1993 Oslo Accords; third, it undermined the Palestinian National Authority and isolated Gaza from the Westbank; fourth, it impeded Western support for the Palestinian cause; and fifth, it justified Israeli (counter-)attacks on Palestinian territory.
In other words, by secretly supporting a group that does not recognize the existence of the state of Israel and does not accept a two-state solution, Israel does not have to accept the existence of a Palestinian state and does not have to support a two-state solution, either.
It is sometimes argued that while Israel initially supported the creation of Hamas, the Islamist group got out of control and Israeli officials came to regret their support (the “blowback theory”).
While this is certainly true for some Israeli officials and for the Israeli population affected by Hamas rockets and terrorist attacks, it is not true for Israeli grand strategists, as the quotes below make clear: for them, Hamas has continued to serve its intended purpose even after the Oslo Accords in 1993 and after Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
For the grand strategists, the presence of Hamas in the remaining Palestinian territories might provide, one day, the necessary pretext for a “final solution” to the Palestinian question.
“A creature of Israel”
The following sections provide a chronological overview of insider statements on the creation of Hamas made since 1981 by Israeli, American and Palestinian officials.
These officials include a former Israeli military governor of the Gaza Strip, an Israeli military intelligence chief, two Israeli intelligence whistleblowers, a retired IDF Major General, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians, as well as former American government and intelligence officials, late PLO leader Yasser Arafat, and an early Hamas leader.
Yitzhak Segev, Gaza military governor (1981/1986)
Already in 1986, one year before the official founding of Hamas, New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief, David K. Shipler, revealed how Israel supported the Islamic movement in the Gaza Strip that would give rise to the Hamas group. Referring to Israel’s military governor of the Gaza Strip, Brigadier General Yitzhak Segev, Shipler noted in his book, “Arab and Jew”:
Politically speaking, Islamic fundamentalists were sometimes regarded as useful to Israel because they had their conflicts with the secular supporters of the PLO. Violence between the groups erupted occasionally on West Bank university campuses, and the Israeli military governor of the Gaza Strip, Brigadier General Yitzhak Segev, once told me how he had financed the Islamic movement as a counterweight to the PLO and the Communists. “The Israeli Government gave me a budget and the military government gives to the mosques,” he said.
Nicholas Kristof is right when he mentions that Israel once allowed the rise of Hamas as a counterweight to the Palestine Liberation Organization. But Israel did much more than “allow.”
In 1981, Brig. Gen. Yitzhak Segev, Israel’s military governor of Gaza, told me that he was giving money to the Muslim Brotherhood, the precursor of Hamas, on the instruction of the Israeli authorities. The funding was intended to tilt power away from both Communist and Palestinian nationalist movements in Gaza, which Israel considered more threatening than the fundamentalists.
Judging by a distressed phone call I got later from the army spokesman, General Segev’s superiors were not happy with his disclosure of a practice that did not look very clever, even at the time. They thought incorrectly — but apparently wished — that he had made his comments off the record.”
Israeli intelligence whistleblowers (1992/1994)
In 1992, Israeli military intelligence whistleblower, Ari Ben-Menashe, revealed how Israeli intelligence agencies were using “Palestinian terrorists” to sabotage the Palestinian cause:
“The slush fund helped finance the intelligence community’s “black” operations around the world. These included funding Israeli-controlled “Palestinian terrorists” who would commit crimes in the name of the Palestinian revolution, but were actually pulling them off, usually unwittingly, as part of the Israeli propaganda machine.”
In his 1994 book, The Other Side of Deception, former Mossad case officer and whistleblower Victor Ostrovsky revealed how the Mossad secretly supported Hamas:
Supporting the radical elements of Muslim fundamentalism sat well with the Mossad’s general plan for the region. An Arab world run by fundamentalists would not be a party to any negotiations with the West, thus leaving Israel again as the only democratic, rational country in the region. And if the Mossad could arrange for the Hamas (Palestinian fundamentalists) to take over the Palestinian streets from the PLO, then the picture would be complete.
Guela Amir, mother of alleged Rabin assassin Yigal Amir (1997)
In March 1997, John F. Kennedy Jr. published an article by Guela Amir, mother of Yigal Amir, the alleged assassin of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. Guela Amir recalled the Hamas terrorist attacks in the wake of the 1993 Oslo Accords signed by Rabin and provided some evidence that her son was part of an Israeli intelligence plot to remove Rabin and prevent the recognition of a Palestinian state. John F. Kennedy Jr. died two years later in a mysterious plane crash.
“In September 1993, the Rabin government signed the Oslo accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The accords, and the series of terror bombings [by Hamas] that followed their implementation, brought thousands of previously apolitical Israelis into the streets and onto the barricades in embittered protest. These neophyte activists poured into the pre-existing right-wing groups and placed themselves at the disposal of experienced organizers such as [Shin Bet informant] Avishai Raviv. One of these new activists was my son Yigal.”
Source: A Mother’s Defense (George Magazine, 1997)
US government and intelligence officials (UPI, 2001)
In a February 2001 article, American news agency UPI revealed how “Israel gave major aid to Hamas”, quoting several current and former US government and intelligence officials:
Israel and Hamas may currently be locked in deadly combat [the Second Intifada], 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,” 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. ()
Funds for the movement came from the oil-producing states and directly and indirectly from Israel, according to U.S. intelligence officials. The PLO was secular and leftist and promoted Palestinian nationalism. Hamas wanted set up a transnational state under the rule of Islam, much like Khomeini’s Iran. ()
“The thinking on the part of some of the right-wing Israeli establishment was that Hamas and the other groups, if they gained control, would refuse to have anything to do with the pace process and would torpedo any agreements put in place,” said a U.S. government official. “Israel would still be the only democracy in the region for the United States to deal with,” he said. ()
Former State Department counter-terrorism official Larry Johnson told UPI: “The Israelis are their own worst enemies when it comes to fighting terrorism. They 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.”
Source: “Israel gave major aid to Hamas” (UPI, 2001)
PLO leader Yasser Arafat (2001)
In December 2001, during the Second Intifida, PLO leader Yasser Arafat gave interviews to two leading Italian newspapers and discussed the genesis and operation of Hamas.
In an interview with L’Espresso, Arafat stated:
“Hamas was constituted with the support of Israel. The aim was to create an organization antagonistic to the PLO. They received financing and training from Israel. They have continued to benefit from permits and authorizations, while we have been limited, even to build a tomato factory. Rabin himself defined it as a fatal error. Some collaborationists of Israel are involved in these [terror] attacks,” he said. “We have proof, and we are placing it at the disposal of the Italian government.”
In an interview with Corriere della Sera, Arafat stated:
“We are doing everything to stop the violence. But Hamas is a creature of Israel which at the time of Prime Minister [Yitzhak] Shamir [the late 1980s, when Hamas arose], gave them money and more than 700 institutions, among them schools, universities and mosques. Even [former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin ended up admitting it, when I charged him with it, in the presence of [Egpytian President Hosni] Mubarak.”
Source: Israeli Roots of Hamas Are Being Exposed (EIR, 2002)
Charles Freeman, American diplomat and ambassador (2006)
In his 2006 book, Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, American investigative journalist Robert Dreyfuss explored “Israel’s Islamists” and quoted American diplomat and former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Charles Freeman:
“Israel started Hamas,” says Charles Freeman, the veteran U.S. diplomat and former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia. “It was a project of Shin Bet [the Israeli domestic intelligence agency], which had a feeling that they could use it to hem in the PLO.”
Source: Devil’s Game (Robert Dreyfuss, chapter 8, page 191, 2006)
Amos Yadlin, Israeli military intelligence chief (2007)
“Although not necessarily reflecting a GOI [government of Israel] consensus view, Yadlin said Israel would be “happy” if Hamas took over Gaza because the IDF could then deal with Gaza as a hostile state.”
Source: Wikileaks (published in 2014)
Former Israeli and Hamas officials in Gaza (WSJ, 2009)
“Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel’s creation,” says Avner Cohen, a Tunisian-born Jew who worked in Gaza for more than two decades. Responsible for religious affairs in the region until 1994, Mr. Cohen watched the Islamist movement take shape, muscle aside secular Palestinian rivals and then morph into what is today Hamas, a militant group that is sworn to Israel’s destruction.
Instead of trying to curb Gaza’s Islamists from the outset, says Mr. Cohen, Israel for years tolerated and, in some cases, encouraged them as a counterweight to the secular nationalists of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its dominant faction, Yasser Arafat’s Fatah. Israel cooperated with a crippled, half-blind cleric named Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, even as he was laying the foundations for what would become Hamas. ()
“When I look back at the chain of events I think we made a mistake,” says David Hacham, who worked in Gaza in the late 1980s and early ’90s as an Arab-affairs expert in the Israeli military. “But at the time nobody thought about the possible results.” ()
A leader of Birzeit’s Islamist faction at the time was Mahmoud Musleh, now a pro-Hamas member of a Palestinian legislature elected in 2006. He recalls how usually aggressive Israeli security forces stood back and let conflagration develop. He denies any collusion between his own camp and the Israelis, but says “they hoped we would become an alternative to the PLO.”
Source: How Israel Helped to Spawn Hamas (WSJ, 2009)
Avi Primor, former Israeli Ambassador to the EU (2014)
In an August 2014 interview on Israeli television channel i24News, former Israeli Ambassador to Germany and the EU, Avi Primor, emphasized that Hamas had been created by Israel:
“It was the Israeli government, it was us who created Hamas, in order to create a counterweight to [Yasser Arafat’s] Fatah at the time. And we thought it would be a religious organization that would quarrel with Fatah, we couldn’t foresee what would become of it, but it’s our creation, these are the facts.”
Bezalel Smotrich, Israeli finance minister (2015)
In an October 2015 interview with Knesset TV, Bezalel Smotrich, leader of Israel’s Religious Zionist Party and future Israeli Finance Minister, described Hamas as an “asset” to Israel:
“The [Palestinian Authority] is a burden and Hamas is an asset. On the same international field, in this game of delegitimization, and think about it for a moment, the [PA] is a burden and Hamas is an asset. It’s a terrorist organization.
No one will recognize it. No one will give it status at the [International Criminal Court]. No one will let it put forth a resolution at the UN security council. Then would we need an American veto? Or would we not need an American veto? ()
Given that the main game, the central court, where we play now, is the international delegitimization, there [PA leader Mahmoud Abbas] is beating us in significant spaces. And Hamas, at this point and in my opinion, will be an asset. I don’t think I have to worry about [Hamas].”
In a May 2019 interview with Israeli news website Ynet, retired Israeli Major General Gershon Hacohen, a conservative associate of Benjamin Netanyahu, made the following statement:
“The truth must be told, Netanyahu’s strategy is to prevent the two-state option, and that is why he made Hamas his closest partner. In the visible dimension Hamas is an enemy, in the hidden dimension it is an ally.”
In August 2021, former Israeli politician Haim Ramon, referring to Hacohen’s statement, added that the Bennet government “adopted the concept of separating the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in order to weaken the Palestinian Authority and strengthen Hamas.”
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister (2019/2020)
In October 2023, Israeli newspaper Haaretz discussed a March 2019 Likud party meeting during which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained his strategy of allowing Qatar to keep funding Hamas in Gaza in order to isolate Gaza from the West Bank:
“Anyone who wants to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state has to support bolstering Hamas and transferring money to Hamas.” () “This is part of our strategy – to isolate the Palestinians in Gaza from the Palestinians in the West Bank.”
In February 2020, former Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman revealed how Prime Minister Netanyahu secretely asked Qatar to keep funding Hamas:
Mossad chief Yossi Cohen and the top officer of the Israel Defense Forces in charge of Gaza, Herzi Halevi, visited Qatar earlier this month on the instructions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to plead with its leaders to continue their periodical payments to Hamas, Yisrael Beytenu party chief Avigdor Liberman claimed Saturday night.
“Both Egypt and Qatar are angry with Hamas and planned to cut ties with them. Suddenly Netanyahu appears as the defender of Hamas, as though it was an environmental organization. This is a policy of submission to terror,” he said, adding that Israel was paying Hamas “protection money” to maintain the calm. ()
With Israel’s approval, Qatar since 2018 has periodically provided millions of dollars in cash to Hamas to pay for fuel for the Strip’s power plant, allow the group to pay its civil servants and provide aid to tens of thousands of impoverished families.
Yossi Beilin, former Israeli foreign minister (2023)
In October 2023, after an unprecedented Hamas attack on Israel, former Israeli Foreign Minister and architect of the 1993 Oslo Accords, Yossi Beilin, told German public broadcaster ZDF in an interview:
“It was Netanyahu who strengthened Hamas. Not supported, of course. But between the PLO and Hamas, he has always favored Hamas because they do not want a two-state solution. Hamas does not want a partition of the country, they want the the whole country. That’s why it was easier to deal with them than with the “National Movement”, which calls for a partition of the country and a two-state solution.”
Source: ZDF Television (2023)
What about other designated terrorist groups?
Hamas is not the only designated terrorist group secretly created or supported by intelligence services. In fact, since World War II most high-profile “Palestinian”, “Islamist” and “Communist” terrorist groups have to some extent been controlled by Western or Israeli intelligence services.
One of the most notorious “Palestinian” terrorists of the Cold War era was Abu Nidal. Yet in 1992, British-Jewish investigative journalist and Middle East expert, Patrick Abram Seale, revealed in his book “Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire” that Abu Nidal was in fact a Mossad asset who repeatedly sabotaged the Palestinian cause by committing senseless acts of terrorism without ever targeting Israel.
Another “top terrorist” of the Cold War era was Carlos “The Jackal” Ramirez. Yet in 1981, American-Jewish investigative journalist Seymour Hersh revealed that Carlos Ramirez was being protected by American and British intelligence services and was partying in London. In addition, in 1999 a senior French intelligence operative tasked with capturing Ramirez stated that for years, Ramirez had been protected by the Israeli Mossad, which had prevented his arrest several times.
In 1986, ABC News Nightline revealed that other leading Cold War terrorist groups, including the Italian “Red Brigades”, the Palestinian “Black September”, and even the Irish IRA, were secretly trained and equipped in Libya by “former” CIA operatives and US Army Special Forces. Italian investigative journalists later found that the leadership of the “Red Brigades” had secret contacts to Italian military intelligence SISMI and to a CIA front organization disguised as a “language school”.
Also in 1986, German authorities admitted that a bombing attributed to the German “Red Army Faction” terrorist group had in fact been carried out by German domestic intelligence and the GSG 9 police tactical unit. The operation was overseen by Minister President Ernst Albrecht, the father of Ursula von der Leyen, who in 2019 became President of the European Commission.
In 1992, Israeli military intelligence whistleblower Ari Ben-Menashe revealed how the Mossad had secretly used the “Palestinian Liberation Front” and other such groups to “commit crimes in the name of the Palestinian revolution”, as this was “the best kind of anti-Palestinian propaganda”.
Beginning in the 1980s, the CIA built up the infamous “Al Qaeda” network of Islamist militants, including Saudi businessman Osama bin Laden, to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan (Operation Cyclone). In the 1990s, this same group of Islamists was deployed to Bosnia and Kosovo in Yugoslavia to fight the Orthodox Christian Serbs and to Chechnya in the Caucasus to fight the Russians.
In 2001, the US government blamed 9/11 and the anthrax letters on “Al Qaeda” terrorists, but the mostly Saudi men turned out to be incompetent patsies controlled by US and Israeli intelligence services, which together pulled off 9/11 and the anthrax letters as simulated false flag attacks to initiate a bogus “global war on terror” and the disastrous invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Many other “terrorist attacks” attributed to Al Qaeda turned out to be simulated events, including the “London bombings” in 2005 and the notorious “Boston Marathon bombing” in 2013. That same year, Canadian RCMP and CSIS intelligence officers posing as Al Qaeda operatives tried to pull off a staged terrorist attack on Canada Day festivities, but the plot was exposed and had to be aborted.
Ten years after 9/11, in the wake of the engineered “Arab Spring”, actual Al Qaeda militants were sent to Libya to help overthrow Muammar Gaddafi and to Syria to help overthrow Bashar al Assad, the last two Arab leaders not yet aligned with the United States and NATO.
In 2013, former Al Qaeda operative Sheik Nabil Naiim stated that Al Qaeda was indeed led by agents of the CIA. Already in 2007, the US Pentagon had to admit that the supposed Al Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abdullah al-Baghdadi, was in fact a non-existent phantom whose voice was played by an actor.
In Syria, Al Qaeda militants perpetrated several false-flag chemical attacks to trigger a direct NATO intervention. One such attack was even staged by the BBC and a British military contractor. Nevertheless, the planned regime change failed because the Russians intervened first.
In response, Western intelligence services created and deployed an even more aggressive terrorist group, ISIS, which was secretly supplied via NATO member Turkey and, in return, secretly exported stolen Syrian and Iraqi oil to world markets via the Turkish Ceyhan terminal.
ISIS simultaneously attacked Syrian government forces and provided the necessary pretext for NATO airstrikes in Syria by claiming responsibility for several simulated “terrorist attacks” in American and European cities, such as the poorly simulated “Brussels bombings” in March 2016.
When ISIS, too, was being defeated by the Syrians and Russians, the US finally switched to Kurdish SDF forces and managed to at least occupy eastern Syria and most Syrian oil fields.
In conclusion, most of the history of modern terrorism, not just since 2001, but really since World War II, has been a deception manufactured by Western and Israeli intelligence services.
You have been reading:
Why Israel Created Hamas
An analysis by Swiss Policy Research
- How Israel Helped Create Hamas (The Intercept, 2018)
- How the CIA trained international terrorist groups in Libya (TAE, 2021)
- The Terror Factory – Manufactured Terrorism (Trevor Aaronson, 2015)
- The Covert Origins of ISIS (SCG, 2014)
- The Boston Unbombing (NLT, 2016)