CAMERA Middle East Issues..
18 July '14..
With Israeli ground action in Gaza now underway, in response to ceaseless Hamas attacks, the usual media myths and misrepresentations about Gaza are being recycled, with some new ones thrown in.
Here are some of the key myths, gleaned from present and past coverage:
Myth: Through its typically shortsighted policies Israel intentionally encouraged the growth of Hamas.
After all, it was Israel itself that helped nurture Hamas and its predecessors in the 1970s and '80s. The late Eyad El-Sarraj, a prominent psychiatrist in Gaza, warned Israel's governor that he was “playing with fire” by nurturing religious militants. According to the book “Hamas,” by Beverley Milton-Edwards and Stephen Farrell, the governor replied: “Don't worry, we know how to handle things. Our enemy today is the P.L.O." (Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, July 16, 2014)
Fact: Israel never encouraged Hamas or its Islamist rival Islamic Jihad. Israel supported the building of clinics, mosques and religious schools in the territories because this was their obligation under the Hague Regulations and the Geneva Conventions, which required that taxes collected in the territories be used for the benefit of the territories, and that existing laws, which included the funding of religious institutions, be maintained. Among the groups the government cooperated with in this regard was the so-called Muslim Brotherhood, a non-profit registered in Gaza. The Muslim Brotherhood, while rejecting the existence of Israel, was explicitly non-violent in those days, believing that Islamic society would have to be strengthened over the long term before any conflict could be initiated with Israel. (See, for example, Islamic Fundamentalism in the West Bank and Gaza, Ziad Abu-Amr.)
In contrast, the Islamic Jihad was explicitly violent from its founding in 1980, calling for immediate jihad against Israel, and showing little interest in building social institutions. Indeed, it was created out of frustration with the non-violent policy of the Muslim Brotherhood. Islamic Jihad's cofounder, Fathi Shikaki, was arrested by Israel in 1983 and again in 1986, and was then deported to Lebanon in 1988 (Islamic Fundamentalism, p 93-94). Does it sound like the Israeli “nurturing” foolishly repeated by Kristof?
When the intifada began, the Muslim Brotherhood feared a loss of influence and popularity to the terrorist Islamic Jihad, which had openly mocked the movement for its non-violent stand. In response, under the leadership of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the Muslim Brotherhood created on December 9, 1987 a subgroup eventually called Hamas, which was meant to compete with Islamic Jihad in murdering Israelis. That is, contrary to Kristof, Hamas essentially did not exist until 1988, and Israel never cooperated with it.
Indeed, in May 1989 Israel arrested Sheikh Yassin and sentenced him to 15 years in jail for his role in the abduction and murder of two Israeli soldiers (Islamic Fundamentalism, p 65).