Not long ago, Newt Gingrich got into some trouble for claiming that the Palestinians are an “invented people,” although there is some basis for that statement, as prior to the British Mandate there was no such official designation for “Palestine” — and the British clearly included present-day Jordan as a major part of “Palestine” in the mandate. Another Republican candidate offered a history lesson on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2009, a moment recalled by Jeff Dunetz in this clip from the House floor. In it, we discover that Israel “started” Hamas as a counterweight to Yasser Arafat, or something, and manages to blame the CIA for radicalizing Muslims and the US for supplying weapons and funds that “kill Palestinians”:
This may be why Paul doesn’t get a lot of support from his own party in Iowa or New Hampshire, as Byron York reports today:
In a hotly-contested Republican race, it appears that only about half of Paul’s supporters are Republicans. In Iowa, according to Rasmussen, just 51 percent of Paul supporters consider themselves Republicans. In New Hampshire, the number is 56 percent, according to Andrew Smith, head of the University of New Hampshire poll.
The same New Hampshire survey found that 87 percent of the people who support Romney consider themselves Republicans. For Newt Gingrich, it’s 85 percent.
So who is supporting Paul? In New Hampshire, Paul is the choice of just 13 percent of Republicans, according to the new poll, while he is the favorite of 36 percent of independents and 26 percent of Democrats who intend to vote in the primary. Paul leads in both non-Republican categories.
“Paul is doing the best job of getting those people who aren’t really Republicans but say they’re going to vote in the Republican primary,” explains Smith. Among that group are libertarians, dissatisfied independents and Democrats who are “trying to throw a monkey wrench in the campaign by voting for someone who is more philosophically extreme,” says Smith.
So who started Hamas? Was it really Israel? Er … no, not really, and the suggestion that Israel wanted Hamas as a counterweight to the PLO is simply ludicrous. Hamas developed from a network of Muslim Brotherhood charities in Gaza in the mid-1980s. The Muslim Brotherhood was one of the most notorious of anti-Israeli organizations in the region, formed in the 1920s in opposition to the collapse of the Caliphate and the British Mandate that followed. At the founding of Hamas, it called for “jihad” to seize Israel and create an Islamist state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. They formed in direct opposition to the PLO (now called Fatah in the Palestinian Authority government), to some extent because Yasser Arafat was negotiating with Israel, albeit in bad faith while trying to drum up financial and political support in the West. Hamas gets its funding from Iran, hardly a disinterested third party in this conflict — and the main engine of radicalizing Muslims, eclipsing the Muslim Brotherhood ever since the Iranian revolution of 1979.
Paul only gets one thing substantially correct in this speech, which is that the US screwed up by pushing for an election in Gaza while Hamas had such a strong hold on the territory. We did warn, however, that we would not work with terrorists in a Gaza government, and after the unilateral Israeli withdrawal in 2005 it would have been difficult to argue against elections in Gaza. “Imposing” democracy in this case ended up backfiring, as it legitimized Hamas to some extent and made it more difficult to fight against their terrorism. But that’s a far cry from claiming that Israel started Hamas, a statement that is so nutty that it should be by itself disqualifying for voters looking to select the next Republican nominee.
Update: A few people have e-mailed me this opinion piece from the WSJ in 2009 as “proof” that corroborates Paul’s claims. It doesn’t back up Paul’s claim that Israel “started” Hamas, and it really doesn’t make the case that Israel encouraged the formation of Hamas, either. The closest it comes is this:
“Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel’s creation,” says Mr. 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. Sheikh Yassin continues to inspire militants today; during the recent war in Gaza, Hamas fighters confronted Israeli troops with “Yassins,” primitive rocket-propelled grenades named in honor of the cleric.
How did Israel “encourage” Hamas? By keeping tabs on it, as any intel service would have done:
Instead, Israel’s military-led administration in Gaza looked favorably on the paraplegic cleric, who set up a wide network of schools, clinics, a library and kindergartens. Sheikh Yassin formed the Islamist group Mujama al-Islamiya, which was officially recognized by Israel as a charity and then, in 1979, as an association. Israel also endorsed the establishment of the Islamic University of Gaza, which it now regards as a hotbed of militancy. The university was one of the first targets hit by Israeli warplanes in the recent war.
Brig. General Yosef Kastel, Gaza’s Israeli governor at the time, is too ill to comment, says his wife. But Brig. Gen. Yitzhak Segev, who took over as governor in Gaza in late 1979, says he had no illusions about Sheikh Yassin’s long-term intentions or the perils of political Islam. As Israel’s former military attache in Iran, he’d watched Islamic fervor topple the Shah. However, in Gaza, says Mr. Segev, “our main enemy was Fatah,” and the cleric “was still 100% peaceful” towards Israel. Former officials say Israel was also at the time wary of being viewed as an enemy of Islam.
Mr. Segev says he had regular contact with Sheikh Yassin, in part to keep an eye on him. He visited his mosque and met the cleric around a dozen times. It was illegal at the time for Israelis to meet anyone from the PLO. Mr. Segev later arranged for the cleric to be taken to Israel for hospital treatment. “We had no problems with him,” he says.
In other words, people want to “credit” Israel for creating Hamas because they didn’t oppose the establishment of (then) non-violent social charities. Later, in 1987, the Muslim Brotherhood formed these charities into Hamas, which adopted violent jihad and the destruction of Israel as the key goals of its charter. Israel didn’t stop it and continued for a brief time to maintain its contacts with the group until it launched an intifada, but that’s not the same thing as “creating Hamas,” or even “encouraging Hamas.”
Here’s the entire statement made on January 9th, 2009, from the Congressional Record:
Madam Speaker, I rise in opposition to this resolution, not because I am taking sides and picking who the bad guys are and who the good guys are, but I’m looking at this more from the angle of being a United States citizen, an American, and I think resolutions like this really do great harm to us. In many ways what is happening in the Middle East, and in particular with Gaza right now, we have some moral responsibility for both sides, because we provide help in funding for both Arab nations and Israel. And so we definitely have a moral responsibility. And especially now today, the weapons being used to kill so many Palestinians are American weapons and American funds essentially are being used for this.
But there is a political liability which I think is something that we fail to look at because too often there is so much blowback from our intervention in areas that we shouldn’t be involved in. Hamas, if you look at the history, you will find that Hamas was encouraged and actually started by Israel because they wanted Hamas to counteract Yasir Arafat. You say, Well, yeah, it was better then and served its purpose, but we didn’t want Hamas to do this. So then we, as Americans, say, Well, we have such a good system;
we’re going to impose this on the world. We’re going to invade Iraq and teach people how to be democrats. We want free elections. So we encouraged the Palestinians to have a free election. They do, and they elect Hamas.
So we first, indirectly and directly through Israel, helped establish Hamas. Then we have an election where Hamas becomes dominant then we have to kill them. It just doesn’t make sense. During the 1980s, we were allied with Osama bin Laden and we were contending with the Soviets. It was at that time our CIA thought it was good if we radicalize the Muslim world. So we finance the Madrassas school to radicalize the Muslims in order to compete with the Soviets. There is too much blowback.
There are a lot of reasons why we should oppose this resolution. It’s not in the interest of the United States, it is not in the interest of Israel either. I strongly oppose H. Res. 34, which was rushed to the floor with almost no prior notice and without consideration by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The resolution clearly takes one side in a conflict that has nothing to do with the United States or U.S. interests. I am concerned that the weapons currently being used by Israel against the Palestinians in Gaza are made in America and paid for by American taxpayers. What will adopting this resolution do to the perception of the United States in the Muslim and Arab world? What kind of blowback
might we see from this? What moral responsibility do we have for the violence in Israel and Gaza after having provided so much military support to one side?
As an opponent of all violence, I am appalled by the practice of lobbing homemade rockets into Israel from Gaza. I am only grateful that, because of the primitive nature of these weapons, there have been so few casualties among innocent Israelis. But I am also appalled by the longstanding Israeli blockade of Gaza–a cruel act of war–and the tremendous loss of life that has resulted from the latest Israeli attack that started last month. There are now an estimated 700 dead Palestinians, most of whom are civilians. Many innocent children are among the dead. While the shooting of rockets into Israel is inexcusable, the violent actions of some people in Gaza does not justify killing Palestinians on this scale. Such collective punishment is immoral. At the very least, the U.S. Congress should not be loudly proclaiming its support for the Israeli government’s actions in Gaza.
Madam Speaker, this resolution will do nothing to reduce the fighting and bloodshed in the Middle East. The resolution in fact will lead the U.S. to become further involved in this conflict, promising “vigorous support and unwavering commitment to the welfare, security, and survival of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.” Is it really in the interest of the United States to guarantee the survival of any foreign country? I believe it would be better to focus on the security and survival of the United States, the Constitution of which my colleagues and I swore to defend just this week at the beginning of the 111th Congress. I urge my colleagues to reject this resolution.