Early Islamic Activism in Gaza
With its takeover of Gaza after the 1967 war with Egypt, Israel hunted down secular Palestinian Liberation Organization factions, but dropped the previous Egyptian rulers' harsh restrictions against Islamic activists. In fact, Israel for many years tolerated and at times encouraged Islamic activists and groups as a counterweight to the secular nationalists of the PLO and its dominant faction, Fatah.
Among the activists benefited was Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza, who had also formed the Islamist group Mujama al-Islamiya, a charity recognized by Israel in 1979. Israel allowed the organization to build mosques, clubs, schools, and a library in Gaza.
Yitzhak Segev, the acting governor of Gaza in 1979, said he had no illusions about Yassin's intentions, having watched an Islamist movement topple the Shah as Israel's military attache in Iran. However, according to Segev, Yassin and his charity were "100% peaceful" towards Israel during this time, and Segev and other Israeli officials feared being viewed as an enemy of Islam. Segev maintained regular contact with Yassin, met with him around a dozen times, and arranged for Yassin to be taken to Israel for hospital treatment.
Also, Segev said, Fatah was "our main enemy." Islamists frequently attacked secular and leftist Palestinian movements, including Fatah, but the Israeli military avoided getting involved in those quarrels. It stood aside, for example, when Mujama al-Islamiya activists stormed the Red Crescent charity's headquarters in Gaza, but Segev did send soldiers to prevent the burning down of the home of the head of the organization.
In 1984 the Israeli army received intelligence that Yassin's followers were collecting arms in Gaza. Israeli troops raided mosques and found a cache of weapons. Yassin was arrested, but told his interrogators the weapons were meant to be used against secular Palestinians, not Israel. The cleric was released a year later and allowed to continue to develop his movement in Gaza.
Around the time of Yassin's arrest, Avner Cohen, an Israeli religious affairs official, sent a report to senior military officers and civilian leadership in Gaza advising them of the dangers of the Islamic movement, but this report and similar ones were ignored. Former military intelligence officer Shalom Harari said the warnings were ignored out of neglect, not a desire to fortify the Islamists: "Israel never financed Hamas. Israel never armed Hamas." In contrast, French investigative newspaper Le Canard enchaîné writes that Shin Bet also supported Hamas as an attempt to give "a religious slant" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to make the West believe that it was essentially between Jews and Muslims.
Read more about this topic: History Of Hamas
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... With its takeover of Gaza after the 1967 war with Egypt, Israel hunted down secular Palestinian Liberation Organization factions but dropped the previous Egyptian rulers' harsh ... In fact, Israel for many years tolerated and at times encouraged Islamic activists and groups as a counterweight to the secular nationalists of the PLO and its dominant faction, Fatah ... Among the activists benefited was Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza, who had also formed the Islamist group Mujama al-Islamiya ...
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