Friday | February 28, 2003
Back in the early 1980s, one of the biggest financial supporters of Hamas, the Palestinian extremist group, was the government of Israel.
Say what? So Israel paid for its own suicide bombers???
Well, in a manner of speaking, yes. You see, Hamas was just getting off the ground at the time, and the Israelis thought if they helped build it up, it would take popular support away from the PLO.
Great idea, huh?
Actually it didnít sound as stupid then as it does now, because at the time Hamas was just an obscure religious organization affiliated with the Wahabis Ė the ultra-strict sect sponsored by the Saudi royal family. They seemed harmless enough, even if they did want to push the Jews into the sea. It's not like they were terrorists or anything -- just a bunch of dour religious fanatics.
And if the goal was to weaken the PLO, the plan did work. Hamas took the Israeli money and used it to build schools and day care centers and food banks, to the point where it became a major part of what passed for a social safety net in occupied Gaza. And the people were grateful (to Hamas I mean, not to the Israelis.) Support for Hamas rose; support for the PLO fell.
Of course, Hamas was also using its day care centers, schools and food banks to nuture, indoctrinate and feed its future army of suicide bombers. And by the time Israel allowed the PLO back into Gaza, after the Olso peace accords, Hamas was too entrenched to remove, and too strong to control. Then the suicide bombings began.
Why am I bringing this up? Because Iím afraid the Bush Administration is about to make a similiar mistake Ė but on a vastly larger scale. By knocking Arab nationalist thugs like Saddam out of the box, arenít we just taking out the competition for Al Quada?
Actually, in a way it's even worse than helping Hamas. The Israelis thought they were just dealing with an odd-ball religious group. We know better now. Don't we?