I often encounter the claim that in its early years, Hamas received some support from Israel (Mossad, Shin Bet, or some other part of the Israeli state), supposedly to prop up a competitor to Fatah and split the Palestinian movement further. I also heard the theory that Israel (or rather one of its secret services) wanted the most extreme Palestinians in one organization to better surveil them.

The last time I encountered the claim was in Gilbert Achcar's well received The Arabs and the Holocaust.

Did Hamas receive active or passive (significantly less persecution than should be expected) support?


2 Answers 2


An unclassified report of the French DGSE (the equivalent of CIA) dated April 2002 deals with Hamas creation.

Israelians encouraged Hamas as a religious opponent to PLO (« les Israéliens encouragent le Hamas en tant que pendant religieux de l’OLP ») that they wanted to weaken (« affaiblir »).

The strategy consisted in inciting to an armed conflict (« inciter au conflit armé ») between the 2 organisations and create a civilian Palestinian war (« créer ainsi une guerre civile palestinienne »).

Israel then erroneously thought that with Hamas, Palestinians will be busy fighiting each other instead of struggling against Israel (« commet l’erreur de croire qu’avec le Hamas, les Palestiniens seraient occupés à se battre entre eux au lieu de lutter contre Israël »).

For more information , refer to this French article Pourquoi Israël a aidé le Hamas à se développer

In this Source:Mossad's secret wars by Yvonnick DENOEL, it is written that:

According to an Israelian source, (this) support to Islamist was conceived by a former Mossad member and encouraged by the (Israelian) military government of Gaza, that authorized massive funds transfer from Saudi Arabia since they benefit to Islamists and not PLO.

However, there is no clear evidence of the involvement of Shin Bet in an active support to Hamas, such as funding, training or weapon deliveries.

In a book written by Shimon Perez, Boutros Boutros-Ghali and André Versaille, titled "60 ans de conflit israélo-arabe: témoignages pour l'histoire" (60 years of Israeli-arabian conflict: testimonies for history), Boutros-Ghali, a former UN Secretary-general, said in a diplomatic way:

What can be translated to:

Boutros Boutros-Ghali: Personally, I am not sufficiently informed to know whether Israelians had encouraged Hamas and Jihad to weaken PLO, even if it seems to make sense.

  • Je parl pas francais. I understand that the last item (authorizing the money transfer) was the only actual thing Isrtael did in support of Hamas?
    – mart
    Commented Nov 1, 2015 at 21:19
  • 1
    @mart - yes, according to the author, Israelians looked the other way when funds were transfered to Hamas. Also, They didn't put obstacles on Hamas consolidation.
    – Graffito
    Commented Nov 1, 2015 at 21:25
  • @Graffito I can find no source of the original report they claim to summarize, and Google could not help me find it. I think this article cannot be a trusted source.
    – Einenlum
    Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 19:32
  • @Einenlum - The title of this 140 pages report is "Mouvements islamistes radicaux palestiniens" - tome 1 : le Hamas.
    – Graffito
    Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 23:46
  • @Graffito I know. Could you find it?
    – Einenlum
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 0:15

It's important to differentiate between Hamas and its Islamic Brotherhood precursors. Hamas itself was founded in 1988, and launched its first major attack in 1989, when Israel cracked down on the organization and arrested many of it's members, including Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

Thus, Hamas itself did not receive any passive support from Israel (and if it did it was for a very short period), but it is true however, that until 1989, Israel did not harass Hamas's future members and leaders, since among other reasons they were seen as a counterforce with which to fight Fatah.

Following, are quotes from an excellent WSJ article on the topic, quoting many Israeli military sources from that period:

In Gaza [in 1967], Israel hunted down members of Fatah and other secular PLO factions, but it dropped harsh restrictions imposed on Islamic activists by the territory's previous Egyptian rulers

Brig. Gen. Yitzhak Segev, governor in Gaza in late 1979:

"our main enemy was Fatah," and the cleric [Sheikh Yassin] "was still 100% peaceful" towards Israel. 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... Mr. Segev later arranged for the cleric to be taken to Israel for hospital treatment. "We had no problems with him".

  • 2
    The statement "Hamas itself did not receive any passive support from Israel (and if it did it was for a very short period)" needs to be supported by references, not by common sense, logic or personal speculation.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Nov 1, 2015 at 10:47
  • @Sklivvz - That is why I specifically noted that "if it did it was for a very short period", where I was referring to the short period between 1988 and 1989 where Hamas's leadership was arrested or killed by Israel. Commented Nov 1, 2015 at 15:21
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    According to most sources, Hamas was created in 1987, even if the official charter was published in 1988.
    – Graffito
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 17:24

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