Richard Ben Cramer, in his book How Israel Lost
, notes in an aside that back in the 1970s, Israel had funded and supported Hamas as a way of creating a counterweight to the PLO. Anyway, I read the book a few months ago and only today got around to following up on that new-to-me tidbit. Back in 2002, UPI interviewed
several intelligence officials and experts who said that this was indeed true. A longer, more detailed, and intermittently-footnoted account
came from journalist Ray Hanian in 2003.
Apparently Bob Dreyfuss' new book, Devil's Game
, discusses this story as well, along with other instances where "Western" powers actively supported Islamic fundamentalism during the 1960s and 70s so as to counterbalance Arab nationalism, which was seen back then as the primary threat. (Islamic radicals also tended to be anti-Soviet, which was a plus.) Dreyfuss' account, I hear, has evidence that the State Department knew full well what was going on and turned a blind eye as Israel provided military training to Islamic groups. But I haven't read the book. And no, this is hardly the most important issue right now; I was just curious.