What the true origins of Hamas reveal about its nature.
On Oct 7, Hamas, a terrorist organization born in part out of a collaboration between Nazis and Islamists, carried out the greatest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.
The butchery of men, women and children and the elderly, was not only ‘Nazi-like’, it was in some ways the final act of a Nazi crime nearly eight decades in the making.
In 1946, the Muslim Brotherhood held its founding conference in Gaza at the Samer Cinema. The movie theater which had opened two years earlier and would be shut down, along with much of Gaza’s movie theaters as the Islamist movement strengthened its grip over the area, represented the secular Western culture that the Islamic organization wanted to destroy.
It was a modest beginning for the group that would eventually become known as Hamas.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s expansion into Israel began a year earlier in 1945. The Brotherhood’s foreign backers, the Nazis, had surrendered earlier that year. The thousand pound checks which had helped take the Brotherhood from just another fringe Islamist theocratic movement to a dominant force in Egyptian political culture would no longer be coming. And Nazi Germany’s armies would not be arriving to help them kill all the Jews.
Without the Nazis, the Brotherhood no longer had the money or any protection from the British, who might seek to punish their Nazi collaboration, or the Egyptian monarchy which was worried that the Islamist group was seeking to overthrow it. By 1948, Egypt had banned the Brotherhood and Hassan al-Banna, its charismatic leader, had been shot dead in the street a year later.
Al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, had admired Nazi organizations and methods. A British report noted that he had made “a careful study of the Nazi and fascist organizations. Using them as a model, he has formed organizations of specially trained and trusted men who correspond respectively to the Brown Shirts and Black Shirts.”
The Muslim Brotherhood from which Hamas sprang had been built in imitation of the Nazis.
The Nazis and the Brotherhood had fundamental religious and ethnic differences but shared common goals: especially when it came to the Jews. A Nazi agent who helped funnel money to the Brotherhood reported on one of its conferences calling for Jihad in Israel.
Hitler’s Mufti, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, had helped bring the Muslim Brotherhood together with the Nazis. And it was Husseini, who after their defeat, provided the focus for the Brotherhood.
Hajj Amīn al-Husseini had met with Hitler, urged him to exterminate the Jews of Israel, and recruited Muslims to fight for the Nazis. He had hailed the Muslim Brotherhood as “the troops of Allah” while Al-Banna praised Hitler’s Mufti as the “hero who challenged an empire and fought Zionism, with the help of Hitler and Germany. Germany and Hitler are gone, but Amin Al-Husseini will continue the struggle.”
The Muslim Brotherhood and Husseini’s Jihadis in Israel would carry on Hitler’s work.
The defeat of Nazi Germany marked the end of the hope that the legions of the Third Reich would storm into Egypt and Israel, and that their local allies like the Brotherhood and the Mufti would be able to wipe out the Jews and all their political adversaries across the region.
Instead the Brotherhood would have to replicate the Nazi model, building a political organization with a paramilitary arm that would seize power in Egypt, Gaza and across the Muslim world.
The Muslim Brotherhood set up cells across to Israel beginning in Jerusalem.
Al-Bana turned over this mission to Said Ramadan, his son-in-law and a key Brotherhood figure who would later usher in an alliance with the Saudis that would allow the organization to bring in new wealth and expand worldwide. In Europe. Ramadan would direct the rise of the central Muslim Brotherhood operation in Munich, at a mosque set up by ex-Nazi Muslim soldiers who had defected to the Third Reich during WWII. A CIA report from the 1950s described Ramadan as a “fascist type” who was obsessed with driving the Jews out of Israel.
Setting up Brotherhood organizations across Israel was more than an expansion, it was a mission. With the Nazis gone, invading Israel was a way to allow the Brotherhood to build up its military capabilities without triggering an immediate crackdown by the authorities.
The Brotherhood’s new capabilities were aimed at Israel, but also at Egypt and at shoring up the power of local clans. Its presence in Gaza was part of an alliance with important families, including the Shawwas, who had been close to the Ottoman Empire and were mistrusted by the British. Said al-Shawwa, the Ottoman mayor of Gaza, had served on the Supreme Muslim Council alongside Hajj Amīn al-Husseini. And the Gaza Brotherhood would go on to be headed by Zafer Sahwa whose experience had come out of the Islamic Scouts.
The Scouting movement had struck a different chord in the Muslim world than it did the UK. Islamic scouting was explicitly meant to prepare young boys for Jihad. Some Islamic scouting movements were Nazi inspired. Al-Husseini’s scouting movement in Israel called themselves the ‘Nazi Scouts’ and dressed in Hitler Youth outfits. The Muslim Brotherhood had founded its own scout group “based on the concept of Jihad” and also modeled on the Hitler Youth.
In the months before Israel’s declaration of independence, Hassan al-Bana arrived in Gaza to witness the first wave of assaults by Brotherhood forces against Jewish communities.
Kfar Darom, a beleaguered Jewish village in Gaza, was the first target. After months of siege, the Muslim Brotherhood’s battalion attacked the village of Kfar Darom where dozens of Israeli militia members protected 400 men, women and children. The Brotherhood’s attacks were beaten back with determined resistance until its Jihadists were forced to retreat leaving behind seventy of their dead. Among the Jihadi attackers was an Egyptian named Yasser Arafat.
The Brotherhood had been defeated, but only temporarily. When Israel forcibly removed the Jewish communities of Gaza in 2005 to end the Israeli presence in Gaza, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar entered the Kfar Darom synagogue and laid claim to it in the name of Islam.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s first Jihad failed badly, but it succeeded in its true goals. Its role in the invasion of Israel alongside the Egyptian military built an alliance. After Muslim Brotherhood mobs rioted against the British in the streets, Egyptian officers used the prearranged opportunity to seize power. The relationship between the Egyptian military and the Muslim Brotherhood was rife with tension from the beginning and like so many such relationships in the region, the internal rivalry was redirected into violence against non-Muslims. In this case once again Israel.
The Brotherhood’s mobs had paved the way for a military coup by destroying Egypt’s westernized nightlife, including its theaters. In Gaza, they were once again tasked with doing the military’s dirty work by attacking Israel, but once again the core purpose of the Brotherhood was to ‘Islamize’ Gaza, and eventually Egypt and the whole world, through its terror campaign.
Long before the Six Day War, during which Israel reclaimed Gaza, Muslim terrorists known as ‘Fedayeen’ or ‘those who die for Allah’ struck across the border with the aim of murdering Jews. Terrorist atrocities included the Massacre at Scorpions’ Pass during which the men, women and children on a bus coming back from a beach town were massacred.
The alliance between the Egyptian military and the Muslim Brotherhood was the first true modern Islamic terrorist operation. Egyptian military officers trained and dispatched terrorists out of Gaza to cross the border and murder ordinary Israelis. The Egyptian government dismissed the atrocities as the work of local Bedouin Arabs over whom it had no control.
The Israelis knew better, but the plausible deniability established by the Egyptian government and the Brotherhood was good enough for the United Nations. When Israel struck back at the terrorists, it was condemned for attacking civilians and when it targeted the Egyptian officers behind the attacks, it was accused of provoking a regional war. Terrorism had transformed a war between nations into a conflict between a state and insurgents posing as civilians.
Seventy years later, this is still the role that Hamas plays for Iran and Qatar among others.
In exchange for waging war on Israel, the Muslim Brotherhood received financing, training and the authority to maintain control over those areas that it used for its operations. Under the umbrella of a Jihad against the Jews, it was able to enforce Islamic law and maintain a ruling class made up of its members and influential families allied with the Brotherhood.
Israel’s defeat of Egypt in the Six Day War and subsequent liberation of Gaza left the Brotherhood and other terrorist groups adrift. Deprived of secure bases in Gaza, a new generation of ‘Palestinian’ terrorist groups was launched under the Soviet umbrella, most famously the PLO, claiming to pursue a ‘Palestinian’ state through international terrorist attacks like airplane hijackings and the Munich Massacre at the 1972 Olympics.
The international scale of the newly born ‘Palestinian’ movement was made possible by Soviet backing which provided allies and safe houses with Marxist terror groups across Europe. The Muslim Brotherhood lacked that global foothold although under operatives like Ramadan it was working hard to replicate the infrastructure of mosques and religious centers that it had used to gain power in places like Gaza across America and Europe.
The Muslim Brotherhood today dominates Islamic groups in America and Europe because of these efforts, but at the time its terrorism lacked the scope that the Communist alliance provided the ‘Palestinians’. And yet while Arafat became an international star, the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza was busily digging in and building an Islamic infrastructure that would outlast him.
The Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza was less interested in the fictional construct of ‘Palestinianism’ than in controlling the mosques, the educational system and recruiting young men to fight for it. Where the PLO and groups liked it worked from the ‘outside in’, the Brotherhood worked from the ‘inside out’. Instead of fighting on a global stage, it worked on ‘Islamizing’ Gaza.
The Israeli authorities, like the Americans and Europeans, paid little attention to the Brotherhood. Religious violence seemed outmoded in the era of Marxist terrorism.
The Egyptian authorities had understood that the real threat came from mosques and religious schools, but Israeli officials, unfamiliar with Islam and disdainful of it, did not take it seriously. They certainly did not want to give the impression that they were religiously intolerant. During the liberation of Jerusalem, the government had allowed the Muslim religious authorities to retain control over the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, to prove their tolerance.
The Israeli tolerance for the Brotherhood led the PLO to accuse it of being an Israeli creation. Hamas and the PLO would later spend years accusing each other of this, the worst thing imaginable, working for the Jews. The PLO’s insults would then be repeated by leftist and fringe right politicians and activists who would claim that Israel had “created” Hamas.
Hamas had technically predated the official rebirth of the State of Israel. It had always been there under various names as part of the Gaza Muslim Brotherhood. Israel had not created it, but much like most Western nations, the Israelis were guilty of tolerating it, providing it with the permission it needed to operate and acceding to what seemed like religious requests.
Instead of suppressing the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza, the Israelis viewed its mosques and religious schools as a benign alternative to the PLO. They were looking for radical students planting bombs, not men praying in mosques. And the Brotherhood, as it did in America and Europe, and in the two years until the Oct 7 massacres, had a knack for appearing benign.
In the 1970s, Islamic terrorism had not yet become a commonplace concept. Few understood that Islam would become the next great threat after Communism. And while the Israelis chased the PLO, the Gaza Muslim Brotherhood built up its infrastructure that would emerge as Hamas.
A decade later, the Brotherhood’s Mujama al-Islamiya, the Islamic Center, a seeming charitable organization, was reinvented as Hamas or the Islamic Resistance Movement. The mosques, schools and social welfare institutions had been a terrorist organization all along. When Hamas hides missiles under mosques, schools and hospitals, it’s doing what it was doing all along.
Hamas was a charity before it was a terrorist group. And it was a terrorist group before it was a charity. This is typical of Muslim Brotherhood organizations and owes something to the Nazis. Hamas terrorism is theologically Islamic, but it had learned from the Nazis and the Marxists, two movements that had profoundly shaped the modern Arab Muslim world, how to develop and build secret societies in the form of political organizations and how to use them to seize power.
The 1988 Hamas charter freely mixes Koranic antisemitism with Goebbelsian rants about the Jews. There is the classic genocidal Hadith that looks forward to the day “when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees” and “the stones and trees will say ‘O Moslems, O Abdullah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him’” and the claim that the Jews are behind “the Freemasons, The Rotary and Lions clubs” and “alcoholism” that reads like it came from Der Sturmer.
The Islamic mass murder of Jews goes back to the days of Mohammed. The Muslim Brotherhood’s members did not need the Nazis to tell them to kill Jews.
But the Nazis helped finance the Muslim Brotherhood with the specific aim, among others, of killing Jews. The Nazis helped show the Muslim Brotherhood new ways of organizing, distributing propaganda and waging war. And that changed the history of the world.
The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood continued to spin off splinter groups, some directed at a domestic power grab, others at Israel, and still others at the rest of the region and the world. Al Qaeda is dominated by such a splinter group. As are most non-Shiite terrorist groups. And Muslim political organizations, like CAIR in the United States, are products of the Brotherhood.
The Nazis were defeated, but they helped build a successor movement that is waging war, political and military, around the world. Hamas is just one of the many organizations birthed by the Brotherhood, but it is one of the few in whose origin story the Nazis had a significant role.
The Nazis had wanted the Muslim Brotherhood to wage war on the Jews in Israel.
On Oct 7, Hamas, an organization born in part out of a collaboration between Nazis and Islamists, carried out the greatest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.
Those who defend the massacre are not just collaborating with Hamas, but with the Nazis.
EDITORS NOTE: This Jihad Watch column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.