• Print

When Israel Backed Islam

In response to:

Gaza: The Murderous Melodrama from the November 20, 2014 issue

To the Editors:

David Shulman’s account of how Hamas developed is on the mark [“Gaza: The Murderous Melodrama,” NYR, November 20]. May I add one more way in which Israel contributed to the rise of Hamas. While researching my dissertation (Power and the Palestinian Press: Israeli Censorship on the West Bank, 1967–1991, published in 1992), I discovered that Israel contributed to the rise of Islamism in Gaza by isolating it from the different intellectual currents circulating in the West Bank.

For example, the leftist literary and political magazine Al-Kateb (The Writer), whose first issue appeared in November 1979, was allowed to be sold only in East Jerusalem, but not in the rest of the West Bank. However, this influential magazine known for its progressive views on women and its support for labor was clandestinely sold in the West Bank by college students in the 1980s. To prevent Gaza from being influenced by the PLO with its various factions, Israel refused to give distribution permits in Gaza to West Bank newspapers and magazines.

As a result, the only publications and books that circulated in Gaza bookstores were of a religious Islamic nature brought in mainly from Egypt. The moral of the story: Israeli intervention in all aspects of Palestinian life has led to a series of unintended consequences, none of which were good for Israel or the Palestinians.

Orayb Najjar
Professor Emerita
Department of Communication
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, Illinois