Profile: Sheikh Ahmed Yassin
Positions that Sheikh Ahmed Yassin has held:
- Founder of the Islamic Center
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was a participant or observer in the following events:
Following the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel takes over the administration of the West Bank and Gaza. Whereas Egyptian President Gamal Abddul Nasser had been tough on Islamist militants (see 1954-1970), Israel is much more permissive. One of their first actions is to release Sheikh Ahmed Yassin from prison. Yassin, a charismatic radical Islamist and the future founder of Hamas had been jailed in 1965 during one of Nasser’s crackdowns. [Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 195] David Shipler, a former New York Times reporter, later recounts that he was told by the military governor of the Gaza Strip, Brigadier General Yitzhak Segev, that the Israeli government had financed the Islamic movement to couteract the PLO and the communists. According to Martha Kessler, a senior analyst for the CIA, “we saw Israel cultivate Islam as a counterweight to Palestinian nationalism.” In the 1970s, Yassin is able to form some Islamic organizations (see 1973-1978). In the 1980s, he forms Hamas as the military arm of his organizations (see 1987). [Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 195, 197, 198]
After Egyptian President Gamal Abddul Nasser dies in October 1970, he is succeded as president of Egypt by his former Vice President, Anwar Sadat. Sadat is also a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and he promptly reinstates the group as a legal organization and welcomes them back into Egypt. Sadat also has a very close relationship with the head of Saudi intelligence, Kamal Adham. Through Adham, Sadat also develops close working relationships not only with the Saudis, but with the CIA and Henry Kissinger. Sadat uses the power of the religious right, and the Muslim Brothers in particular to contain the Nasserites and their resistance to the radical changes he introduces. During Sadat’s tenure in the 1970’s Egypt becomes a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism, and figures like Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman and Ayman al-Zawahiri gain great power in Egypt during this period. Ironically Sadat himself is assassinated in 1981 by Islamic Jihad, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, in 1981, because of his accomodation with Israel. [Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 147-162, 165]
In 1973 Israeli military authorities in charge of the West Bank and Gaza allow Sheikh Ahmed Yassin to establish the Islamic Center, an Islamic fundamentalist organization. With Israel’s support, Yassin’s organization soon gains control of hundreds of mosques, charities, and schools which serve as recruiting centers for militant Islamic fundamentalism. In 1976 Yassin creates another organization called the Islamic Association that forms hundreds of branches in Gaza. In 1978 the Islamic Association is licensed by the government of Menachem Begin over the objections of moderate Palesinians including the Commissioner of the Muslim Waqf in the Gaza Strip, Rafat Abu Shaban. Yassin also recieves funding from business leaders in Saudi Arabia who are also hostile to the secular PLO for religious reasons. The Saudi government, however, steps in and attempts to halt the private funds going to Yassin, because they view him as a tool of Israel. [United Press International, 2/24/2001; CounterPunch, 1/18/2003; Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 195 - 197] Yassin will go on to form Hamas in the 1980s, which is created with the help of Israeli intelligence (see 1987).
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin forms Hamas as the military arm of his Islamic Association, which had been licensed by Israel ten years earlier (see 1973-1978). According to Charles Freeman, a former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, “Israel started Hamas. It was a project of Shin Bet, which had a feeling that they could use it to hem in the PLO.” [CounterPunch, 1/18/2003; Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 191, 208] Anthony Cordesman, a Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic Studies, states that Israel “aided Hamas directly—the Israelis wanted to use it as a counterbalance to the PLO.” A former senior CIA official speaking to UPI describes Israel’s support for Hamas as “a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious alternative.” Further, according to an unnamed US government official, “the thinking on the part of some of the right-wing Israeli establishment was that Hamas and the other groups, if they gained control, would refuse to have anything to do with the peace process and would torpedo any agreements put in place.” Larry Johnson, a counterterrorism official at the State Department, states: “The Israelis are their own worst enemies when it comes to fighting terrorism. They are like a guy who sets fire to his hair and then tries to put it out by hitting it with a hammer. They do more to incite and sustain terrorism than curb it.” [United Press International, 2/24/2001 Sources: Larry C. Johnson, Unnamed former CIA official]
Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer. [Source: Associated Press]Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer, and Lafi Khalil, two Palestinian men who had recently immigrated from the West Bank to the US, are arrested in New York City. They are found with a number of hand made bombs, and officials claim they were mere hours away from using them on a busy Atlantic Avenue subway station and on a commuter bus. Police were tipped off to them by a roommate. [New York Times, 8/1/1997; CNN, 8/2/1997] In the days immediately after the arrests, numerous media reports claim that the FBI has tied the two men to Hamas. For instance, the Associated Press reports, “The FBI has linked two suspects in a Brooklyn suicide-bombing plot to the militant Mideast group Hamas… One man was linked to Hamas by intelligence sources, the other through an immigration document he had filled out in which he said he had been accused in Israel of having been in a terrorist organization. The organization, the source said, was Hamas.” Reports say both suspects “are working for Mousa Abu Marzouk, the Hamas political leader who lived in Virginia for 15 years before being arrested in 1995, imprisoned as a terrorism suspect, and then deported earlier [in 1997].”(see July 5, 1995-May 1997) [Associated Press, 8/1/1997; CNN, 8/2/1997] According to another account, “law enforcement authorities say these suspects made frequent phone calls from local neighborhood stores to various Hamas organization offices in the Middle East.” [PBS, 8/1/1997] Just days earlier, there had been a Hamas suicide bombing in Israel that killed fifteen people. Mezer or Khalil reportedly called the suicide bombers “heroes” and added, “We wish to join them.” [New York Times, 8/2/1997] A note is found in their apartment that threatens a series of attacks unless several jailed militants were released, including Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, Ramzi Yousef, and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the top leader of Hamas. A copy of the letter was sent to the State Department two days before their arrest. A portrait of Abdul-Rahman is also found on the wall of their apartment. [CNN, 8/2/1997; New York Times, 8/6/1997] However, on August 4, US officials announce that the two had no ties to Hamas or any other organization. In his trial, Mezer will say he planned to use the bombs to kill as many Jews as possible, though not in a subway. He will describe himself as a supporter of Hamas but not a member. He will be convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Khalil will be acquitted of the terrorism charge, but convicted of having a fake immigration card. He will be sentenced to three years in prison and then ordered deported. [CNN, 8/4/1997; New York Times, 7/21/1998; National Journal, 9/19/2001]
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