Earlier this week the comedian Joan Rivers defended the Israeli invasion of Gaza.

During the TMZ interview Rivers said the death rate in Gaza is to be expected and is legitimate because the Palestinians initiated the violence.

But who started what and why?

On June 24 a credible and highly respected Palestinian pollster commissioned by the Washington Institute conducted a survey revealing a solid majority of Palestinians reject violence and prefer a nonviolent “popular resistance against the occupation,” including demonstrations, strikes, marches, and mass refusals to cooperate with the Israeli state.

70 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “Hamas should maintain a ceasefire with Israel in both Gaza and the West Bank.”

The poll also showed widespread disapproval of Hamas. Palestinians are concerned about official corruption and nearly 90 percent want the Palestinian Authority to “send officials and security officers to Gaza to take over administration there.”

Hamas received a meager 15 percent approval rating in the poll. A large majority prefer either Mahmoud Abbas or other leaders affiliated with the Fatah Party, the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). They uniformly reject the rule of Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Mashal.

Israeli State Prefers Hamas Over the PLO

It is in the interest of the Israeli state to maintain the status quo – war with Hamas, the indiscriminate bombing of civilians, the rising outrage of the international community – instead of dealing with the preferred representative of the Palestinians: the PLO.

Hamas began as an Islamic charity association founded by Ahmed Yassin in the 1970s and the organization was used by the Israelis to counter the rise of Yassir Arafat’s PLO.

The precursor to Hamas was encouraged by then Prime Minister Golda Meir and, according to the Israeli weekly Koteret Rashit (October 1987), Palestinian Islamic organizations were “supported and encouraged by the Israeli military authority” in charge of the civilian administration of the West Bank and Gaza. “They were authorized to receive money payments from abroad,” most notably from Saudi Arabia (the monarchy would later halt payments and denounce Hamas as a tool of the Israeli government).

“Israel started Hamas. It was a project of Shin Bet, which had a feeling that they could use it to hem in the PLO,” writes former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia Charles Freeman in his book, Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam.

The government of Menachem Begin licensed the Islamic Association in 1978 over the objections of many Palestinians, including the Commissioner of the Muslim Waqf in the Gaza Strip, Rafat Abu Shaban.

Hamas evolved from the intelligence asset the Muslim Brotherhood and was officially established during the 1987 Intifada, or uprising, against Israeli occupation. It opposed the Oslo Accords, the first face-to-face agreement between the Israeli state and the PLO brokered by the U.S., and called for killing Israeli civilians.

At the time, “70% of Palestinians condemned attacks on Israeli civilians” and “Yassin did everything in his power to undermine the Oslo accords,” writes Hassane Zerouky, a journalist for the French daily L’Humanité.

According to an unnamed U.S. 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.”

Israel “aided Hamas directly — the Israelis wanted to use it as a counterbalance to the PLO,” Tony Cordesman, a Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic Studies, told Richard Sale of United Press International in 2001. Hamas “was a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious alternative,” a former CIA official told Sale.

Hamas and Israel share the same policy – eternal war with civilians caught in the crossfire. The will of the Palestinian people, as echoed in the above survey, will be ignored so long as the Israeli state continues to dominate the propaganda war and exact its political influence on the U.S. government.

Hysterical rants by Joan Rivers and other pro-Israeli celebrities – rants that amount to apologia in favor of mass murder and war crimes – will dominate the news cycle so long as the establishment media, acting as the propaganda arm for the Israeli state and the military-industrial complex, is permitted to operate as the purveyor of truth.

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