Islamic terrorist groups like Hamas and Hizbullah hate Zionism, but admire its success, says Dr. Uriya Shavit of the Dayan research center. The terrorist groups have even sought to mimic the Zionist success story in their own way, he told Arutz Sheva.
Islamic movements' hatred and opposition to the Jewish presence in Israel goes back for many years, longer than most realize, Shavit said. “However, what is even less widely known is that for all those years, Islamists tried to copy Zionism, and almost admired it,” he declared.
Zionism began as a grassroots Jewish movement to return to the Jewish homeland in the land of Israel. While there were many Jews living in the region already, the Zionists were unique in that they wanted to create a Jewish state, and they were willing to give up comfortable lives in Europe, in the Arab world, and elsewhere in order to do so.
Within decades, they had succeeded in establishing a state, and managed to keep the it alive despite being attacked simultaneously by multiple Arab armies.
Islamists secretly admired Zionism, in part due to their own misinterpretation of the movement, said Shavit. Many believed Zionism to be a religious movement, he explained. While there was “a significant religious element” within Zionism, the movement was actually more secular then than it is today, he said.
Islamists attributed Israeli victories over the primarily Muslim Arab world to Jewish faith and religiouity. They thought that “the Jews fought armed with their Judaism, while the Muslims were not armed with Islam,” Shavit explained. Islamists took their defeat as a message to pursue religious faith instead of political allies or advanced weapons, he said.
Their attempts to copy Zionism continue today, with attempts to mimic Israel's democracy, he added. While Islamist terrorist groups do not seek “democracy” in the Western sense of the word, “they recognize that it is a system that allows its leaders to accomplish things,” and they try to implement it for that reason, holding elections and establishing a parliament.
The results – seen in Gaza and elsewhere – are what the Western world would call theocracy.
When asked if the Islamists' alleged secret respect for Zionism conflicts with other elements of their movements, Shavit responded that it definitely does. “There are many contradictions within Islamist philosophy,” he said.