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The Holy Land Foundation played a critical part in bringing Hamas to the United States and key members now face charges

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Terrorist ‘Charity’ on Trial

The Holy Land Foundation played a critical part in bringing Hamas to the United States and key members now face charges

Moussa Abu Marzook came to the United States in 1983 as an emissary of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza. Marzook was charged with building a Muslim Brotherhood infrastructure in North America. When he arrived he attached himself to the nascent Islamic Association for Palestine, a small organization designed to inculcate the philosophy and activism of the Brotherhood in a growing Palestinian Diaspora community.

Moussa Abu Marzook now sits in Damascus with Khalid Meshal as the leaders of Hamas, the renamed Gaza branch of the Brotherhood. Today, Marzook’s brother-in-law and cousin and Meshal’s half-brother, are in a Dallas court with four others, as defendants in a criminal case. The Department of Justice charges them as principals of the Holy Land Foundation, once the largest Muslim charity in North America. The defendants are accused of using Holy Land to finance Hamas terrorism.

The defendants claim they only provided charity to impoverished Palestinians and have had “no connection whatsoever” with Hamas and its terror brigades. But in fact, HLF was a Hamas creation and instrumentality. The defendants cry that “humanitarian assistance in Palestine is going to be treated as a crime.” This case is more than tracing financial support for terror. It is an effort to put in jail a group that created a terror infrastructure and insinuated a full-blown Hamas organization in the United States.

Hamas’ challenge is to make someone willing to strap on a suicide belt, board a bus and pull the cord. And, when it is over, convince the bomber’s parents and neighbors that he was a hero (while giving them enough money to get by.) Hamas does this by creating an environment based on a welfare infrastructure that provides “cradle to grave” support for the bombers and their families. It includes crèches, soup kitchens, youth activities, mosques, alms societies and a university. From this comes a cadre of the willing and money for the families they leave behind. HLF financed the welfare system that makes Hamas terrorism possible.

HLF and Hamas have always been one and the same. It all began in 1981, with IAP. Meshal has described IAP as one of the “first pillars of Hamas” in North America. In 1989, Marzook, and his brother-in-law, Ghassan Elashi, now in jail for providing funds to Marzook, organized and funded HLF, originally called the Occupied Land Fund. If IAP was a “first pillar of Hamas,” then HLF was a close second.

IAP and Holy Land were partners. IAP was the publicist and fundraiser. HLF distributed the donations to the Hamas infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank. IAP published stories and communiqués detailing Hamas’ operations in its newspaper, Ila Filistin. The punch line was always a solicitation for the Occupied Land Fund. For example, on December 1, 1989, IAP issued a communiqué on behalf of Hamas. It stated that the Intifada is “under the leadership of the Islamic Resistance Movement, ‘HAMAS,’ . . . the conscience of the Palestinian Mujahid people.” It then called upon the readers “to perform jihad for the sake of God (an allusion to “martyrdom operations”) with your money and donate as much as you can to support the Intifada in Palestine. You can send your donation to the Occupied Land Fund.” The success of these twin organizations was felt and appreciated in Gaza and the West Bank.

In December 1989, HLF President and current defendant Shukri Abu-Baker participated in an IAP convention that was redolent of Hamas and terrorism. One speaker led the attendees in a song which bore the chorus “Oh, Hamas.” Leading jihadist Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi told the attendees that “the hour of judgment will not come until you fight the Jews. And the Muslims will kill them.” The meeting was billed as a tribute to the memory of the recently murdered Abdullah Azzam, co-founder al Qaeda with Osama bin Laden and the keynote speaker at the previous IAP national convention.

A highlight was a Hamas “military leader” whose identity was disguised by a hood that covered his head and face. He addressed the conference from a stage which displayed two large banners. The first said:

Palestine is Islamic from the [Mediterranean] Sea to the [Jordan] River. Sponsored by Islamic Association for Palastine.

The second said:

“Islamic Resistance Movement [Hamas] — The Pioneer of Jihad in Palestine.”

The disguised Hamas representative specifically thanked IAP and the Holy Land Foundation for their continued support and standing behind their military wing.
IAP distributed a videotape of the conference. It concludes with a request that donations be sent to the Occupied Land Fund.

Holy Land Foundation paid for Hamas leaders to travel to the United States. In December 1992, after a series of Hamas terrorist attacks, Israel deported 400 Hamas activists to South Lebanon. HLF spent at least $277,000 to aid the deportees and their families. HLF provided annuities and support for the families of Hamas terrorists who died carrying out attacks on Israelis, or who were imprisoned or deported. The “Orphans Fund” was one of HLF’s most popular fundraising gimmicks. One of the orphans sponsored by HLF was the son of Yahya Ayyash, the Hamas bomb-maker known as “the Engineer.” HLF was a major funder of the Hebron Football Club which matriculated many suicide bombers.

At an October 1993 meeting of Hamas leaders in Philadelphia, Munir Kamel Mohammed Shabib, an admitted Hamas member, offered a presentation on “the situation in Palestine” and the status of “Islamic works” tied to Hamas. Shabib listed specific institutions tied to Hamas, which he described as “our institutions.” They included Yassin’s Islamic University of Gaza, and the Zakat (“alms”) Societies of Ramallah and Jenin. These very same “charities” were prominently featured in HLF’s literature as recipients of its funds. The entire three-day October 1993 meeting was devoted to support of Hamas and its agenda to defeat the Oslo Peace Accords which included having HLF a/k/a “the Treasury,” invest money in “our (Hamas) institutions.”

Shukri Abu Baker does not deny that he attended the meeting and participated in the deliberations. After the meeting, Abu Baker continued to send HLF money to the Hamas institutions. This “charity” continued until the day that HLF was closed by the government in the weeks following 9/11.

The defendants claim that their entire purpose was benign and that the prosecution reflects the administration’s “Islamaphobia.” We will hear how HLF responded to the terrible plight of the Palestinians. But HLF cannot deny its origins and the simple fact that its leaders knew that it was supporting Hamas and making its terror wing viable. Charity was a pretense.

IAP is out of business having been shut down as a result of a $156 million judgment in a case brought by the parents of David Boim, an American teenager gunned down by Hamas in 1996. But IAP leaves a legacy. Its principals were the founders of the Council for American Islamic Relations (“CAIR”), the so-called civil rights organization and an unindicted co-conspirator of in the HLF case. CAIR is leading the charge against the case. Maybe they are worried that they are next.

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Written By

Stephen J. Landes is a trial lawyer in Chicago who represents victims of international terrorism.

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