Even as President Bushinvests his considerable personal prestige and the power of his office inIsraeli-Palestinian peacemaking, his initiative is threatened by the continuedflow of financial and logistical support for Hamas terror attacks through thegroup’s social-welfare infrastructure.
The firstphase of the road map requires the Palestinian Authority to begin»sustained, targeted, and effective operations aimed at confronting allthose engaged in terror and the dismantlement of terrorist capabilities andinfrastructure.» Unfortunately, all signs indicate that key segments ofthe international community will do little to help stem the flow of funds andsupport through Hamas front organizations.
Even asthey call for renewed U.S. «engagement» in Mideast peace, Europeanand Arab governments continue to whitewash the role of Hamas social-welfare(dawa) activists and organizations in facilitating the group’s terror attacks.Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Syria insists Hamas and IslamicJihad offices in Damascus are merely «media offices.» Even moredisturbing, the European Union refuses to crack down on Hamas frontorganizations and the Hamas dawa infrastructure — both of which providefinancial and logistical support for Hamas terrorist attacks — even as itdemands such action of the PA in the road map it co-authored.
Last week,the U.S. and Britain froze the assets of the al Aqsa International Foundation,a Hamas front organization funding «Palestinian fighters» whilerecording its disbursements as «contributions for charitableprojects.» Germany and Denmark already shut the group’s offices there, andthe Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland also took action against thefoundation. Still, the group’s offices and activities in Holland, Belgium,Sweden, Norway, Yemen, Pakistan and South Africa remain untouched.
Nor has theEU added al Aqsa to its financial blocking list of terrorist entities. The EUlists only the Izz al-Din al-Qassem Brigades military «wing,» notHamas itself or its support infrastructure, and therefore refuses to add frontslike al Aqsa to its terrorism list. (Ironically, al Aqsa’s Yemen representativewas arrested not only for funding Hamas, but also for providing money, arms, communicationgear and recruits to al Qaeda). The EU stance is particularly galling in lightof a recently disclosed 1996 CIA document on world-wide charitableorganizations financing terror that refers to Hamas operatives and frontorganizations throughout Europe, including the United Kingdom, Denmark, Austriaand Croatia.
Hamasfund-raising in Europe and elsewhere is nothing new, and the social-welfareorganizations it funds play a direct role in facilitating terrorist attacks,including suicide bombings. Hamas is known to use the hospitals it maintains asmeeting places; to bury caches of arms and explosives under its ownkindergarten playgrounds; to use dawa operatives’ cars and homes to ferry andhide fugitives; and to transfer and launder funds for terrorist activitythrough local charity (zakat) committees. Funds from abroad support theseactivities.
Take forexample Muhammad Zouaydi, a senior al Qaeda financier detained by Spanishpolice. Spanish investigators found documents revealing Zouaydi financed not onlythe Hamburg cell responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, but also Hamas.According to Spanish prosecutors, Zouaydi funded the Hebron Muslim YouthAssociation, a «known» Hamas organization «financed by activistsof said organization living abroad.» Spanish police also say Zouaydi gave$6,600 to Sheikh Helal Jamal, a Palestinian religious figure in Madrid tied toHamas. U.S. investigations led to similar conclusions. An FBI memorandum on theHoly Land Foundation for Relief and Development — the primary Hamas frontorganization in the U.S. until its closure in December 2001 — noted that Hamas»benevolent programs are used to enhance its image and earn goodwill inthe Palestinian community.» FBI surveillance of a 1993 Hamas meeting inPhiladelphia captured Hamas fund-raisers deciding that «most or almostall» funds collected from that point on «should be directed toenhance the Islamic Resistance Movement [Hamas] and to weaken the self-rulegovernment [PA].» To that end, the Holy Land Foundation funded zakat committeestied to Hamas.
The Hamassocial-welfare activists running these organizations are often closely tied tothe group’s terror cells, or are themselves current or former terror-cellmembers. Consider just three of the FBI’s many examples:
• Fadel MuhammadSalah Hamdan, a member of the Ramallah Zakat Committee, was «directlyconnected with the planning of suicide attacks and the spiritual preparation ofthose about to commit suicide attacks, including the Mahane Yehuda attack inJuly 1997.»
• AhmedSalim Ahmed Saltana, head of the Jenin Zakat Committee, was involved intransferring bomb-making materials for the preparation of explosives in 1992,participated in a car bombing in 1993, and recruited young men working for thecharity committee into Hamas.
• KhalilAli Rashad Dar Rashad, an associated member of the Orphan Care Association inBethlehem, was known to provide shelter and assistance to Hamas fugitives,including Hamas bomb maker Muhi a-Din al-Sharif and Hassan Salameh, thecommander behind the string of suicide bus bombings in February-March 1996.
Morerecently, when Israeli forces raided the Tulkarm zakat committee in April 2002they found material lauding Hamas suicide attacks and records showing theInternational Islamic Relief Organization, a Saudi charity deeply involved interror financing, donated at least $280,000 to the Tulkarm Zakat Committee andother Palestinian organizations linked to Hamas.
Suchevidence led David Aufhauser, general counsel to the Treasury Department andchair of the National Security Council’s policy coordinating committee onterrorist financing, to describe the logic of making distinctions betweenterrorist groups’ charitable and military wings as «sophistry.» Byhis assessment, «the idea that there’s a firewall between the two defiescommon sense.»
Palestiniansface dire social-welfare needs unaddressed by the PA, a situation Hamas eagerlyexploits. Tolerating this exploitation is neither in the interest ofIsraeli-Palestinian peace nor Palestinian humanitarian aid. Indeed, Islamicsocial welfare groups that contaminate their benevolent activities with supportfor terrorism muddy the waters of charitable giving and good works, making thejob that much harder for those simply trying to better conditions in the WestBank and Gaza.
Theinternational community must insist that humanitarian support for Palestiniansbe divorced from support for terrorist activity — both to obstruct Hamasefforts to torpedo President Bush’s peace initiative and to clear the names ofhumanitarian groups untainted by terror. It is essential that the EU, Gulfstates and others strictly regulate which Palestinian charities receiveinternational aid and shut down front organizations raising funds for Hamas andother terrorist groups.
Mr.Aufhauser hit the nail on the head when he said, «No one is at war withthe idea of building hospitals or orphanages or taking care of people who aredisplaced. But the same people that govern how to apply the money to hospitalsgovern how to apply the money to killing people, and you cannot abdicateresponsibility for one and celebrate what you’re doing on the other: it remainsblood money.» For the president’s peace initiative to succeed, theinternational community must endorse this basic principle.
BloodMoney –By Matthew Levitt, senior fellow in
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (Wall Street Journal, June 4,2003)