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A Long Festering Problem

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After September 11, many expressed amazement at the relative ease with which illegal aliens from Arab countries were apparently able to lose themselves in American society. This in no small measure contributed to the horrific events of that day. But a startling story in this past Monday's New York Times documents that there was doubtless another related dimension as well. According to a The Times piece entitled, “After A Long, Slow Climb to Respectability, a Muslim Charity Experiences a Rapid Fall,” the US was not only duped into providing a home for terrorists, it also served as a cash cow for terrorists.

On December 3rd, President Bush froze the assets of the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, the nation's largest Muslim charity. According to The Times, over the years, the Foundation did everything it could to portray itself as a mainstream, benign, philanthropic machine seeking only to promote the well-being of the needy. But government documents, Arabic publications and some of the Foundation's literature directed at Arab audiences tell a far different story about what the Holy Land Foundation was really about. In documents filed in court by the FBI, the Bureau charges that the Holy land Foundation conspired with Hamas to use its money to support terrorism against Israel. Citing surveillance records and statements from informants, the Bureau claims that the Foundation provided an incentive for terrorists to attack Israel by sending money to families of suicide bombers and other terrorists.

The Times reports that in its early days, the Foundation, then known as the Occupied Land Fund, openly stated in its advertisements that its funds were available not only for educational purposes. One such advertisement appeared in the Arabic-language Ila Filastin and said:

“We call you to Jihad for the sake of Allah by donating any amount you can in support of the Intifada's families in Palestine. You can send your contributions in the name of Occupied Land Fund, P.O. Box 928, L.A., CA.”

The FBI also maintains that it has linked the Foundation's chairman, Ghassan Elashi, directly to Hamas. The agency said it bugged a meeting held in a Philadelphia hotel in 1993, “at which Mr. Elashi and two other Holy Land officials met with five leaders of Hamas. Those at the meeting, according to the Bureau, discussed how they could violently defeat the peace process and supplant the Palestinian Authority with Hamas….”

“It was mentioned that the United States provided them with a secure, legal base from which to operate,” and FBI memo on the meeting said. “The democratic environment in the United States allowed them to perform activities extremely important to their cause. In discussing financial matters, the participants stated a belief that continuation of the Holy War was inevitable.”

Although Elashi and other foundation leaders have denied all this, the FBI has said it observed all the participants entering the hotel at the time of the meeting and also confirmed their presence through American Express charge records.

The FBI says in a memo that it also overheard a meeting in Oxford, Mississippi in 1994 in which Hamas officials said that the Holy Land Foundation had been designated its primary fund-raising entity in the United States. Also, the memo recites that the FBI used American Express records to show that the Foundation paid for 11 fund-raising trips around the United States by two prominent Hamas activists in the West Bank. One informant quoted in the memo said that one of the two men was the head of the Hamas military wing in Gaza. He reportedly told guests at a fund-raising dinner in Los Angeles in 1994: “Finish off the Israelis! Kill them all! Exterminate them! No peace ever!”

Plainly, there was clear evidence in FBI files of the Holy Land Foundation's ties to Hamas since the early 1990's. Yet, until President Bush's bold step last week freezing their assets, they appear to have taken advantage of our democratic society and done their thing with impunity throughout the eight years of the Clinton administration! Yet, on the other hand, Mr. Clinton, who touted himself as the “best friend Israel ever had in the White House,” mounted a full court press on Israel “to take risks for peace.”

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