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The Holy War Foundation By: Stephen Schwartz
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, July 30, 2004

On Tuesday the federal authorities struck another serious blow against the toleration of Islamist terrorist activities on American soil, by arresting five former leaders of the so-called Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, which, as I have previously argued, would be better called the Holy War Foundation.   HLF is, after all, a front for the Palestinian suicide terror gang Hamas, which is mainly funded by Saudi Arabia.

The arrests nabbed, in Dallas, Texas, Shukri Abu Baker, former HLF president and chief executive, the notorious Ghassan Elashi, former HLF board chairman and treasurer, and Mufid Abdulqader. Mohammed El-Mezain, another former board chairman, was detained in San Diego, and Abdulraham Odeh was caught in Newark, N.J.

Unfortunately, two more ex-officials of HLF, Haitham Maghawri and Akram Mishal, managed to escape U.S. jurisdiction.  They have been charged with material support for terrorists.   The federal indictment of the group, unsealed in Texas, alleges that the group sent $12.4 million to Hamas in a period of six years.


HLF long functioned as the nerve center of the “Wahhabi lobby” in the U.S., headquartered in Texas, with branch offices in Paterson, N.J., Bridgeview, Ill., and San Diego.  Established in 1989, HLF took off when it received a $200,000 cash infusion from Musa Abu Marzook, the external director of Hamas, who lived in the United States until he was deported in 1997.  Marzook, brother-in-law of Ghassan Elashi, financed six terrorist attacks in Israel from his home in Falls Church, Va.  In 1995, the U.S. authorities asked for the arrest and deportation of Marzook to Israel, where he had been indicted for involvement in terror attacks carried out while he resided in the U.S., and in which 47 people were killed. 


Although Israel then dropped its demand, because of “security concerns,” the U.S. deported Marzook to Jordan.  His chief of military affairs was another U.S. resident, Muhammad Salah, of Bridgeview, Ill.   Ordinary Americans should be shocked and outraged to learn that Hamas was running its terror campaign from a sanctuary in the U.S.


Federal authorities had been watching the foundation since 1996, and concerned American Muslims had denounced its activities on numerous occasions.  On September 5, 2001, less than a week before the World Trade Center atrocities, federal anti-terrorism agents raided InfoCom Corporation, the company that ran the HLF website.  The InfoCom connection is crucial to understanding relations between the various components of the Islamist terror operation. According to defectors from the conspiracy, the HLF web server was used by virtually the entire “Wahhabi lobby”: the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Muslim Students Association of the U.S. and Canada, and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the latter being the Western Hemisphere arm of the Jama’at-i-Islami, a murderous Wahhabi movement wreaking chaos in Pakistan.


The HLF network has also included such other terrorist front groups as the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP) and the American Muslims for Jerusalem. These groups appeared independent of one another, but nearly all of them drew from the common financial and technical pool at HLF.  They did not disagree or compete; they were diverse “shops” offering identical ideological content. All shared a single administrative and technical contact for the maintenance of the web server.  They had been erected as political shells around the Hamas hydra-head represented by HLF.


This enterprise resembled the front activities long maintained by international Communism: separate groups, none of them directly identified with Hamas, but each crafted to appeal to a particular constituency. Their methods and rhetoric were and remain devious and deceptive. Further, they recognize no diversity within Islam; for them there is one Islam and they are it, and their goal is to make sure that any examination of Islamic issues, from the White House to any federal or state jailhouse, begins and ends with them.


Even after September 11, few Americans fully recognized what HLF represented.  In addition to defending suicide bombers, the foundation paid annuities to the children of Palestinian “martyrs.”  It also supported the Wahhabi clerics whose fatwas declared that, since all children are, by Islamic legal definition, innocent, Jewish children slain at the hands of the bombers are guaranteed entry into Paradise.  These fatwas advance the same claim for other innocents, Muslim or Christian, accidentally killed in the September 11 attacks: they too were “involuntary martyrs.”  This hideous doctrine rationalizing the murder of children is a pure expression of the Wahhabi totalitarianism emanating from Saudi Arabia.


The foundation embraced the identity of an Islamic charity; this religious cover gave the group and its satellites a fund-raising appeal far exceeding that of other extremist advocacy groups.  As we know, official charitable or relief organizations based in Saudi Arabia funded Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida cadres.  The full investigation of terror-funding charities is one of the challenges posed by the recent 9/11 Commission Report.  The Report also mentioned the “Golden Chain” list of al-Qaida financiers in Saudi Arabia, but said nothing more about them.


Two and a half years ago, on December 4, 2001, President Bush announced a freeze on HLF assets.  From the White House, he declared, “Hamas has obtained much of the money that it pays for murder abroad right here in the United States, money originally raised by the Holy Land Foundation.  The Holy Land Foundation is registered with the IRS as a tax-exempt charity based in Richardson.  It raised $13 million from people in America last year.  The Holy Land Foundation claims that the money it solicits goes to care for needy Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.  Money raised by the Holy Land Foundation is used by Hamas to support schools and indoctrinate children to grow up into suicide bombers.  Money raised by the Holy Land Foundation is also used by Hamas to recruit suicide bombers and to support their families.”


The President continued, “America has called on other nations to suppress the financing of terror.  Today we take further steps to suppress it inside our borders…  [T]he facts are clear, the terrorists benefit from the Holy Land Foundation.  And we’re not going to allow it.  Our action today is another step in the war on terrorism.  It’s not the final step.”


Nor does this week’s set of arrests constitute the final step in the rollup of Wahhabi terror funding and related activities in the U.S.  CAIR and its satellites, including some top politicians, will doubtless cry frameup, insisting that the money raised by HLF went only to purchase blankets and baby food.   Already professor John Esposito of Georgetown University, the outstanding apologist for Wahhabism in the American academy, has bleated about the HLF case, “We run the risk of leaving the message that it’s not extremists we’re going after, but Islam.” 


But HLF holds no monopoly on Islam; on April 16 of this year, Mustafa Efendija Ceric, the top Muslim cleric in Bosnia-Hercegovina – the country whose police seized the Saudi documentation on the “Golden Chain” – told the German daily Die Tageszeitung that the world is moving towards freedom and democratic states based on the rule of law. “The world can thank Western civilization… for this trend,” he declared.   Six months before, the October 15, 2003 issue of Preporod, the official Bosnian Muslim newspaper, carried a front-page editorial under the headline “American Friends.”   It also quoted Ceric, affirming that Americans are indeed the friends of Bosnian Muslims, who should make this point clear to their Muslim friends around the world. The Americans remain Bosnia’s friends, he insisted.


Back in the U.S., the federal authorities are unlikely to heed the chorus of condemnation that will be forthcoming in the HLF case, and actions like that against HLF will continue.  When we look back to September 11, we can say that many legal victories against the terrorist conspiracy have been achieved:  Randall “Ismail” Royer, the buddy of “antiwar” screecher Dennis “Justin” Raimondo is doing 20 years in prison; Abdurrahman Alamoudi, who once pranced before the White House shouting his allegiance to Hamas, is behind bars and facing trial; HLF is now history.  But there is much more to be done, beginning with serious inquiries into the financing of CAIR and their cohort, and the investigation and arrest in Saudi Arabia of members of the “Golden Chain.”

Stephen Schwartz, an author and journalist, is author of The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa'ud from Tradition to Terror. A vociferous critic of Wahhabism, Schwartz is a frequent contributor to National Review, The Weekly Standard, and other publications.

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