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The Hamas PR Machine in America By: Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld and Alyssa A. Lappen
JewishPolicyCenter.org | Thursday, September 27, 2007


On August 8, the U.S. Treasury Department designated the al-Salah Society as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT), calling it "one of the largest and best funded Hamas charities." Treasury revealed that Hamas had used al-Salah, "to finance its terrorist agenda." The designation was one of many actions taken against Hamas front groups dating back to 1995, when Washington first designated Hamas a terrorist organization. Unfortunately, these actions do little to hinder Hamas activities in America.

The problem is not that Treasury's actions are insufficient. Rather, U.S. companies continue to knowingly or unwittingly facilitate Hamas Internet and television services. Moreover, professors, media outlets, and even a former U.S. president, help Hamas broadcast its messages throughout America, even as Washington attempts to weaken the terror group following the violent takeover of Gaza.

Whitewashing Hamas in the Classroom

While Hamas represses its own Palestinian people in Gaza and continues to launch rockets into Israel indiscriminately, a legion of U.S. apologists, including Muslim lobby groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), propose that the U.S. recognize the terrorist government, so it may be influenced to modify its agenda. Leading the charge, alongside the Muslim lobby groups, are American academicians.

Boston University professor Augustus Richard Norton and Harvard University Middle Eastern Studies scholar Sara Roy recently co-authored an article for the Christian Science Monitor entitled, "Yes, You Can Work With Hamas," encouraging Washington to recognize the legitimacy of the terrorist organization. Writer Cinnamon Stillwell notes that Roy, in particular, has "long been invested in forging the idea of a ‘New Hamas' by attempting to downplay the group's openly genocidal ambitions and picturing them instead as an enlightened group of do-gooders interested only in social services and education."

Roy and Norton are not alone. Scores of other professors, including the University of Maryland's Shibley Telhami; associate professor of political science and international relations at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Virginia Tilley; and Columbia University Professor Rashid Khalidi, have increasingly sided with Hamas, blaming all Palestinian woes on Israel, despite the fact that an internationally recognized terrorist organization now governs Gaza.

Read All Over

The positions advanced by these academicians are also buttressed by the mainstream press, which has helped Hamas spread its propaganda. On November 1, 2006, for instance, The New York Times ran an opinion piece penned by Ahmed Yousef, an advisor to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Yousef claimed that Israel refused a Hamas-proposed ceasefire with Israel. What the Times failed to note was that Yousef's call for a hudna was essentially a call to let the guns fall silent in the near term, but did nothing to assure that Hamas' long-term goal of destroying Israel would be addressed.

On June 20, immediately following the violent takeover of Gaza, both The New York Times and The Washington Post, America's newspapers of record, ran two different op-eds by Yousef. The Times piece, entitled "What Hamas Wants," falsely claimed that after the Hamas coup, "the streets of Gaza are now calm," promising reform and disarmament under Hamas rule. In truth, Hamas has imposed a Taliban-like regime in Gaza that includes the killing of innocents, arbitrary confiscation of property, muzzling the media, and increased links to Iran and al-Qaeda. The Times, however, insisted that running the Hamas opinion piece contributed to a greater understanding of Gaza's new rulers.

The Washington Post, on the same day, ran a separate op-ed penned by Yousef entitled, "Engage With Hamas." The piece argued that if Gaza became "a breeding ground for terrorism," Washington would be to blame, particularly if it did not engage with the new Hamas regime. These publications handed Hamas a propaganda coup.

Predictably, pro-Israel groups were enraged over the two opinion pieces. But the mainstream media was unmoved. On July 10, 2007, The Los Angeles Times ran an op-ed entitled, "Hamas' Stand," by Mousa Abu Marzook, a Damascus-based Hamas official heavily involved in Hamas fundraising. Marzook insisted that the terrorist group's, "militant stance cannot by itself be the disqualifying factor."

Over the Airwaves

The Hamas PR machine penetrates U.S. airwaves, too. The easiest venue to disseminate its message has been the Qatar-based al-Jazeera satellite television channel. While the channel is not accessible on cable or local satellites, Americans can easily access it on the Internet. The channel has helped Hamas transmit the idea that suicide operations, or "martyrdom," is approved by the prominent cleric and spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, Yousuf al-Qardawi. On July 16, 2007, for example, al-Jazeera featured a program in which Hamas chief Khaled Meshal, sitting alongside Qardawi, thanked the cleric for his "support of martyrdom operations." Meshal praised Qardawi because he issued, "rulings in support of these operations, and there were times when we were in dire need of these rulings."

American networks, for their part, have provided a platform for one of Hamas' most ardent advocates, former President Jimmy Carter. In one interview, Carter told ABC that, "Hamas leaders sent me word that what they want to do is to form, to quote them, a peaceful, united, unity government." The former president cast no doubt on this proclamation from a known terrorist organization. Indeed, he pleaded with American viewers on CNN to, "Give Hamas a chance."

Hatred.com

Hamas also relies heavily upon the Internet to disseminate its virulent anti-Israel and anti-American message, which arguably makes their computer keyboards as dangerous as the rockets they fire into Israel. The Internet allows Hamas to raise funds, plan terrorist attacks, maintain international communication, and expand influence and recruitment through advertising and chat rooms.

Hamas operates a number of sites including: paltime.net; alresalah.info; palestiniangallery.com; fm-m.com; felesteen.ps; al-fateh.net; mujamaa.org; islamic-block.net; alkotla.com; palestinianforum.com; aqsatv.ps; and tanfithya.com. Perhaps the most well known Hamas propaganda website is the Lebanon-based "Palestine-info" network of 20 or more websites. Domains include: Palestine-info-urdu.com, palestine-persian.info and palestine-info.net. The operation is run from Beirut by senior Hamas activist Nizar Hussein, with instructions from Damascus-based Hamas chief Khaled Meshal.

A page entitled "Heroic Stories" on Palestine-info is a good example of the virulent content on this website network. Here, Hamas glorifies female suicide bombers, and includes a religious ruling (fatwa) from Qardawi. Other Palestine-info pages include idealized photos and propaganda of weapons-toting suicide bombers.

The Palestine-info websites include official Hamas news, propaganda, and chat forum outlets in eight languages targeting the Middle East, Western Muslim communities, as well as non-Muslims around the world. In addition to English and Arabic, Palestine-info publishes pages in Farsi, Urdu, Malaysian, and Turkish, as well as Russian (targeting Chechens) and French (for North Africans).

Internet Service Providers

Opinions vary on the exact number of American Internet service providers (ISPs) that facilitate Hamas activities on the web. According to Internet-Haganah.com, an activist website, Hamas purchased 18 websites (roughly 60 percent of its sites) from North American providers. However, an August 2007 report by Dr. Reuven Erlich asserts that Hamas obtained only about seven (roughly 35 percent) of its estimated 20 websites from North American ISPs.

Either way, corporations that sell server space and Internet services to Hamas are aiding and abetting the terrorist network. U.S. companies that support Hamas via the web include Domainbank.com, register.com, Network Solutions LLC, OnlineNIC Inc., GoDaddy.com, eNom Inc., Defender Technologies Group, and Oversee.net. Canadian firms that service Hamas include: Groupe iWeb Technologies Inc., Tucows Inc., and NIC.ps.

Conclusion

The Hamas PR machine exploits the American democratic system to spread hatred and incitement through America's communications infrastructure, thereby assisting Hamas fundraising and recruitment activities. U.S. journalists, academics, and television networks that implore Washington to engage in dialogue with Hamas are providing this terrorist group with national and international platforms. Although these actions aid and abet our enemies, our Constitution protects them.

However, we can shutter Hamas websites, especially when providers are American, by invoking the Patriot Act, which defines facilitation of terrorist communications services as a terrorist act. Congress can also help by instituting new "Know Your Customer" requirements for all Internet service providers, and specifically network access and domain name register companies.

Some analysts argue that Hamas websites and TV broadcasts must remain operational so that the intelligence community can monitor them. This is a poor strategy. For every day these platforms remain online, hate propaganda continues to poison millions of minds, drawing recruits, and raising funds. And the terrorists go on killing.


Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld is author of Funding Evil; How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It. She is director of the American Center for Democracy and member of the Committee on the Present Danger. Alyssa A. Lappen, Senior Fellow at the ACD, is a former editor for Forbes, Corporate Finance, Working Woman and Institutional Investor.


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