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Giving in to Hamas? By: Olivier Guitta
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, February 07, 2006

As we are by now all aware, Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the worldwide Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, is the new official Party representing the Palestinians. Since it calls in its charter for the destruction of Israel, Hamas is one of the main obstacles to peace in the region. Considering that Hamas is both on the U.S. and the European Union’s list of terrorist entities, it would seem only logical that the West’s stance be: no money and no talk with a terrorist government. But unfortunately it does not look like that will happen.

Some Europeans leaders have adopted a wait and see attitude and decided to give Hamas time to “get their act together”. In light of past history, one should not be surprised by this European appeasement. Indeed, way before this election and the Hamas victory, some Europeans have been unresponsive in clamping down on the terrorist group.

One telling example is that of some of Hamas charities, based in Europe. They are flourishing, left alone by European authorities. The British Interpal and the French Comité de Bienfaisance et de Secours aux Palestiniens (CBSP) are among them.


As early as 1997, the CBSP was outlawed in Israel. The U.S. followed suit in 2003 with Executive Order 13224, which entailed freezing assets of the CBSP and designating it as a supporter of terrorism. President Bush then personally asked France to do the same and clamp down on this Hamas front headquartered in Paris 


Proof of CBSP’s involvement with Hamas is piling up. In fact, Israel arrested on September 25 one of Hamas top fundraisers, Abu Asama. The fund managed by Asama was used for rewarding the families of shahids (martyrs, i.e. Palestinian suicide bombers) and financing Hamas. According to Israeli policed cited by the Jerusalem Post, most of the funds were collected in Europe through mainly Interpal and CBSP. They were using as conduit an umbrella organization called the Charity Coalition, founded by Sheikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi, the radical Qatari Muslim preacher and star of Al Jazeera. Incidentally CBSP’s and Interpal’s leader, respectively Khaled Muhammad Ahmad Al Shouli and Assam Yusuf Haber Ben Amni, head the Charity Coalition.


CBSP is indeed a large NGO founded in 1990, which as of 2002 had a 3.2 million Euros budget (around $ 3.8 million) mostly distributed to Palestinian “causes”. It has four branches in France located in Paris, Lyon, Marseille and Lille. Interestingly enough, its Lyon branch is housed in the building occupied by the Tawhid Editions. Tawhid is in fact the largest French Islamist publishing company whose main author is none other than the infamous Swiss Islamist and Muslim Brotherhood’s founder’s grandson, Tariq Ramadan. Another CBSP interesting connection is the one with the UOIF (Union des Organisations Islamiques de France), France’s second largest Muslim organization and the de facto French Muslim Brotherhood’s branch. Indeed during UOIF’s convention, CBSP has a booth to collect money and distribute its hateful propaganda. It is therefore not surprising that during this year’s event, a scandal erupted when it was revealed that CBSP was distributing rabid anti Semitic tapes and leaflets.


Now, the real question is why is France categorically refusing to clamp down on CBSP?


First, it should not be that difficult in light of Holland and Germany’s closing of the main Hamas charity in their respective countries. Second with the proof accumulated by the Israeli and US authorities, France would have a strong case against CBSP. But recently France announced that it was not going to take action against CBSP because it was not involved in financing terrorism.


So, the real reason is political. In terms of foreign policy, it is an understatement to say that France had been historically very pro-Palestinian. In fact, until Hamas was finally included in the EU list of terrorist organizations in 2003, France was fighting tooth and nail against this action. France had maintained that Hamas was mostly a social organization. Last year I had the opportunity to ask French government’s spokesman, Jean-François Copé, on France’s stance on Hamas. He very flatly answered that France was closely monitoring Hamas’ activities on French soil. Obviously not CBSP.


Also there may be a domestic explanation to that appeasement of Hamas. Indeed as mentionned earlier, CBSP is closely associated to UOIF, which has become a partner for the French government. For instance during the recent riots in French cities involving mostly Muslim youths, the UOIF issued a fatwa (religious edict) calling for calm and a stop to the violence. 


It is mind boggling that on the topic of Hamas, France and the UK are turning a deaf ear. Also in light of Hamas’ inclusion on the EU terrorist list, why are these two countries not enforcing the law? If France and the UK are really interested in peace in the Middle East, it would be a good start to clean up at home and close down Hamas charities opposed to peace. Then the EU should cut the flow of money right away and ban dialogue with these extremists. In 2000, the EU boycotted the Austrian government because it included members of the far right Freedom party led by Jorg Haider. Why can’t they do the same with Hamas?

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Olivier Guitta is a Washington DC based foreign affairs consultant.

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