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Funding Hamas By: Alyssa A. Lappen
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, January 31, 2006

An influential foreign policy advisory group recommends that the U.S. and European Union continue to fund the Palestinian Authority despite the terrorist group's landslide victory in the January 25 Palestinian elections.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) in a press release announcing its January 18 study entitled “Enter Hamas: The Challenges of Political Integration” bemoan the fact that both the U.S. and E.U. bar contacts with Hamas, “deny funding to projects with Hamas-run municipalities, and have threatened to halt assistance to the PA if Hamas joins it. This attitude has had several, essentially negative, results: estranging Palestinians from Western donors; losing touch with an increasingly large segment of the population; jeopardising projects; and reducing accountability. Meanwhile, Hamas participates in elections without having to fulfil [sic] any prior conditions.” The ICG changed neither its report nor press release after the Wednesday poll.

Rather, the group recommends that the West “adopt a policy of gradual, conditional engagement to encourage Hamas to choose politics over violence. Incorporation into local and national governance may cause it to move away from the military path by giving it a stake in stability and emphasising the political costs of a breakdown.” Of course, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar declared that the group will not “change a single word of its charter,” which calls for Israel's complete “obliteration”, using that precise term. But never mind.

The ICG's views are frequently quoted concerning conflicts from Azerbaijan to North Korea, and not only in the press. Its views are also often loudly appreciated by leaders such as U.S. Department of State undersecretary for political affairs, R. Nicholas Burns. The ICG, established in 1995 “by a group of prominent international citizens and foreign policy specialists who were appalled by the international community’s failure to act effectively in response to the crises in Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda.” made its name in supporting an independent Kosovo, dominated by Albanian Muslims. 

A year ago, in January 2005, the group recommended that the occupied Serbian province be granted international recognition. The ICG released its paper at about the same time as Congressman Tom Lantos and Henry Hyde submitted Resolution 24 to the 109th Congress, calling for U.S. recognition of an independent state. Fortunately, while the Resolution was submitted to the House Subcommittee on International Terrorism and Nonproliferation, it went nowhere. For it would have recognized as “Prime Minister” Ramush Hajredinaj, who shortly thereafter resigned under pressure for his suspected involvement in war crimes, including the December 1999 murder of six Serbian youths in a Pec coffee house.

The ICG's latest proposal—to appease a genocidal group—should perhaps come as no surprise. After all, former PLO attorney Rita Hauser chairs the ICG's international advisory board. In 1988, Hauser legitimized Yasser Arafat, in the initial approach to the “Oslo” process, when she jetted to Stockholm with two other American Jews for two days of secret meetings with Khalid al-Hassan, a PLO co-founder and Arafat confidant. The ICG's board also includes anti-Israel multi-billionaire George Soros, who once blamed Jews for anti-Semitism. His Open Society Institute is one of ICG's donors.

Other ICG donors include such anti-Israel charities as the Ford and John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundations. Ford was the subject of a revelatory 2003 investigative series by Edwin Black published at the JTA, exposing its funding of many non-governmental organizations (NGO's) that back terrorist rhetoric and actions. MacArthur, although nominally seeking to pursue “a more secure world,” has also generously funded many avowedly anti-Israel scholars and studies, which quite naturally reached anti-Israel conclusions.

In the wake of the JTA series, Ford suffered rebuke from members of Congress and consequently resolved to no longer support universities where anyone advocated “violence, terrorism, bigotry, or the destruction of any state.” The Rockefeller Foundation, which also funds the ICG, at the same time amended its language to more generally prohibit grants to any charities or individuals that “directly or indirectly engage in, promote, or support other organizations or individuals who engage in or promote terrorist activity."

Article 7 of the Hamas charter calls for global Islamic hegemony, at the same time justifying genocide of the Jewish people. It concludes with a hadith recounted in the 9th Century by al-Bukhari, which states:

The Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to implement Allah's promise, whatever time that may take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: "The Day of Judgment will not come about until the Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them), until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: Oh Muslim! Oh Abdullah!, there is a Jew behind me, come on and kill him. Only the Gharqad tree would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews."

Thus in calling for European and U.S. recognition of Hamas, the ICG has in principle violated the policies of two of its major donors. Hamas, which is classified by the U.S. as a foreign terror organization, and has staged at least 58 suicide bombings against Israeli civilian targets in the past five years, killing hundreds of Jews, Christians and Muslims.

One would have hoped that other ICG benefactors, including donor-advised philanthropies like the Jewish Community Endowment Fund, would require basics similar to the new Ford and Rockefeller provisions.

But if the JCEF—or indeed the Moriah Fund, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Pierre and Pamela Omidyar Fund, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Ploughshares Fund, Sigrid Rausing Trust, or Sarlo Foundation, among others—shares such compunctions, the ICG chooses to ignore them.

Since the U.S. imposes “strict guidelines to ensure that none of its funding even indirectly benefits Hamas,” the ICG writes in its 51-page January 18th report, USAID bans supporting social welfare groups “considered to be affiliated with Hamas, regardless of their record on service delivery or accounting transparency.” Consequently, many NGOs and other organizations, like the Islamic University in Gaza, refuse to apply for USAID funds, which requires that they sign an anti-terrorism certificate. As if this were a bad thing.

The ban, the ICG argues, merely “impacted adversely on Western, particularly U.S., access to Palestinian grassroots organizations and further eroded USAID's local reputation.” The group concludes that “The threat of halting all PA support if Hamas joins [the government] makes little sense.” The ICG believes, rather, that the U.S. and Europe should seize the opportunity to “test Hamas' willingness to join the political process,” and transform itself into a political actor, as did the Irish Republican Army and “not long ago, the PLO itself.”

This logic is inherently flawed. For starters, the PLO set a very poor example. Neither the PLO nor the PA, its successor quasi-governmental organization, ever renounced terror, despite all claims to the contrary. In January 1998, Faisal Husseini declared that the decision to change the PLO covenant had not yet been carried out. (He later called the Oslo process a “Trojan Horse.”) The Palestine National Council's 1968 charter still reads, in part, “Palestine, within the borders it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit.” It calls Palestinian organizations and individuals “one national front working for the retrieval of Palestine and its liberation through armed struggle.” And it declares “The liberation of Palestine... a national (qawmi) duty ...   to repel the Zionist and imperialist aggression against the Arab homeland.”

More to the point, Hamas has repeatedly declared that its Charter will never be changed.

The question therefore arises: why should American or E.U. taxpayers fund the Gaza college, which the ICG describes as a “Hamas bastion,”  or Hamas-run municipalities, or Hamas-affiliated NGOs? If Palestinians want Western support to build a democratic civil society and their physical infrastructure, there is every reason to attach strings to those funds. Indeed, these strings send exactly the right message: either renounce terrorism, or consider yourselves our enemies.

The ICG mistakenly argues that political engagement will eventually lead Hamas to renounce its original goals. But at best, Palestinian Hamas members to whom the ICG spoke admitted a willingness merely to “delay” their conflict with Israel—not to abandon it. Still, with no supporting evidence, the ICG insists that Hamas could and would eventually renounce “all violence against civilians,” and drop its “opposition to a two-state solution.”  

In fact, recognizing Hamas on this highly unlikely chance would be akin to recognizing and negotiating with Osama bin Laden. Perhaps Hamas is, in the words of one of its leaders, now “part of the equation.” But to put it mildly, that by itself provides insufficient reason for the U.S. or EU to open discussions with, much less fund, sworn terrorists. At least the PLO lied about their intentions. Hamas makes no such pretense.

At this critical juncture, Palestinians bear a huge responsibility for their own fate. Palestinian voters gave Hamas a resounding 60% plurality73% in large municipalities like Nablus—and  58% of the PA's 132 parliamentary seats. If, as the January 25 vote suggests, the vast majority of Palestinians are so committed to Israel's destruction, then they and their “democratically elected” government deserve to be cut off by the West. And the sooner, the better.

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Alyssa A. Lappen is a former Senior Fellow of the American Center for Democracy, former Senior Editor of Institutional Investor, Working Woman and Corporate Finance, and former Associate Editor of Forbes. Her website is www.AlyssaaLappen.org.

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