Ties Exist Between Hamas-linked Charities and BDS

The anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement has links to individuals and organizations that have been tied to Hamas, the U.S.-designated Palestinian terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip.

This revelation was made in testimony delivered at the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on April 19, 2016 by Jonathan Schanzer, a former analyst of terror networks for the U.S. Treasury Department. Schanzer is now the vice president of research for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a Washington D.C.-based think tank that conducted the study submitted to the House committee.

AMP and BDS: A ‘less understood’ threat

In his testimony, Schanzer described BDS as a “relatively new, non-kinetic and less understood threat” whose objective is to “wage an economic and cultural war against the State of Israel.” The former Treasury official stated that although “much has been written about” BDS, “there has been little scrutiny of the corporate and fiscal structure of the BDS campaign’s major actors in the United States.”

Schanzer noted that American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) is a “leading driver of the BDS campaign. AMP is arguably the most important sponsor and organizer for Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which is the most visible arm of the BDS campaign on campuses in the United States. AMP provides speakers, training, printed materials, a so-called ‘Apartheid Wall,’ and grants to SJP activists.”

AMP’s campus activities are extensive. Schanzer stated that the organization spent $100,000 on college campuses in 2014 alone. The group has a campus coordinator on staff to work directly with SJP and “other pro-BDS campus groups across the country.”

AMP also has extensive ties to Hamas-linked “charities,” including the now-defunct Holy Land Foundations (HLF).

An unholy charity for terrorists

As CAMERA has noted (see, for exampleWashington Post Columnist Takes ‘Islamophobia’ Bait,” March 2, 2016) in December 2001 the U.S. Treasury Department designated HLF as a “as a charity that provided millions of dollars of material and logistical support to Hamas.”

On its website, the U.S. Treasury Department has stated:

“HLF, originally known as the Occupied Land Fund, was established in California in 1989 as a tax-exempt charity… In the year 2000 alone, HLF raised over $13 million. HLF supported Hamas activities through direct fund transfers to its offices in the West Bank and Gaza that are affiliated with Hamas and transfers of funds to Islamic charity committees (‘zakat committees’) and other charitable organizations that are part of Hamas or controlled by Hamas members. Mousa Mohamed Abu Marzook, a political leader of Hamas, provided substantial funds to the Holy Land Foundation in the early 1990s. In 1994, Marzook (who was named a Specially Designated Terrorist by the Treasury Department in 1995) designated HLF as the primary fund-raising entity for Hamas in the United States. HLF funds were used by Hamas to support schools that served Hamas ends by encouraging children to become suicide bombers and to recruit suicide bombers by offering support to their families.”

In its Feb. 19, 2006 announcement noting that HLF assets had been frozen, Treasury stated that Hamas chieftain Khaled Meshal identified HLF officer Mohammed El-Mezain as Hamas’s leader in the United States. Seven HLF officials were indicted by the U.S. government, two of whom fled the country and the remaining five were all sent to prison for providing material support to a U.S.-designated terrorist group as a result of the HLF retrial in 2009.

From terror charities to BDS

In his testimony, Schanzer noted that three former HLF officials now work for AMP. One of whom, Hossein Khatib, a former HLF regional director, now serves on the board for AMP. A former HLF fundraiser, Jamal Said, was the 2014, 2015 and 2016 keynote speaker at AMP fundraisers. Schanzer pointed out that “Said was never charged with any crime, but rather was named by the prosecutors as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial.” Another AMP board member, Salah Sarsour, was, according to a 2001 FBI memo, identified by his own brother who was himself arrested for terrorist activities in Israel, as being involved with fundraising for Hamas.

HLF is not the only terrorist-linked entity to have ties with the BDS movement, according to the congressional testimony.

The Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) also fundraised for Hamas in America. In 2004, IAP was held civilly liable in a federal district court for financing the terrorist group. That ruling was upheld in 2008. At the HLF trial it was revealed that “numerous donation checks … made payable to … IAP” were “deposited into HLF’s bank account,” in some cases with the memo line, “for Palestinian Mujahideen [holy warriors] only.”

Office space to attack Israel

The former president of IAP, Rafeeq Jaber, appears on the 2010 and 2014 AMP tax forms as its tax-preparer. Schanzer noted that Jaber listed himself as an AMP representative in a September 2015 petition. Moreover, his business occupies the same office space as that of IAP before it was closed.

Another former IAP official, Abdelbasset Hamayel, who served as IAP’s secretary general is now AMP’s registered agent in Chicago. Schanzer pointed out that although Hameyel has been referred to in an AMP Facebook post as the group’s executive director, “he is not listed as an officer or executive on AMP’s tax forms or website.” This is an odd omission, Schanzer reported, as “his name appears on the AJP [Americans for Justice in Palestine, a 501c3 non-profit organization that is the fiscal sponsor of, and shares office space with, AMP] Educational Foundation’s IRS 990 form as the person ‘who possesses the organization’s books and records.’”

In addition to Hameyel, IAP’s former Michigan representative, Sufian Nabhan, has moved to serve on AMP’s board. AMP’s national policy director, Osama Abuirshaid, previously served as the editor of IAP’s newspaper, Al Zaytounah. Schanzer told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that, in addition to his work for AMP, Abuirshaid now runs a pro-Hamas newspaper based in Illinois, called Al-Meezan.

Abuirshaid regularly speaks at AMP events. One May 25, 2011 event in Detroit, Michigan, featured several other speakers including Dr. Hatem Bazian. Bazian is both the chairman of the AMP and a professor at University of California-Berkeley. As CAMERA’s Special Report “The Islamic Society of North America: Active, Influential and Rooted in the Muslim Brotherhood” (Sept. 3, 2012) noted, Bazian is an apologist for anti-Jewish violence.

Another related organization, KindHearts, was founded in 2002 and based in Toledo, Ohio. KindHearts received IAP money. In 2006, KindHearts was called the “progeny” of HLF by the Treasury Department. Furthermore, Treasury stated that “KindHearts officials and fundraisers have coordinated with Hamas leaders and made contributions to Hamas-affiliated organizations.” In 2011, KindHearts agreed to close. As Schanzer noted, Hameyel’s old business card identified him as KindHearts Illinois and Wisconsin representative.

AMP board members and representatives are not alone in having questionable ties to Hamas-linked “charities”; some supporters of the organization also have similarly eyebrow raising connections. For example, one AMP supporter is the Zakat Foundation, whose executive director, Khalil Demir, signed IRS forms for a group that Treasury designated in 2002 as being a financier of al-Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

From the mountains to the college campus

Schanzer stated that FDD’s research on BDS also turned up another group that is linked to an additional U.S.-designated terrorist organization, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The U.S. Coalition to Boycott Israel (also known as the Chicago Coalition for Justice in Palestine) is led by a Chicago resident named Ghassan Barakat, who is also a member of the Palestine National Council (PNC). The group’s “coordinator” is Senan Shaqdeh.

Shaqdeh was a “fighter in the ranks of mountain brigade” of the PFLP, according to a profile published by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Schanzer pointed out that Shaqdeh “also claims to be a founder of Students for Justice in Palestine.” In a Sept. 2, 2014 PLO Youtube video, the former PFLP member said he travelled to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdullah to brief them on BDS activity.

FDD’s vice president of research testified that although “we [FDD] have seen no evidence of illicit activity” by AMP: “its mission, however, is troubling. A recent photo from their headquarters features an Arabic-language poster that includes the phrase, ‘No Jew will live among them in Jerusalem.’ It is also troubling that at their 2014 annual conference, AMP invited participants to ‘navigate the fine line between legal activism and material support for terrorism.’”

“That invitation,” Schanzer told the congressional committee, “is troubling because it appears that some of AMP’s officers and donors came from organizations that have failed to navigate that ‘fine line’ in the past.”

Jonathan Schanzer’s testimony to the House Foreign Affairs committee can be found here.

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