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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Summary of Special Panel on Holy Land's Ties to Hamas & Muslim Brotherhood

By Andrew Cochran

On Tuesday, December 11, the Counterterrorism Foundation, along with the NEFA Foundation and International Assessment and Strategy Center, conducted a special panel, "Infiltration and Deception: The Holy Land Foundation and the Muslim Brotherhood in America," in the halls of Congress before a packed room of experts, law enforcement and intelligence community personnel, Congressional staff, and industry leaders. Here is the written version of my introduction of the co-sponsors and the panel. The audio of the discussion and Q&A is available for download here.

I moderated as Douglas Farah (NEFA), Michael Fechter (IPT), and Jeffrey Breinholt (IASC) discussed the Holy Land Foundation's ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, the long-term goals of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Muslim American leaders who have worked for decades towards those goals, and the legal context for the trial and other terrorism-related trials in the U.S. Douglas Farah discussed the history and objectives of the Brotherhood in the U.S (see this NEFA Foundation study). He also discussed the special 1993 meeting in Philadelphia of the U.S. Palestinian Committee (see this NEFA Foundation study), at which the participants plotted long-term strategy to turn the U.S. into a safe place for the Movement, and the role of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in HL F and the Brotherhood. Michael Fechter discussed the pivotal roles of Mousa Abu Marzook, current Hamas deputy political director; Abdelrahman Alamoudi, now in jail for terrorism-related offenses; and Sami Al-Arian, also jailed for such offenses, in the formation of the Brotherhood network in the U.S., leading to the formation of HLF. You can read a written version of his comments here. Jeffrey Breinholt discussed the numerous successes in terrorism-related trials in the U.S., including two previous trials involving HLF members, and the implications of defeat. I already posted his perspective on the numerous successful federal terrorism-related prosecutions. Many of the points made at the panel had been already posted here by numerous Contributing Experts, including Matthew Levitt, who testified at the trial, but the key facts and relatioships revealed through the case deserve repeating.

Here are key quotes from the other presentations distributed at the panel and linked above:

Information directly tying the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas to HLF and CAIR, and a blatant lie denying the CAIR-HLF ties during a Congressional hearing, from the NEFA Foundation study of the MB's history in the U.S.:

During the course of the trial, federal prosecutors presented an array of internal Muslim Brotherhood documents from the 1980s and early 1990s that give a first-ever public view of the history and ideology behind the operations of the Muslim Brothers (known as the Ikhwan, the Group, or the Brotherhood) in the U.S. over the past four decades. These documents, accepted as valid by the defendants and admitted at trial without protest, discuss recruitment; organization; ideology; and the development of the Group in different phases in the United States. For researchers, the documents have the added weight of being written by the Ikhwan leaders themselves, rather than interpretations of secondary sources.


The exhibits make four things clear:

1) Many of the existing organizations that have set themselves up as the interlocutors between the Islamic community in the United States and the outside world (including government, law enforcement, and other faiths) were founded and controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood from their inception. Many of them changed their names over time to achieve broader national acceptance.

2) The Brotherhood established a highly-structured organization with many different faces inside the United States while deliberately and continually seeking to hide the Brotherhood's links to its front groups.

3) The agenda to be carried out by these groups in the United States in reality had little to do with the organizations' publicly-proclaimed goals, such as protecting the civil rights of Muslims. Rather, the true goal is to destroy the United States from the inside and work to establish a global Islamist society.

4) The primary function of the Brotherhood structures, from the early 1990s forward, was to support, materially and politically, the Hamas movement in the Palestinian territories, as instructed by the office of the general guide of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo.


A defining moment for the Brotherhood in the United States (and elsewhere) was the 1987 formation of Hamas as an armed group. What set Hamas apart from other Islamist groups was its public and organic link to the Muslim Brotherhood. Article 2 of the Hamas Charter states that:

"The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine. The Muslim Brotherhood Movement is a universal organization which constitutes the largest Islamic movement of modern times. It is characterized by its deep understanding, accurate comprehension and its complete embrace of all Islamic concepts of all aspects of life, culture, creed, politics, economics, education, society, justice and judgment ,the spreading of Islam, education, art, information, science of the occult and conversion to Islam."


A document titled "Annual Report for year 89-1990, Presented to the Organizational Conference," states that:

"The Central Committee for Palestinian Activism in America is in charge of planning, directing and following up on all work related to and connected to the Group. It includes several committees and organizations, some of which are: The Islamic Association of Palestine, the Occupied Land Fund, The United Association for Studies and Research, the Office of Foreign Affairs, The Investment Committee, The Rehabilitation Committee, the Medical Committee and the Legal Committee."

This is an unambiguous statement by the Brotherhood (Group) linking the IAP, the OLF (which later became the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development), and the United Association for Studies and Research (USAR), the Group's main think tank for many years. The same document notes that the HLF invested $100,000 in real estate with an ICNA-affiliated group, further indications of a strong relationship In order to bolster its outreach capabilities, the Group helped form the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) in 1994. CAIR is first mentioned by name in the Brotherhood documents as part of the July 30, 1994 agenda of the Palestine Committee. CAIR would grow to become the leading Ikhwan voice in the media and become the most prominent public face of the Group. CAIR's leadership was taken directly from the IAP and Palestine Committee.


Omar Ahmad and Nihad Awad, who co-founded CAIR and serve as CAIR's chairman emeritus and executive director, respectively, were listed as individual members of the Brotherhood's Palestine Committee in America. Ahmad and Awad also served as president and public relations director of the IAP, respectively. Interestingly, the exhibits show, on Oct. 5, 1994 CAIR received a $5,000 donation from the HLF, with the notation "CBS" in the memo line. Just two days before, CBS had aired a piece identifying the HLF and IAP as groups funding Hamas. The story led to a major outcry by Ikhwan-related groups, protesting the innocence of the groups, and it seems reasonable to assume that the money was given to CAIR to help fund the efforts to counter the CBS story, which included a letter-writing campaign and public protestations of the innocence of the named groups.

What makes the donation notable is that, in written testimony before the U.S. Congress, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad stated that it was "an outright lie" to say CAIR had received any money from the HLF, as Steve Emerson of the Investigative Project had stated. In his testimony, Awad challenged Emerson to produce "even a shred of evidence to support his ridiculous claim" that his group had received any such donation. At the time the existence of the check was unknown to Congressional investigators or the law enforcement community.

More details of the Hamas-HLF-CAIR ties from the NEFA Foundation study on the 1993 Philadelphia meeting, as well as the obvious intention of particiapnts there to hide their support for Hamas:

Federal prosecutors reported that "approximately 20 members of the Palestinian Committee" attended the Philadelphia meeting;25 the FBI has identified those individuals as "senior leaders of HAMAS, the HLFRD and the IAP."

Four HLF officials - Shukri Abu Baker, Ghassan Elashi, Mufid Abdulqader, and Haitham Maghawri -- who faced trial in Texas for providing material support to Hamas attended the conference:

. Shukri Abu Baker: Abu Baker helped found HLF and served as the organization's President, Secretary, and Chief Executive Officer. In 2005, the U.S. government asserted that his brother, Jamal, was "the former Hamas leader in Sudan and the current Hamas leader in Yemen."

. Ghassan Elashi: Elashi incorporated HLF and served as the organization's Treasurer and later as Chairman of the Board. He also incorporated IAP and was a founding board member of CAIR's Texas chapter. In April 2005, Elashi and his computer company, Infocom, were convicted for engaging in prohibited financial transactions with a Specially Designated Terrorist and conspiring to commit money laundering. That Specially Designated Terrorist was Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzook, who is married to Ghassan's cousin, Nadia Elashi. (Notably, Marzook gave HLF $210,00035 and IAP $858,158.36)


A handful of IAP officials joined their HLF associates in Philadelphia.

. Omar Ahmad: Ahmad served as President of IAP.49 Shortly after the Philadelphia meeting, in 1994, Ahmad co-founded CAIR and is currently the organization's Chairman Emeritus.

. Nihad Awad: Awad acted as IAP's Director of Public Relations. He cofounded CAIR with Omar Ahmad and is currently the group's Executive Director.

. Akram Kharroubi: In a 1991 letter, Kharroubi identifies himself as the Chairman of IAP's Washington branch. From 1995-1999, he was HLF's representative in Ramallah. According to the FBI, "during the early 1990s," Kharroubi "was in contact with HAMAS leaders, including Mousa Abu Marzook. He reportedly distributed HAMAS statements when they were issued." Detained by Israel in 1999, he admitted to his interviewers that "from 1994 to 1999, he was a money courier between HAMAS members in Jordan
and the West Bank."

. Mohammad Al-Hanooti: Hanooti served as IAP President from 1984-1986. A 2001 FBI memorandum cited an FBI source, who had "been found reliable in the past," who "stated that Al-Hanooti was a big supporter of HAMAS." That same memo cited another FBI source, who also had "been found reliable in the past," who reported "that Al-Hanooti collected over six million U.S. dollars for support of HAMAS in Israel."

. Ismail Elbarasse: Elbarasse incorporated the American Middle Eastern League for Palestine, which "did business as" IAP. Elbarasse held a joint bank account with Mousa Abu Marzook in the 1990s; further, Specially Designated Terrorist Mohammad Salah told Israeli authorities "that he was directed by Marzook to receive funds from Elbarasse to be used for funding HAMAS military operations.Salah's financial records document that Elbarasse wire-transferred a total of $735,000 to Salah from December 1992 to January 1993."


Two other attendees were affiliated with the Al-Aqsa Educational Fund (AAEF), which Chicago prosecutors have argued was a conduit for Hamas funds. According to the FBI, "in early 1994,.[the] Al-Aqsa Educational Fund.and the HLFRD were in conflict over fund-raising issues...HAMAS Political Bureau head Mousa Abu Marzook designated the HLFRD as the primary fund-raising entity in the United States and ordered the AAEFI to curtail fund-raising operations. Ultimately, Marzook traveled to the United States and chaired a meeting in Dallas, Texas, regarding this issue."


Then, with the conference in its early stages, Shukri Abu Baker makes a telling request, asking the attendees, "Please don't mention the name Samah in an explicit manner. We agree on saying it as 'sister Samah'." An FBI analysis of the meeting assesses that "participants went to great length and spent much effort hiding their association with the Islamic Resistance Movement, a.k.a. HAMAS. Instead, they referred to HAMAS as 'SAMAH', which is HAMAS spelled backwards. Most of the time, the participants referred to HAMAS as 'The Movement.'"

Abu Baker follows up his "Samah" request by informing the group, "the session here is a joint workshop between the Holy Land Foundation and the IAP. This is the official form. I mean, please, in case some [people] inquired." During the HLF trial, federal prosecutors linked these instructions to a security manual seized by authorities during a search of Infocom, Ghassan Elashi's computer company. Under the heading, "The Foundation's Policies & Guidelines," the manual notes that meeting participants must agree "on a cover for the reason of the meeting which is in harmony with the type of the relationship."

Michael Fechter on Mousa Abu Marzook, the current Hamas deputy political director, and convicted felons Abdelrahman Alamoudi and Sami Al-Arian in establishing the Brotherhood network in the U.S. and HLF and other branches:

Let's start with Mousa Abu Marzook, who is a pivotal player in the HLF case. Marzook is the Hamas deputy political director. He came to America in 1981 to pursue an education, which culminated in a doctorate in engineering from a Louisiana correspondence school.

When US officials deported him to Jordan in 1997, he left behind an extensive network of Islamist organizations working in charity, politics and public relations and academia. Each enjoyed widespread mainstream acceptance and each denied any connection to extremism, specifically to Hamas.

If you look at the entities that comprised the Palestine Committee - Marzook is the thread that binds them all together. He was a board member for the Islamic Association for Palestine in 1989 and gave the IAP nearly $500,000. He founded the United Association for Studies and Research, or UASR, which operated mostly from Springfield, Virginia. He gave more than $200,000 to the Holy Land Foundation. And in 1994, Marzook convened a meeting in Mississippi to mediate a dispute between the HLF and Hamas member Mohammed Salah. According to government wiretaps, Marzook designated HLF over Salah as Hamas's primary fund-raising arm in the U.S.

Salah was jailed in Israel for funneling money to Hamas. He, along with the Holy Land Foundation and the IAP, was held liable for damages by a U.S. court for the Hamas murder of American David Boim in 1996. In addition, while acquitted of conspiracy charges for supporting Hamas, Salah is serving nearly two years in prison for lying under oath about his Hamas connections.

The current manifestation of Marzook's time in America is the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a purported "civil rights" group, which absorbed top leadership from both the IAP (Nihad Awad and Omar Ahmad) and UASR (Mohammed Nimr and Nabeel Sadoun). Founded in 1994, CAIR publicly defended Marzook, attempting to spin the detention of the top Hamas official as a "civil rights" issue.


While in custody, Marzook gave a jailhouse interview to Steve McGonigle at the Dallas Morning News. According to McGonigle's April 1996 story, Marzook told him, quote "There is no organization for Hamas outside Palestine at all."


Let's move now to Abdelrahman Alamoudi - he's serving a 23-year sentence for illegal financial dealings with Libya. As part of his guilty plea in 2004, Alamoudi admitted being a Director of Marzook's think tank and to being affiliated with the Marzook Legal Fund - created in the wake the Hamas leader's US detention. Alamoudi didn't disclose those affiliations on naturalization papers, leading to an unlawful procurement of naturalization count against him. He's also an unindicted co-conspirator in the HLF case, the first name listed among Muslim Brotherhood members in the United States.

In 1990, Alamoudi founded the American Muslim Council and became its executive director. AMC became the country's most prominent Islamic public advocacy organization in America. And as a result, Alamoudi arguably was the most influential Muslim political activist in America until his arrest in 2003. He was welcomed by Presidents Clinton and Bush.


President Bush even stood side by side with Alamoudi at a prayer breakfast on September 14th, 2001. A year earlier, Alamoudi spoke at a rally in Lafayette Park, stoking up a cheering crowd by saying Hear that, Bill Clinton, we are all supporters of Hamas . I wish they added that I am also a supporter of Hizballah. Anybody supports Hizballah here?

You can see this video on our website. In it, Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society (MAS) Freedom Foundation, is in the camera shot while Alamoudi speaks. MAS is another activist group that offers itself up as moderate. When Alamoudi invokes Hamas and Hezbollah, Bray raises his arms into the air, smiling. When asked about this recently, he passed it off as a laugh - that Alamoudi somehow was over the top and the crowd was laughing, not cheering him on.

That was one in a series of Alamoudi's fairly open statements in support terrorist groups and extremism. At an IAP conference in Chicago on Dec. 29, 1996, Alamoudi said: "I think if we were outside this country, we can say, 'Oh, Allah, destroy America,' but once we are here, our mission in this country is to change it ... You can be violent anywhere else but in America."

Let's go back to Doug's presentation and the Brotherhood's role in America:

"The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and "sabotaging" its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions."


Like Alamoudi, Sami Al-Arian was becoming one of the nation's most prominent Muslim political activists until his arrest. Like Alamoudi, he was welcomed at the White House and courted by political handlers. As a reporter in Tampa, I spent eight years investigating Al-Arian and his connections with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.


When my new boss, Steven Emerson, interviewed him in 1994, Al-Arian even feigned ignorance about what those initials P-I-J mean. Yet earlier that year he was overheard on intercepted telephone calls battling the PIJ founder about the organization's finances and his fears the group could disintegrate. Once in court, Al-Arian - through his lawyer - admitted what he had denied for a decade. He was a part of the Islamic Jihad.
Still, he was acquitted on eight counts against him and jurors hung on nine others, including racketeering conspiracy.

It is important to note that every juror who spoke publicly after the verdict believed Al-Arian was part of the PIJ. They felt that wasn't enough to convict him. Al-Arian avoided a retrial by pleading guilty to providing goods and services to the Islamic Jihad. He should have been deported by now, but he's in a jail not too far from here because he, like Abdelhaleem Ashqar in Chicago, refuses to testify before a federal grand jury investigating terrorism ties.


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