A new report from the Program on Extremism at George Washington University (GWU) details how Hamas has had an extensive support network operating in the United States for decades, with many “core activists” still engaged in “various forms of support.”
The report, published Oct. 13 and authored by Director of the Program on Extremism Lorenzo Vidino, explains how individuals and networks providing “fundraising, lobbying, education, and propaganda dissemination” for Hamas have been in the U.S. since the 1980s, according to internal Hamas documents and FBI wiretaps that have been used as evidence in federal court cases.
Hamas, a designated foreign terrorist organization that took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, launched an Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, killing over 1,400 people, including over 30 Americans. The attack drew retaliatory airstrikes by Israel into Gaza, targeting Hamas infrastructure. The Hamas-run Palestinian health authorities say around 7,000 people, including nearly 3,000 minors, have been killed since the airstrikes began.
The report notes that the support network in the U.S. emerged from the Palestine Committee in the U.S., a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood founded in 1988, a year after the founding of Hamas.
The committee would go on to generate other public organizations such as the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), the Holy Land Foundation (HFL), and the United Association for Studies and Research (UASR), the report said.
An internal memo circulated within the Palestinian Committee in 1992 noted that the organization’s goals were to “increase the financial and the moral support for Hamas,” to “fight surrendering solutions,” and to broadcast “the savagery of the Jews.”
The report also recounts how, in 1993, the FBI wiretapped top Hamas activists meeting in Philadelphia to discuss bolstering the organization’s activities through deception and to prevent it from being designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S., which ultimately happened in 1997.
“I swear by Allah that war is deception,” leader Shukri Abu Baker was recorded to have said during the meeting. “Deceive, camouflage, pretend that you’re leaving while you’re walking that way. Deceive your enemy.”
“Let’s not hoist a large Islamic flag and let’s not be barbaric-talking,” he added. “We will remain a front so that if the thing [the U.S. government ban on Hamas] happens, we will benefit from the new happenings instead of having all of our organizations classified and exposed.”
The report also noted that key figures associated with the Palestine Committee remain active despite the U.S. government’s attempts to crack down on Hamas-supporting networks by shuttering their front organizations and prosecuting HLF leadership for giving millions to Hamas.
“Yet, US-based Hamas networks and individuals have displayed a remarkable resilience and many of the core activists of the Palestine Committee are still engaged in various forms of support (albeit at times purely political and not material) for Hamas,” the report states.
HLF was designated a foreign terrorist organization in 2001, and its leaders were prosecuted for disbursing $12.4 million to Hamas.
“[M]any of the members of the Palestine Committee and participants of the 1993 Philadelphia meeting have over the years created new structures to provide support to Hamas,” the report concluded. “While some of them focus on fundraising, others have concentrated on more political and educational efforts (which, due to their nature, are more difficult to fall under the provisions of material support to a terrorist organization and therefore trigger criminal charges).”
Last week, 19 Republican lawmakers sent a letter demanding the U.S. State Department and the Department of Homeland Security revoke the visas and deport foreign nationals who support Hamas.
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