Ha­mas on trial

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

If Amer­i­cans were polled, we trust that a ma­jor­ity or near-ma­jor­ity of adults would be able to iden­tify Lind­say Lo­han, Danny DeVito or Paris Hil­ton, and a sig­nif­i­cant mi­nor­ity (amount­ing to tens of mil­lions of peo­ple) could talk at mind-numb­ing length about boor­ish celebrity be­hav­ior and the latest id­io­cies re­counted in the tabloids. By con­trast, an in­fin­i­tes­i­mal num­ber of Amer­i­cans know any­thing about Muham­mad Salah or Ab­del­haleem al-Ashqar, who were on trial last week in U.S. Dis­trict Court in Chicago, ac­cused of fi­nanc­ing Ha­mas. Ha­mas, elected to run the Pales­tinian Author­ity in Jan­uary, is a ma­jor player in the transna­tional ji­hadist net­work sup­ported by Iran and Syria, which is sys­tem­at­i­cally work­ing to fo­ment ter­ror and marginal­ize Amer­i­can in­flu­ence through­out the Mid­dle East.

This is par­tic­u­larly sig­nif­i­cant in view of the fact that the Iraq Study Group (ISG), co- chaired by Jim Baker and Lee Hamil­ton, has sug­gested that Wash­ing­ton try to get “A Syr­ian com­mit­ment to help ob­tain from Ha­mas an ac­knowl­edge­ment of Is­rael’s right to ex­ist.” To put it mildly, this is go­ing to be a very dif­fi­cult en­deavor: Re­cently, se­nior Ha­mas rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Da­m­as­cus and Gaza have de­clared that they will never rec­og­nize the Jewish state. And in mak­ing their case against Messrs. Salah and Ashqar, prose­cu­tors are im­plic­itly show­ing just how delu­sional it is of the ISG to think that Ha­mas would ever ac­cept Is­rael.

Mo­hammed Shorbagi, a mosque leader in Rome, Ga. who pled guilty in April to pro­vid­ing fi­nan­cial sup­port for Ha­mas, tes­ti­fied about Ha­mas doc­u­ments in his home that were sent to him by Mr. Ashqar in 1995. When asked about Mr. Ashqar’s role as head of an or­ga­ni­za­tion called the Al Aqsa Ed­u­ca­tional Fund, Shorbagi said Mr. Ashqar’s re­spon­si­bil­ity was “to work to- ward the de­struc­tion of Is­rael.” Also at the trial, FBI Spe­cial Agent Jill Pet­torelli tes­ti­fied about what ap­peared to be in­ter­nal Ha­mas doc­u­ments found in Mr. Ashqar’s Ox­ford, Miss. home dur­ing a Dec. 26, 1993 FBI search. Th­ese doc­u­ments out­lined Ha­mas’s strat­egy for com­bat­ting diplo­matic ini­tia­tives for Mid­dle East peace — and in par­tic­u­lar, mak­ing sure that the 1991 Madrid peace con­fer­ence which re­sulted in large part from Mr. Baker’s in­de­fati­ga­ble diplo­matic ef­forts yielded noth­ing. Steven Emer­son of the In­ves­tiga­tive Project, who has been care­fully mon­i­tor­ing the trial, re­ports that other doc­u­ments sub­mit­ted into ev­i­dence dealt with the im­por­tance of build­ing re­la­tions be­tween Ha­mas and other ter­ror­ist groups, in­clud­ing Hezbol­lah and the Da­m­as­cus-based PFLP. A spe­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tor with the U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice tes­ti­fied about Mr. Salah’s per­sonal fi­nances in late 1992 and early 1993, around the time he was ar­rested by Is­rael for his role in fi­nanc­ing Ha­mas. Dur­ing that pe­riod, $985,000 was de­posited into Mr. Salah’s ac­count by Musa Abu Mar­zouk — a for­mer res­i­dent of North­ern Vir­ginia who is a se­nior Ha­mas leader and an as­so­ci­ate. Mar­zouk, de­ported from the United States in 1997, is be­lieved to be based in Da­m­as­cus to­day.

In 2000, Mr. Salah and sev­eral Is­lamic char­i­ties were sued by Stan­ley and Joyce Boim, whose son David died in a 1996 Ha­mas at­tack on a bus stop in Jerusalem. The Boims held that, be­cause Mr. Salah and the char­i­ties fi­nanced Ha­mas, they should be held fi­nan­cially li­able for David’s slay­ing. Two years ago, a Chicago jury in that civil case found Mr. Salah and the char­i­ties li­able and awarded $156 mil­lion to the Boims. More in­for­ma­tion on the crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion of Messrs. Salah and Ashqar can be found at the Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Blog.

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