Posted by: ZOA Staff
May 3, 2016
News Press Release

Former Treasury Official: Hamas Group Funds BDS/SJP Groups

Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton A. Klein released the following statement:

The ZOA and others involved in combating anti-Israel “boycott, divestment and sanctions” (BDS) have previously pointed out that top backers of BDS include designated terrorist groups Hamas and the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine), the PLO/PA and the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine (CNIF) – an entity established by terrorists Yassir Arafat and Marwan Barghouti at the beginning of the Second Intifada to coordinate PLO and Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel.  (See, e.g., Dan Diker, Unmasking BDS: Radical Roots, Extremist Ends)   Last week, the Congressional testimony of former U.S. Treasury Department terrorism analyst Jonathan Schanzer described alarming, additional Hamas connections to the organizations that fund, coordinate, aid and abet the growing scourge of BDS on American college campuses.   (See Schanzer testimony, Joint Hearing before House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade and the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, April 19, 2016).

Here is a summary of information Schanzer documented during his detailed Congressional testimony:

  • At least seven officials of American “charities” that were implicated in funneling money to Hamas and that were designated or put out of business by the U.S. Treasury or held civilly liable (including The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), and KindHearts for Charitable Development), now lead and support a new organization called American Muslims for Palestine (AMP). AMP is “a leading driver of the BDS campaign” and “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.” (Quotes herein are from Schanzer’s testimony and the citations therein.)  See also ZOA’s letter documenting SJP’s vicious anti-Semitic and anti-Israel activities on CUNY campuses.
  • “AMP provides speakers, training, printed materials, a so-called “Apartheid Wall,” and grants to SJP activists.  AMP even has a campus coordinator on staff whose job is to work directly with SJP and other pro-BDS campus groups across the country. . . . AMP partners with a wide range of BDS organizations, and openly calls for Congress to embrace BDS.”
  • Holy Land Foundation Former Officials Now Work For or on Behalf of AMP: The U.S. government estimated that from 1995-2001, HLF “sent approximately $12.4 million outside of the United States with the intent to willfully contribute funds, goods, and services to Hamas.”   At least three officials that worked for or on behalf of Hamas-funder HLF, now work for or on behalf of AMP:

(1) HLF regional director Hossein Khatib is now an AMP board member (according to AMP’s website). 

(2) Mosque Foundation director Jamal Said was the 2014, 2015, and 2016 keynote speaker at AMP fundraisers.  The Mosque Foundation raised and donated money to HLF and was an un-indicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial.  The Mosque Foundation is now a sponsor of AMP, and Jamal Said is still the Mosque Foundation’s director. 

(3) Salah Sarsour was involved with Hamas and HLF, and funneled money to the leader of the Qassam Brigades (Hamas’s armed wing), through the family’s Milwaukee furniture store (per information from his brother, reported in an FBI memo).  Sansour was a named un-indicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial, and was arrested by Israel for his Hamas activities.  While in prison, he befriended and shared a cell with the Hamas Qassam Brigades leader.  Sansour is now an AMP board member, was identified as the chair of AMP’s 2015 conference, and told Al-Jazeera that “the [AMP] conference aims to keep up with and support the Palestinian people’s continuous intifada.”

The ZOA agrees with Schanzer’s recommendation, and calls on Congress and the U.S. Treasury to monitor and scrutinize officials of organizations connected to Hamas, the PLO/PA, and PLFP who are now funding and enabling the BDS campaign.
  • Islamic Association for Palestine Former Officials Now Work For or on Behalf of AMP: At least four officials of another former Hamas-supporting organization, The Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) are also involved with AMP.  A federal district court held that IAF was civilly liable for supporting Hamas; the decision was upheld on appeal.  “According to evidence presented at the HLF trial, “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.””  Both HLF and IAP were founded with money from Treasury-designated Hamas terrorist Abu Marzook. 

(1) IAP’s former president Rafeeq Jaber is listed as the preparer of the public filings of AMP’s tax-exempt funder, the Americans for Justice in Palestine Education Fund (AJPEF); is identified by the Palestinian Arab press as the “spiritual father” of AMP’s coalitions with other Muslim-American organizations; and signed a petition as AMP’s representative.  

(2) IAP’s former secretary general Abdelbasset Hamayel is AMP’s registered agent in Chicago, signed a petition as the “Director of AMP, Chicago,” is called AMP’s “Executive Director” in a Facebook post, and is listed as the person who possesses AJPEF’s books and records. 

(3) IAP’s former Michigan representative Sufian Nabhan is another AMP board member. 

(4) IAP’s newspaper editor Osama Abuirshaid is identified by AMP as AMP’s “National Coordinator” or “National Policy Director.”   In August 2015, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued an initial determination that Abuirshaid was “ineligible for naturalization” because he failed to properly disclose his IAP past.   Today, Abuirshaid also runs a newspaper (called Al-Meezan) that includes articles praising Hamas.

  • KindHearts: The IAP also raised money for another organization called KindHearts for Charitable Development.  The U.S. Treasury Dept. stated that KindHearts “was the “progeny” of HLF,” and provided “support for terrorism behind the façade of charitable giving,” that “KindHearts officials and fundraisers have coordinated with Hamas leaders and made contributions to Hamas-affiliated organizations,” and that “KindHearts deposited the funds into the same account used by HLF when it was providing funds” overseas. Former KindHearts’s president Khaled Smaili was a former official of the Global Relief Foundation (GRF), which the U.S. Treasury designated as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” for funding al-Qaeda. “Several sources point to former IAP Secretary General Abdelbasset Hamayel as having also served as KindHearts’ Illinois representative.”  (See above discussion of Hamayel’s current involvements.)
  • The AMP’s Anti-Semitic and Legally Questionable Methods and Goals: “A recent photo from [AMP] headquarters features an Arabic-language poster that includes the phrase, “’No Jew will live among them in Jerusalem.’”   “At their 2014 annual conference, AMP invited participants to “navigate the fine line between legal activism and material support for terrorism.”
  • AMP’s Troubling Donors:

(1) The services of AMP supporter Middle East Financial Services (MEFS) (a “bronze sponsor” of AMP’s 2014 convention and 2015 AMP convention advertiser), have been used by some individuals to send money to Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). 

(2) AMP supporter Prime Furniture Wholesale in Milwaukee is the store owned by the family AMP board member Salah Sarsour; the store’s bank account was reportedly used to send money to Hamas Qassam Brigades commander Adel Awadallah. 

(3) AMP “platinum sponsor” the Zakat Foundation’s executive director Khalil Demir signed the IRS 990 forms for the Benevolence International Foundation, which the U.S. Treasury designated in 2002 for funding al-Qaeda.

  • BDS Campaign Connections to the PLO/PA and Designated Foreign Terrorist Organization PFLP: Officials of another group, called “The U.S. Coalition to Boycott Israel” or the “Chicago Coalition for Justice in Palestine,” have PFLP and PLO connections.   The U.S. designated PFLP as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) in 1997.  

(1) U.S. Coalition to Boycott Israel president Ghassan Barakat, a Chicago resident, is a consular notary for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and, according to the Palestinian Expatriates Affairs Department website, is as a member of the Palestine National Council. 

(2) U.S. Coalition to Boycott Israel “coordinator” Senan Shaqdeh was a “fighter in the ranks of the mountain brigade” for the PFLP, according to the PLO Expatriates Affairs Department. Shaqdeh also claims to be a founder of SJP.  In a PLO YouTube video, Shaqdeh said that he travelled to Ramallah in September 2014 to meet with PLO/Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah about BDS activity in America. 

  • Americans’ Right to Know Who Is Behind BDS: Schanzer also described AMP’s unusual funding arrangement that enables AMP to avoid filing IRS 990 information returns.  AMP receives tax-exempt monies through its fiscal sponsor, a 501(c)(3) organization called the Americans for Justice in Palestine Educational Foundation (AJP), which shares offices with AMP.

Shanzer noted that: “The overlap of former employees of organizations that provided support to Hamas who now play important roles in AMP speaks volumes about the real agenda of key components of the BDS campaign.”  He further noted:  “It is unclear whether the U.S. government even monitors the activities of individuals who previously worked for charities that were designated or were otherwise found liable for terrorist financing activity,”  and stated that “Americans have a right to know who is behind the BDS campaign.” 

ZOA notes that Schanzer’s analysis demonstrating BDS support groups’ connections to Hamas, the PLO/PA and PLFP are consistent with previous analyses.  Dan Diker’s Unmasking BDS: Radical Roots, Extremist Ends reported, among other things that:

(1) PFLP front groups (including the Union of Health Workers Committees, the Union of Agricultural Workers Committees, and Addameer) are “BDS call” signatories;

(2) Hamas’s European “Popular Resistance Committees” and Swiss-based “Alkarama for Human Rights” (whose officials include U.S. Treasury-designated “Specially Designated Global Terrorists” who fund al Qaeda groups) backed a key BDS paper; and

(3) Hamas’s Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (known for leading suicide bombings against Israeli civilians) tweets BDS calls to not buy lists of Israeli products.

Recommendations:  Schanzer recommended that Congress should legislate greater disclosure on IRS Form 990 (the annual reporting form) and IRS Form 1023 (Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3)) regarding charity leadership, employees and board members previously implicated in terrorism finance, and establish greater scrutiny of such officials prior to granting exempt status.

The ZOA agrees with Schanzer’s recommendation, and calls on Congress and the U.S. Treasury to monitor and scrutinize officials of organizations connected to Hamas, the PLO/PA, and PLFP who are now funding and enabling the BDS campaign to demonize and attempt to economically destroy Israel, and the ZOA recommends denying tax exempt status to such groups.