Monday, July 16, 2007

Funding Charity or Terror?

The Richardson, Texas, Holy Land Foundation goes to trial today charged with funding terrorism. Specifically, charges are that the Foundation raised funds for Hamas, which used funds freed up by their donations to conduct terrorism, with the knowledge of Foundation officials.

Three months after 9/11, President Bush shut down Richardson's Holy Land Foundation, saying millions of dollars it sent to the Middle East helped "indoctrinate children to grow up into suicide bombers."

Now the Justice Department must prove it.

On Monday, jury selection begins in Dallas in the nation's biggest terror-financing case yet: The federal government says that seven foundation organizers illegally sent at least $12 million overseas to the militant Palestinian group Hamas.
"At these events," the Dallas Holy Land indictment states, participants "praised Hamas through speeches, songs and violent dramatic skits depicting the killing of Jewish people."

But the government says the foundation's tactics changed around 1993. In February of that year, Islamic militants made their first attempt to bring down the World Trade Center in New York.

And Hamas became incensed when, in late summer, Arab and Jewish representatives forged the historic Middle East agreement in Oslo, Norway, opening up the possibility of a peace that would allow for separate Jewish and Palestinian states. That set off what has become hundreds of Hamas suicide bombings over the years, targeting Israelis.

In October 1993, intelligence agents listened in on a groundbreaking meeting in Philadelphia between three Holy Land Foundation officials – all three defendants in this latest Dallas case – and Hamas contacts. The discussion centered on how to continue to raise money in America without attracting attention.
"Critics can take their shots at the cases that have occurred, but in the end, the chilling effect that these prosecutions have had on these charities and the terrorists who want to use them is real," he said.

If prosecutors can convince jurors that death resulted from the defendants' support of Hamas, they could be sentenced to up to life in prison.

While so much that our government has done in the past six years has shown appalling stupidity and politically biased action, if there is a deterrent effect from the prosecution of Holy Land Foundation on actual terrorism, that would be worth all the trouble and expense of prosecution. I fear though that the effect will more likely be that of stirring up bad feelings among Muslims who see their charities' benefits being maligned. I would prefer it that that weren't the effect, but see no efforts by the cabal to build good relationships with the Middle East.

In addition, there were false transcripts produced in preparation for the trial.

In March, a legal flap further fueled criticisms of prejudice by Muslims. Defense attorneys found that summaries of government wiretap transcripts detailing Holy Land officials' conversations falsely attributed anti-Jewish comments to Holy Land Foundation leaders.

"Even Jesus Christ had called the Jews and their high priests ... the sons of snakes and scorpions" reads one summary quotation, which is not in the transcript.

"This is beyond incompetence," said Lawrence Davidson, a professor of Middle Eastern history at West Chester University in Pennsylvania.

"It's not a crime that's motivating this," said Dr. Davidson, who is Jewish. "They want to prevent the Muslim community from gaining influence."

Justice officials have said they're investigating how the transcript errors occurred, but they declined to publicly comment about the Holy Land case.

The seriously damaged Department of Justice seems to be displaying the kind of prejudice that impairs its ability to maintain a Rule of Law.

Continuing threats against Iran are becoming as counterproductive as these persecutions of charities. No good is likely to come out of either method.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home