Friday, November 07, 2008

DoJ Prosecutors: Big Families Make Palestine Poor

That headline is not as amazing as sitting in court yesterday with many who are associated with charities that include Palestinian needs and hearing our government telling former Consul General in Israel, Edward Abington, that big families are causing poverty in Palestine. "Four mouths are a lot easier to feed than eight," instructed prosecutor Jim Jacks. To his great credit, Mr. Abington fired back that unemployment was the greatest cause of poverty there, and that having no job made it hard to feed any number of mouths.

The defense rested yesterday, after Mr. Abington wound up with testimony to the effect that the zakat committees that our government has demonized as just another form of the terrorists. He was yet another witness pointing out that the government's case confuses members of charity operations of the Muslim religion with the radicals who do provide services they need to a desperately deprived region. Once again, the drastic interpretation of giving to the needy as supporting terrorism was discredited.

Defense attorneys representing five charity workers accused of using the formerly Richardson-based Holy Land Foundation to funnel millions of dollars to Hamas rested their case on a high note Thursday.

The defense finished its weeklong case Thursday with its fifth and most powerful witness, Edward Abington, the former United States consul general in Israel who also later served as the State Department's No. 2 intelligence officer.

He told jurors that while serving as chief U.S. envoy to the Palestinian Authority from 1993 to 1997, he was never told in any of his daily government briefings that the terrorist group Hamas controlled a series of Palestinian charity groups.

The government contends those Palestinian charity groups, called zakat committees, were staffed by Hamas militants when Holy Land sent them more than $12 million after 1995, the year the U.S. designated Hamas as a terrorist organization.

The reporter for Dallas Morning News then went on to say that Mr. Abington had little or no knowledge of those serving on the zakat committees.

In addition, Mr. Abington was quite plainspoken, that while he had visited zakat committees, and reported his findings to the U.S. government, in all the regions he supervised, fifteen years had passed and he no longer remembered individual names of the very numerous committee members.

It was also reported that 'much of the money' going to charitable objects that the government identified as Hamas was raised 'at radical Islamist and anti-Semitic fundraisers'. While I was not there for every day of the trial, I had the impression that the government used videos of demonstrations of a radical and occasionally anti-Semitic nature to inflame jury sentiments. I never heard, nor can I envision, characterizing those events as the major source of funds in a religion that has one of its five pillars the the giving of 2.5% of income per annum to charitable efforts. Perhaps I overestimate the rational quotient that the government prosecution utilized in arguments. While rabble-rousing is essential to some fringe elements of the religious community here, charity is engrained in Muslim practice.

Mr. Abington pointed out that daily briefings did not ever point to any Hamas domination of zakat committees, while the government insisted that his intelligence never actually denied that the zakat committees were free from Hamas control.

The reporter did mention that Mr. Abington made the point that there is a difference between having Hamas members serving on the committee and "outright controlling them".

It is sad, but typical of the past eight years that a jury of twelve citizens has the responsibility of saving this country from committing a grave mistake. This is the only prosecution left in which our government is seeking to condemn charitable activity because some of its recipients are connected with Hamas.

Good wishes to the defense in making the points it will need to bring the twelve jurors into understanding of the mistake they are being asked to commit.

When we have prosecutors who are trying to accuse charitable organizations of viciousness, and accusing a population under seige of making their own situation desperate by accumulating too many people under one roof, we can be very thankful that this bunch will exit soon and leave only a bad smell. Well, that bad smell may take a few years to clear out of the halls of justice.

The failure to have any feeling for or understanding of the real world is a hallmark of this case, and reflects the same bubble mentality that prevails in the occupied White House.

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Blogger Koshem Bos said...

Your views on the zakat committees is in black and white as well as your painting the general situation in the Middle East. The problem is that there are plenty grays in the situation in the Middle East.

It is quite contradictory to post about human rights and to talk about Hamas in positive terms. Were Hamas an American organization, you would be totally opposed to it.

10:12 PM  
Blogger Ruth said...

What I am recounting is information given in a trial in federal court. My opinions relate to the way the evidence is presented, and I do not have a position on Hamas, or on the situation in the Middle East, to present in this post.

11:19 PM  

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