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Hamas: Using Charitable Societies to Fund and Support Terror

(Updated September 2003)

In Hamas's worldview, dawa ("preaching" or "calling") plays an important role in the organization's activities and is one of the more prominent means by which it realizes its immediate goals: inculcating Islam among the public, increasing public support for the organization and recruiting new members.

Hamas's dawa is, in effect, the movement's infrastructure. It includes a range of organizations that provide various services (welfare, education, health, etc.) to the population, either for symbolic prices or free of charge.

Charitable and social welfare activities are a significant part of Hamas's dawa activities, since giving to charity is a fundamental principle of Islam. These activities are carried out by network of dozens of charitable societies and committees throughout Judea, Samaria and Gaza. While these organizations provide services to the public at large, they grant preference to those close to the movement and see to it that those in its favor receive increased financial assistance.

Hamas's charitable societies and committees in Judea, Samaria and Gaza also provide food and monetary assistance to the families of those who have been killed and wounded in perpetrating acts of terror and who have been imprisoned for their involvement in acts of terror. Such families typically receive an initial, one-time grant of between $500-5,000, as well as a monthly allowance of approximately $100. The families of Hamas terrorists usually receive larger payments than those of non-Hamas terrorists. These charitable societies and committees also provide the families with scholarships and educational subsidies. The dawa groups also provide financial assistance for the rebuilding of homes that have been demolished due to their owners' involvement in terror.

The movement's network of mosques and Islamic preachers serve as a platform for disseminating incitement against Israel, for encouraging suicide terrorism, and for recruiting terrorists.

Hamas's charitable societies and committees in Judea, Samaria and Gaza also provide aid to Palestinians who have been injured during the ongoing wave of Palestinian violence in confrontations with Israeli security forces or during "work accidents." This includes both initial grants and monthly allowances potentially worth hundreds of dollars, depending on the status of the injured person.

Those injured as mentioned above also enjoy medical care and treatment - either subsidized or free - provided by the organization. Hamas also aids its members who are imprisoned either in Israel or the Palestinian Authority, as well as the imprisoned members' families. Released prisoners receive generous release grants.

Hamas's dawa network turns the perpetrating of terrorist acts, including suicide terrorism, as a means that, in effect, provides economic security and certainty in the severe economic situation that the Palestinian population currently finds itself in, and thus encourages the perpetrating of such acts of terrorism. Hamas exploits the distressed economic situation by creating financial dependence and the continued flow of new recruits out of a sense of obligation. Moreover, funds designated for dawa have been diverted directly to terrorists in order to fund attacks.

Hamas's wide-ranging activities among the Palestinian population have led to its strengthening vis-a-vis the Palestinian Authority and have prevented the PA from acting against it due to Hamas's support among the wider Palestinian public. (Statements by senior PA officials last month to the effect that they would monitor Hamas's bank accounts have not been followed up by any action whatsoever.) Hamas is thus, in effect, preparing itself as an alternative to the PA in the guise of its educational, social and medical infrastructure.

Most of the funds for dawa activities are raised outside Judea, Samaria and Gaza. These funds - $25-30 million per annum - form the lion's share of Hamas's budget. Pro-Hamas Islamic charitable societies in Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf emirates and in the west transfer funds to Hamas's charitable societies and committees in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Among these pro-Hamas charitable societies are "The World Congress for Islamic Youth" and the "World Islamic Organization" from Saudi Arabia; "Interpal" based in London (which transferred $6 million in 2002); and the recently outlawed "Al Aqsa Fund" based in Germany.

Interpal - This fund has continued to transfer money to Hamas in recent months. In 2002, it transferred $6 million, of which between $3-$4 million were used in Judea Samaria and Gaza. At the same time, the Interpal leadership secretly turned to Arafat with a request for aid in funding its activities, as they are very concerned about the possibility that they would be closed down and that they themselves might suffer. The fund's leaders asked Arafat and the Palestinian Authority to publicly support and sponsor its activities; something which they believe would make it more difficult for their organization to be harmed. It is yet unclear as to how the Palestinian Authority has responded to this request, but despite declarations to the contrary, the Palestinian Authority is not taking any concrete steps against Hamas operations.

The Al-Aqsa Fund - This fund is mainly active in the Netherlands and Germany and maintains smaller delegations, and holds bank accounts, in Denmark and Belgium. The fund continues, albeit indirectly, to transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars to Judea, Samaria and Gaza. In August 2002, the fund was banned in Germany, which led to a significant increase in its activities in Holland, where it raised approximately 600,000 Euros in 2002 and $650,000 in 2001. Presently, legal action is being taken against the fund. In April-May 2003, preliminary steps were taken to freeze approximately 200,000 Euros.

Thus, fund activists in the Netherlands continued to raise money but under the guise of a seemingly new fund called ISRA, in order to make it harder for its activities to be supervised. The Al-Aqsa Fund has acted as a conduit for funds channeled to Judea, Samaria and has cooperated with Interpal.

Lis Ben Khaled, 36, was arrested in Israel on May 1, 2003. Khaled, a French national of Algerian origin and an activist for a pro-Palestinian charitable organization, arrived in Israel with 11,000 Euros and contact details for someone in Jenin. Khaled was questioned by the Israel Police, to which he gave information regarding the activities of his offices, their connections and money transfers. His organization has since been outlawed in the U.S. due to its involvement in terrorist activities.

Sources: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs