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Hamas and the “Pragmatists”

Hamas, in an effort to appear more pragmatic, has chosen two so-called “moderates” to fill positions in the new Palestinian government. But what makes these individuals “pragmatic” is the fact that they are willing to negotiate with Israel in the short term, while still engaging in violence against Israel and seeking its destruction in the long term. So while Hamas is currently attempting to present itself as a pragmatic organization, has no intention of renouncing violence.

This double policy is very much in keeping with Hamas’s goals at what is a strategic turning point. The organization need not abandon its original objectives nor relinquish its jihad. At the same time, it is necessary to “talk to the devil” (Israel) so the people don’t go hungry and so that hospitals continue to get supplies. Within this strategy framework, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told the Israeli paper Haaretz that the Hamas government is prepared to agree to an extended cease-fire if Israel withdraws to the 1967 lines.1 Haniyeh expressed surprise that the Israelii government has not accepted the Palestinian government’s decision to allow its ministers to conduct negotiations with representatives of the Israeli government regarding day-to-day issues. The Hamas government, Haniyeh said, is ready for talks with Israel on practical matters, though not on ideological or political issues. For example, Haniyeh would not discuss the Hamas charter, which rejects Israel’s existence, and expressed no readiness to abandon terrorism, recognize Israel or accept previous agreements between the PA and Israel. “Pragmatism” is Hamas’s strategy that enables the flexibility and freedom of maneuver, while not committing to anything, thus preserving its freedom of action.

Such “pragmatism” is meant to mislead the Europeans, who will see it as a step towards normalization. For Hamas, Europe is the main arena where the organization can gain support and legitimacy, in light of U.S counter-terrorism policy, which is tough on money laundering and funding terror through “charities” and Zakat committees in particular. Thus, Hamas needs legitimacy in the eyes of Europeans to reactivate its fund-raising activities, in order to resuscitate Hamas institutions in the Territories as entities external to the government.

The first and primary motivation driving Hamas towards the current policy is the lack of funds to maintain the government’s daily needs and activities. Parallel to this, and no less important, is the urgent need to sustain the Hamas organization institutions-the Daa’wa infrastrucure which is its source of power and its tool to political and ideological support as an organization.

Ismail Haniyeh currently serves as the Palestinian prime minister and Aziz Dweik as elected parliamentary speaker. Dweik has said that the policy of the new Hamas-dominated government would be based on negotiating, while at the same time preserving the “right to resist” (i.e., carry out terror attacks against Israel). While Dweik is being presented as a moderate, he still supports the destruction of Israel.

Dweik was a confidant of Abdel Aziz Rantisi, who succeeded Yassin as head of Hamas after Yassin was killed in a targeted killing by Israel two years ago. Rantisi was killed in a separate Israeli attack a month later. Dweik was deported by Israel to Lebanon in 1992 among 415 radical Islam activists of Hamas. After his return from Lebanon, he became very active on the U.S. lecture circuit, speaking at conferences and raising funds for the Holy Land Foundation, once the largest U.S.-based Muslim charity.

U.S. crackdown on terrorist fundraising

The United States shut down the Holy Land Foundation and the Global Relief Foundation after the September 2001 terrorist attacks. The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development is linked to Hamas, while Global Relief Foundation (GRF) was a front group for al-Qaeda. Their assets have been frozen since December 2001.

Since the U.S. crackdown on terrorist fundraising, Hamas has had to look elsewhere for channels to feed Hamas activities in the West Bank and Gaza. In January 2002, a former GRF official, Khaled Smaili, set up the KindHearts charity from his home in Toledo, Ohio to fill the fundraising void. KindHearts officials and fundraisers have coordinated with Hamas leaders and made contributions to Hamas-affiliated organizations. KindHearts describes itself on its website as a nonprofit charitable organization administering humanitarian aid to the world’s poor. In the past, its officials have denied being connected to any terrorist group or individual. According to their web site, “in May 2002, KindHearts opened a regional office in PALESTINE to directly supervise and implement our charitable programs in the West Bank, Gaza strip and Jerusalem. This location joins other KindHearts’ satellite offices in operation in Lebanon and Jordan”.

Between 2003-2004, Mahir B. Sabra was the Executive Vice President of KindHearts in Toledo, Ohio. Sabra is currently Assistant Vice President for Information Technology & Chairman of IT in the Islamic University in Gaza, a known Hamas strong hold.

On its web site, KindHearts posted a call for donation through Sky Bank Westgate Account No.6700037832 Routing No. 041201936. In its annual report from fall 2004 (issue No.3) KindHearts reports that its financing helps build clinics in Jenin, Bir Nabala in the West Bank, Gaza and the Beka’a Valley in Lebanon.

A captured document from the Jenin Zakat Committee in the West Bank (linked to Hamas and outlawed by Israel in 2002) shows a direct link between KindHearts and Hamas. The letter, dated 11 March 2003, is signed by Sheikh Zeid Zakarna, a prominent Hamas leaders in the Jenin district, who was arrested several times and deported to Lebanon in 1992. In the letter, Sheikh Zakarna asks that KindHearts to assist the Quran and Sunna association of Jenin, known to be part of Hamas Daa’wa infrastructure. (See the Arabic document below).

A Hamas leader in Lebanon, who is on a U.S. designated terrorist list, Usama Hamdan, reportedly phoned a top fundraiser for KindHearts during a September 2003 KindHearts fundraiser. Hamdan is believed to have communicated to the fundraiser his gratitude for KindHearts’ support. The KindHearts fundraiser reportedly also provided advice to Hamdan, telling him not to trust the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

On February 19, 2006. U.S. law enforcement authorities froze the assets due to its links with Hamas. The Under Secretary of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Stuart Levey testified before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on April 4, 2006. He said: “Our most recent action targeted KindHearts, a purported charity in Ohio that was supporting Hamas. In that instance, we took coordinated action with DOJ prosecutors and the FBI, which executed a search warrant at the moment that we froze the group’s assets.”[2]

Levey noted that:

In addition to providing support to Hamas in Lebanon, KindHearts reportedly provides support to Hamas in the West Bank. An individual identified as integral to assisting KindHearts deliver aid to Palestinians in the West Bank, also reportedly was responsible for dividing money raised by KindHearts in the U.S to ensure that some funds went to Hamas. KindHearts founder and president Smaili told a Texas-based associate that his organization was raising funds to support the Palestinian Intifada.

At a September 2003 KindHearts fundraising event, one of the charity’s officials called upon his audience to recognize the efforts of the terrorist group Hizballah in supporting Hamas. The official also encouraged the crowd to give money and manpower to the organization in its fight against Israel.



2 U.S. Treasury Department Shuts down Hamas Charity