The Investigative Project has an exclusive report from the Holy Land Foundation Hamas funding retrial: HLF Jury Schooled on Hamas Terror.
DALLAS - For jurors in the Hamas-support case against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) who likely know nothing about the terrorist group, or about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the first full day of testimony Tuesday was dominated by a lesson in Hamas 101.
Matthew Levitt, a former deputy assistant secretary at the Treasury Department, and now the director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, walked jurors through everything from Middle East geography to the Hamas charter to the way non-violent social branches feed the group’s overall terrorist agenda.
The testimony lays a foundation for why the United States outlawed transactions with, and support for, Hamas in the mid 1990s. The five defendants, who lost an earlier court battle to prevent Levitt from testifying, are accused of breaking those laws by routing money to Hamas’ social arms through a series of charities, known as zakat committees, in the West Bank and Gaza.
Levitt, author of the 2006 book Hamas: Politics, Charity and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad, discussed Hamas leaders such as Mousa Abu Marzook, the organization’s evolution and its attacks like a December 2001 suicide bombing on a bus in Haifa that killed 16 people in a community that includes Arabs and Jews.
The terrorist organization’s charter was reviewed, including its overall objective of destroying the state of Israel and replacing it with an Islamic theocracy through a violent application of jihad.
Prosecutors then had Levitt explain the connection between the military and social branches of Hamas. “The social wing builds the grass roots for the organization” Levitt said, “and is the ideal mechanism for laundering money for all their activities.”
It also is a recruitment tool by providing services ranging from medical assistance to food and education. Levitt explained that the social network fosters an environment in which children are taught at a young age to look up to suicide bombers. To illustrate that, jurors were shown a video from a Hamas Kindergarten Graduation Ceremony. The video shows children in military clothing, carrying toy machine guns and even wearing suicide belts. Some were dressed to resemble Hamas and Hizballah leaders.
The video seemed to grab jurors’ attention. At least six of them had pens in hand during this video, and one older male could be seen raising his eyebrows and jotting down notes.
On cross examination, defense attorneys challenged Levitt’s expertise, first by casting him as biased toward Israel in the conflict and then by challenging the sources of his research.