Ashcroft Slow To Prosecute Muslim Charities Who Fund Terror Groups
By Jewish World Review | by Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld
Wednesday, August 11th, 2004 @ 4:57AM
Whenever the Attorney General’s office announces a score in the War on Terror, it does so with great fanfare – and then too often drags its feet. What gives?
To emerge victorious in the war on terror, the United States and it allies need to quickly identify the direst threats and eliminate them with rapid, pinpoint responses.
On many fronts they are doing exactly that. Unfortunately, Attorney General John Ashcroft’s Justice Department is moving too slowly to indict Islamic charitable groups in this country that collect and distribute millions of dollars to terrorists that kill innocent civilians in the Middle East daily.
It’s been nearly a month, for instance, since Ashcroft, announced the indictment of the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation and its leaders for providing material support to the Hamas terrorist group.
At a press conference announcing the indictment in late July, Ashcroft declared: “There is no distinction between those who carry out terrorist attacks and those who knowingly finance them,” adding that the United States “will ensure that both terrorists and their financiers meet the same, certain justice.”
Since then, little has transpired. The U.S. government seems to be dragging its feet on indicting those who finance Islamist terrorists – based, in large part, perhaps on sensitivity about their identity.
What else could explain the conspicuous lack of an indictment against the Jordan-based Arab Bank, which has been instrumental in transferring donations from the Holy Land Foundation and other so-called charitable groups here to Islamic terrorists?
The Arab Bank is the largest in Jordan, with 350 branches around the world and reported total assets of some $23 billion. They are the major banking institution in the Palestinian territories, operating 15 branches in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and serving as the primary recipient and distributor of the Palestinian Authority’s funds. And it is the preferred financial institution for a slew of terror groups – including Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Members of it governing board include the Saudi Ministry of Finance and Economy, the Chairman of Palestine Development & Investment Ltd., the Lebanese Finance Minster and the Chairman of the Palestinian Telecommunications Corporation – connections that should raise disturbing questions about their complicity in financing terrorism.
The Saudi connection is a particularly key one.
In October 2000, shortly after the outbreak of the latest Palestinian intifada, the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Intifada al-Quds was established in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as a private charity run by Interior Minister Prince Nayef to support the families of suicide bombers and other terrorists.
Shortly after its founding the Saudi committee staged two telethons that raised $174 million to bankroll Hamas and related organizations – in effect, subsidizing the Palestinian terror campaign against Israeli soldiers and civilians.
While the Arab Bank, the Saudi committee and other contributors to Palestinian charities that front for Hamas insist the money they send to Jihad is intended for charity, leaflets distributed by Hamas in Gaza clearly debunk that claim.
They proclaim, among other things, “If you can’t give your life, give your money” and “If it is impossible for you to bear arms and you truly desire to fight in the holy war, contribute from what you have received from Allah.”
The faithful have answered the pamphleteer’s call. The website IslamOnline.com recently noted that “An overseas donor had pledged a sum of money equal to the value of a significant number of Qassam rockets.” Other postings claimed donors also had “pledged sums sufficient to recruit, train and send out many suicide bombers.”
In all, according to Palestinian documents seized by the Israeli Defense Forces, the Saudi Committee “reported the transfer of $55.7 million mostly to the families of suicide bombers and to the families of imprisoned or injured Palestinian militants.”
The Saudis transferred some of these funds in riyals to the Arab Bank’s branch on Madison Avenue in New York, which in turn “laundered the money” and forwarded the sum in American dollars to the Arab Bank branch in Ramallah, West Bank.
Saudi Arabia’s involvement goes far beyond merely raising money to bankroll terrorist groups. Together with the Arab Bank, the Saudi government has launched a public relations campaign in the Palestinian territories touting that some of the contributions are available for future “martyrs” and their families.
The Arab Bank seems comfortable conducting its Palestinian terror financing in public – Hamas openly solicits donations by posting account numbers from the bank on its Internet site.
One wonders why the Jordanian government has not clamped down on these activities? The extent and openness of these activities also pose a larger, more disturbing question: Why has the United States refrained from bringing legal action against the Arab Bank?
– Rachel Ehrenfeld is the author of Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed – and How to Stop It and director of the Manhattan-based American Center for Democracy. She is available through www.benadorassociates.com.