Much media reporting has rightly focused on how the U.S. government has routed funds to Iran that have financed, among other things, the Hamas attack on Israel, the build-up of Hezbollah, and the numerous attacks on U.S. military bases in Syria and Iraq.
But those policies are only part of the problem. Suppose you think of Hamas as a tree growing above ground. That, however, ignores the deep and widespread underground roots of Hamas’s network in the United States that provide the terrorists with financial and political fuel. Lorenzo Vidino, head of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, traces these network ties back 30 years to the Palestine Committee of the Muslim Brotherhood in America. The fact that two of the Committee’s leaders subsequently occupied senior positions in Hamas attests to the importance of this organization.
The U.S. Treasury Department has an ongoing program to stop financial flows to Hamas. For example, in May 2022, it sanctioned individuals operating out of the Middle East and North Africa. According to Newsweek, U.S. officials vowed to “crackdown on Hamas’s financial network just as Israel vows to eradicate it militarily, with senior Treasury Department officials traveling to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Europe as part of a coordinated push to target the militant group’s funding sources.”
These foreign financial flows are significant, but what about the money sent to Hamas from the United States? To date, the most notable success involving terrorist financing was the case against the Holy Land Foundation. Its officials were convicted of collecting and funneling to Hamas more than $12 million before the charity was shut down in 2001. Unfortunately, it did nothing to stop subsequent U.S. flows to Hamas.
A new study by Sam Westrop of the Middle East Forum found that “over 260 million dollars sent through the 501(c) [U.S. charitable organizations] system to Hamas-aligned charities in the United States, provided by corporate foundations, employee-giving schemes, partisan community groups and a powerful array of Islamist grant-making foundations that make use of a largely-unregulated nonprofit sector.”
U.S. laws prohibiting such flows have not been enforced due to “a decade of lax oversight and fears over the political fallout from new prosecutions.” Indeed, some of the money comes from U.S. taxpayers. Since 2007, the study found that federal agencies, primarily the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), authorized over $100 million to Hamas-aligned charities. (Note that a large number of employees in both agencies have protested the Biden Administration’s support for Israel.)
Organizations that support Hamas have been highly successful in rooting themselves in the United States. Of these, the most successful and prominent is the Muslim Brotherhood’s Council on American Islamic Relations, or CAIR. Investigator Paul Sperry describes it as “a mainstay of American politics – headquartered just three blocks from the U.S. Capitol, with 35 offices across the country.” Although a federal judge stated in 2009 that “[t]he government has produced ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR with Hamas,” the FBI has investigated CAIR for 30 years without ever seeking charges.
In Hidden Struggle: The Challenge of Sharia in the West, several individuals connected to the Muslim Brotherhood have occupied senior positions in key federal agencies or served on advisory councils to those agencies. CAIR also attracted the support of senior politicians like Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker or U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). A particularly flagrant example of its success is the White House announcement last May that CAIR was among the organizations pledged to counter antisemitism: the Biden Administration has welcomed the arsonist to the fire-fighting brigade.
The mass rallies, open hatred, and violence of pro-Hamas demonstrations should have already stirred some government officials to action. But aside from statements, no action was taken. The Department of Education has warned that it will cut funding to colleges that don’t combat discrimination. Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO), chair of the powerful, tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, condemned the celebration of Hamas terrorism by academic or charitable organizations and called into question their tax-exempt status.
Just think what a relief it would be if the FBI were to investigate the Hamas network with the energy it brought to the January 6 “insurrection.” After all, it already has 30 years’ worth of data.