Charity in Texas gave millions of dollars, says FBI

War on terrorism
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The Independent US

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has compiled a dossier establishing links between Hamas, the militant Palestinian movement responsible for last weekend's suicide bombings in Israel, and a charity in the United States whose assets were frozen this week under George Bush's counter-terrorism programme.

According to an FBI memo revealed in yesterday's Los Angeles Times, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a group in Texas that nominally donates funds to refugee children in the occupied territories, has raised tens of millions of dollars over the past eight or nine years. Most or all of that money has gone to activities relating to Hamas's campaign of suicide bombings and other forms of opposition to the peace process, the memo said.

The funding began in 1993, when the Oslo peace accords were signed and the Palestinian Authority was set up under Yasser Arafat's leadership.

One meeting monitored by the FBI took place in Philadelphia in October that year, when three Holy Land Foundation members met senior figures from Hamas. The memo reported: "The overall goal of the meeting was to develop a strategy to defeat the Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, and to continue and improve their fundraising and political activities in the United States.

"It was decided that most or almost all of the funds collected in the future should be directed to enhance the Islamic Resistance Movement and to weaken the self-rule government."

Among many instances cited by the memo, based on the testimony of informers, was a fundraising event in January 1995 at which Mohammed Seyam, a Hamas military commander, urged death to all Israelis. The event raised $207,000 (about £150,000). In southern California in 1997, the foundation's president, Shukri Baker, was reported as saying: "In the end Hamas will throw out Arafat, and an Islamic state will be established."

The memo indicated that the money was to go to "prisoners and their families, and martyrs and their families".

Lawyers for the foundation have fought for years to end the FBI investigation, arguing that any truly incriminating evidence would have led to an asset freeze years ago.

While President Bush and others hold Mr Arafat responsible for attacks on Israel and urge him to crack down on the extremists, the memo makes clear that Hamas's project is as much to destroy Mr Arafat as it is to destroy Israel.

President Bushfroze the foundation's assets after the suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Haifa that killed 28 people. According to the White House, some $5m has been seized, but the FBI memo suggests much more is in circulation. Last year, the foundation raised $13m, it said.