The Hamas Networks in America: A Short History

October 13, 2023

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  • Hamas supporters have long operated in the United States. Internal Hamas documents and FBI wiretaps introduced as evidence in various federal criminal cases clearly show the existence of a nationwide Hamas network engaged in fundraising, lobbying, education, and propaganda dissemination dating back to the 1980s.
  • The network formalized its existence in 1988, when it created the Palestine Committee in the US. The Committee’s goals included “increasing the financial and the moral support for Hamas,” “fighting surrendering solutions,” and publicizing “the savagery of the Jews.”
  • The Palestine Committee spawned several public-facing organizations, most of which are based out of Chicago, Dallas, and Washington DC. They included the all-purpose Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), the financial arm represented by the Occupied Land Fund (which later became the Holy Land Foundation, HLF), and the think tank United Association for Studies and Research (UASR).
  • In 1993, the FBI wiretapped a meeting of top Hamas activists in the US held in Philadelphia. The wiretaps show internal discussions on how to improve activities in support of Hamas within the US and how to shield them from the designation of Hamas as a terrorist organization. US-based Hamas activists agreed that hiding their affiliation and intentions was the best tactic to avoid negative consequences. “I swear by Allah that war is deception,” said one senior leader, “[d]eceive, camouflage, pretend that you’re leaving while you’re walking that way. Deceive your enemy.” “Let's not hoist a large Islamic flag and let's not be barbaric-talking. We will remain a front so that if the thing [the U.S. government ban on Hamas] happens, we will benefit from the new happenings instead of having all of our organizations classified and exposed.”
  • Over the years, US authorities have conducted several activities to clamp down on the network, including deporting and prosecuting Hamas operatives and shutting down multiple front organizations. The 2001 designation of HLF and subsequent prosecution of part of its leadership for funneling approximately $12.4 million to Hamas constitutes to date the largest successful terrorism financing prosecution in US history.
  • Yet, US-based Hamas networks and individuals have displayed a remarkable resilience and many of the core activists of the Palestine Committee are still engaged in various forms of support (albeit at times purely political and not material) for Hamas.