Hamas-linked “Bridge Initiative” wants to re-litigate Holy Land Foundation trial

The Bridge Initiative, a project of the Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim Christian Understanding, continues to embarrass its host, Georgetown University, this time by publishing a “factsheet” in defense of the convicted Hamas fundraising organization known as the Holy Land Foundation.

The sheet is short on facts, and long on emotional appeal. It distorts basic facts about the Holy Land Foundation case, in which the nation’s largest Islamic charity and five of its employees were convicted on 104 felony counts, including providing material support for the terrorist organization Hamas.

While the Bridge Initiative wants to relitigate the HLF case, wholly endorsing arguments made by the defense that were soundly rejected by judge and jury, ultimately what it seeks to do in their factsheet is argue that Hamas should not be designated as a terrorist organization at all. They likewise condemn U.S. Treasury Terrorism designation efforts in general, despite these efforts being a mainstay of the effort to combat terrorism since 9/11.

The Jewish Journal describes the project’s factsheet noting,

“The fact sheet says that Hamas ‘was founded in Palestine in 1987 as a political and social organization, with an armed wing aimed at resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestine.’ It acknowledges that the United States designated Hamas a terror organization in 1997, but then states that designating Hamas as a terror group “has been criticized by legal scholars as being politicized by the State Department, and as raising issues concerning due process, equal protection, judicial deference, the chilling of free speech, and having ‘disparate impact on the Arab Muslim community.’”

The defenders of Hamas have long relied on the false distinction that the group has an “armed wing” which engages in violence, claiming the majority of the group merely performs otherwise legal work in the social and political spheres.  Ironically, Hamas’ own founder rejected the distinction between armed and unarmed wings, and the organization is tightly integrated. Terrorist activities take place under the direction of the group’s political leadership, as Matt Levitt, Author of “Hamas: Politics, Charity and Terrorism in Service of Jihad” has ably documented.

It’s no surprise that Bridge Initiative would be playing the role of Hamas apologist, given that its founder, John Esposito, has a history with the very Hamas network of which the Holy Land Foundation was the prominent member. Esposito served as a member of the advisory editorial board for the journal of the United Association for Studies and Research (UASR). UASR, which the federal government described as a Hamas “think tank”, was founded by Mousa Abu Marzook, currently deputy chairman of Hamas’ political bureau. UASR’s executive director and the editor of the journal of which Esposito was an advisor, Ahmad Yousef, who went on to serve as a Hamas spokesman.

Esposito’s Bridge Initiative is not alone among groups with questionable ties seeking to memory-hole the reality of the Holy Land Foundation Trial. The Charity and Security Network (CSN), a project of the Center for Effective Government (formerly OMB Watch), has been a leader in this regard. CSN also attempts to paint the Holy Land Foundation case as an overly broad smear of Muslim charities. As Sam Westrop of Middle East Forum has ably demonstrated, however, CSN itself receives funding and support from several charities with known links to terror finance.

First designated for its terror ties in 2001, and convicted in 2008, it seems that HLF’s partisans believe the time is right to proclaim these Hamas financiers as champions of virtue wrongly convicted. They are no doubt counting on the fact that few in 2020 remember the long trial or the copious documentary and surveillance evidence the government produced in the case. They likewise are convinced of their ability to falsely slander those experts who have studied the case as Islamophobes and bigots.

But it isn’t going to work.

About Kyle Shideler

Kyle Shideler is the Director and Senior Analyst for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism at the Center for Security Policy. Mr. Shideler specializes in Islamist groups operating in the United States, having spent over a decade researching and writing on their history, doctrine, and impact. Read his complete bio here. Follow Shideler on Twitter at @ShidelerK.