Ties between Hamas-linked charities and BDS highlighted in Congressional testimony

Terror finance expert describes ‘network’ of ex-fundraisers in organizations linked to Hamas and key pro-boycott organization

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil is the Times of Israel's Washington correspondent.

Illustrative photo of signs calling for the boycott of Israel at an anti-Israel protest in San Francisco, April 2011. (CC BY-dignidadrebelde, Flickr)
Illustrative photo of signs calling for the boycott of Israel at an anti-Israel protest in San Francisco, April 2011. (CC BY-dignidadrebelde, Flickr)

WASHINGTON — The US should boost transparency of nonprofit organizations in order to shed light on ties between a key pro-boycott organization and defunct charities that were implicated in funding Hamas, analyst Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told members of Congress during testimony Tuesday afternoon when two subcommittees of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs met to discuss current threats to Israel.

During testimony, experts including Schanzer highlighted regional nonstate actors such as Iran and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) as key threats to Israel.

The chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, Ted Poe, described the BDS movement as “a threat which seeks [Israel’s] ultimate destruction.”

Schanzer, a former terror finance analyst for the US Treasury, presented open-source research conducted by his group, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies which highlighted a network linking Hamas supporters with the leadership of the BDS movement.

Jonathan Schanzer (Courtesy)
Jonathan Schanzer (Courtesy)

The research tracked employees of three now-defunct organizations – the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, Kind Hearts Foundation for Humanitarian Development and the Islamic Association for Palestine — all of which were implicated by the federal government for terrorism finance, specifically of Hamas. A federal court found that the Holy Land Foundation had sent some $12 million to Hamas over the course of a decade

The research yielded what Schanzer described as “a troubling outcome” – with seven key employees of these organizations now associated with the Illinois-based organization American Muslims for Palestine.

Schanzer told members of Congress that the latter is “arguably the leading BDS organization in the US, a key sponsor of the anti-Israel campus network known as Students for Justice in Palestine.” The organization, he said, provides money, speakers, training and even “apartheid walls” to SJP activists on campus, for the annual Israel Apartheid Week events.

“The overlap between AMP, Holy Land, Kind Hearts and the Islamic Association for Palestine is striking,” said Schanzer, but noted that “our open source research did not indicate that AMP or any of these individuals are currently involved in any illegal activity.”

“The BDS campaign may pose a threat to Israel, but the network I describe here is decidedly an American problem,” he warned. Americans for Justice in Palestine raises money as a transparent 501c3 tax-exempt non-profit, which then provides funds for AMP which has the usually temporary designation of a corporate non-profit – a status that is usually transitional en route to a tax-exempt 501c3 organization.

“There appear to be flaws in the federal and state oversight of non-profits charities,” Schanzer complained. Although advocating for increased transparency, Schanzer said that he had a sense from talking to former colleagues that the Treasury was less invested in uncovering charities serving to fund terror networks than in the past.

“BDS advocates are free to say what they want, true or false, but tax advantaged organizations are obliged to be transparent,” Schanzer told the panel. “Americans have a right to know who is leading the BDS campaign and so do the students who may not be aware of AMP’s leaders or their goals.”

The BDS movement was not the only threat cited by the witnesses, who included former peace negotiator and Washington Institute for Near East Policy Distinguished Fellow David Makovsky, American Enterprise Institute Scholar Michael Rubin and the Brooking Institution’s Tamara Coffman Wittes.

David Makovsky (Courtesy)
David Makovsky (Courtesy)

Makovsky warned that the current stagnation of peace initiatives could feed further into BDS advances in the US.

The former negotiator warned “that the movement could metastasize beyond college campuses” if there is no peace solution on the ground – after noting that “under the current leadership” he did not envision peace efforts “succeeding in the near future.”

Makovsky said that he was “rather skeptical regarding efforts to put forward parameters at the UNSC,” warning that they “would be interpreted by both sides as an imposed solution and could serve as a baseline for defiance rather than bringing the parties closer.”

“We need to find a way to maintain the viability of a two-state outcome even if we can’t implement a two-state solution today,” he offered.

Makovsky suggested that it was not just the US but also European countries that could provide critical leverage in encouraging the Palestinians to jettison their anti-normalization policy and stop providing funds to families of jailed terrorists.

“The US needs to sensitize our European partners to these issues – given the closeness between Europeans and Palestinians, it would carry weight if the Europeans would practice the same tough love they have urged the United States to administer when it comes to Israel but they are reluctant to do when it comes to our Palestinian friends,” he said.

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