The Holy Land Foundation was once America’s largest Islamic charity. In December 2001 the Bush Administration shut down the Holy Land Foundation, claiming that it was a front to finance the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas.
In 2007, five leaders of the charity were tried for providing material support for terrorism and related charges in a case prosecuted by the Bush Administration. The trial ended in a mistrial. In 2008 a retrial ended with convictions on all 108 counts. The prosecution did not accuse the Holy Land Foundation of directly funding terrorist activity. Instead, it claimed, correctly, that the charity gave millions of dollars to “zakat” committees which build hospitals and feed the poor. The prosecution said that these committees were controlled by Hamas and helped Hamas spread its ideology and recruit supporters. The attorney of one of the defendants said in an appellate brief that the US government funded zakat committees through USAID as late as 2004.
Four of the five individuals convicted in the case appealed to the Supreme Court arguing that the prosecution’s use of an anonymous Israeli intelligence agent as a witness violated their constitutional rights. The Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal.
Michael Ratner discussed the Holy Land 5 on The Real News.
In May 2009 the Holy Land 5 received their sentences.
Ghassan Elashi was sentenced to 65 years in prison.
Shukri Abu Baker was sentenced to 65 years in prison.
Mufid Abdulqader was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Abdulrahman Odeh was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Mohammad El-Mezain was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
And all for helping the poor. But when the poor are Palestinians, helping them can be a crime.
POSTSCRIPT: A successor charity to the Holy Land Foundation, American Charities for Palestine, signed an agreement with USAID to only donate to institutions that have been approved by USAID.