Viewpoints, May 2016
Since 1987, the Gaza-based terror group Hamas has kept itself in the international spotlight through acts of violence against the Jewish state. What are the aims and policies of The Muslim Brotherhood offshoot in the Gaza Strip? How does it finance its ongoing struggle against the ‘Zionist Entity?’
US Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, visits a terror tunnel discovered in 2013. Such tunnels are often built using international aid intended for the residents of Gaza. Credit: U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Last month marked the celebration of the annual Palestine Festival for Childhood and Education throughout the Hamas-run Gazan school system, most of which is operated and funded by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The events included young veiled girls and boys dressed in military uniform carrying out simulated stabbing attacks on Israelis, killing IDF soldiers and releasing Palestinian terrorists from Israeli jails. While many in the free world would find this link between international aid and a celebration of hatred alarming, it is the norm rather than the exception in the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave, where blatant hatred of Israel is propagated.
Since its establishment in December 1987, days into the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO) first Intifada against Israel, Hamas has asserted itself through violence and provocation against the Jewish state. The terror group’s approach to relations with the West, however, has been much subtler than the one of the Islamic State, which has demonized itself through the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians and attacks against the West, Russia and other Muslim nations in the Middle East. This allows Hamas to receive funding from the international community and international organizations under the guise of humanitarian aid.
“While Hamas finds itself cut off from Iran after failing to endorse the regime’s actions in Syria, it receives considerable support from Muslims abroad and international humanitarian aid organizations.”
The Hamas government receives funding from an array of sources; some transparent and others, far less legitimate. Directly, Hamas receives contributions from the international Muslim community, and indirectly, through its chief political adversary, the Palestinian Authority (PA), itself the recipient of aid from numerous international bodies. UNRWA, the US Aid Agency (USAID), the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are only a few of the bodies funding terror under the guise of humanitarian aid. Recently, the US awarded $50 million to the Hamas-ruled Gaza strip, which will be distributed by the US Agency for International Development in partnership with the Catholic Relief Services (CRS). This alliance is ironic since Hamas enforces Sharia law in Gaza and banns Christmas and the display of crucifixes.
Contributions from Islamic charities in the West not only provide Hamas with financial security, but more importantly, they create a channel through which the terror group garners international support. “Humanitarian aid” to Gaza is often used in a far more insidious way, as Hamas invests the funds in the smuggling and manufacturing of rockets and missiles, in digging multi-million dollar tunnels to carry out attacks against Israeli civilians, indoctrinating the population and training militants.
Estimates of exactly how much money flows into Hamastan vary and are difficult to confirm. However, such repugnant displays of violence as were seen at the annual Palestine Festival for Childhood and Education, as well as Hamas’s massive investment in terror tunnel infrastructure, show that much of the funding that goes to Gaza is used to promote terror rather than to improve the lives of the local population.
Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld is Director of New York based American Center for Democracy, and author of Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It (2003).